Friday, February 10, 2017


One of the surest and quickest ways to meet a friendly FBI agent is to threaten the President of the United States. Whatever one may think of the president, his policies or his administration, the office of the president is protected by federal criminal law

Threaten Roosevelt again & you're out of here!
Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942
Any threats made against a sitting president will be taken seriously by federal law enforcement officers, investigated fully and may result in an arrest or a presentation to a federal grand jury for an indictmentThe law is laid out at 18 U.S.C. Section 871(a) and basicly establishes that to prove an allegation of threats against the president the government must show the following:

1. The defendant intentionally threatened to kill, injure, kidnap or harm the President of the United States or harm another officer next in order of succession to the presidency.
2. The defendant meant the words to be a real threat.
3. The threat was either written or spoken. 

Just proving the making of a threat is the sum of the crime since there's nothing in the statute that requires the government to prove that the defendant had at the time the treat was made any real ability, intention or plan to actually pursue a conspiracy to kill, injure, kidnap or harm the President with or without weapons, guns or firearms

Possible federal criminal defenses include the argument that the statement was not a real threat, but what constitutes a threat? Let's put it this way, if you're even asking the question you're on thin ice as anything that could be perceived as physically injuring the president or worse is sufficient to trigger the crime. Yet it must be a serious threat in that those you thought would hear or read the communication would take the threat to be a threat not just a joke. 

Since you're still reading this perhaps an insanity defense is appropriate to consider in your case. But if unfortunately you are found to be sane then some affirmative defenses such as duress (gun to your mailman's head), mistake (you thought you were merely threatening your mailman not the president) or coercion (that damned deranged mailman put the gun to your head) may secure your freedom.

There's never a free speech first amendment right to threaten the president. Here it is the speech or written word that is specifically not protected from federal prosecution. So no matter how you feel it's very important to be careful that you never say nor write anything that threatens the person of the president.

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