Threats of Violence - Transitory Anger Defense

Threats of violence (what used to be called ‘terroristic threats’) is a catch-all, if you will, for serious threats and threatening behavior. For example, threats at a persons life falls within this charge. But, the mere mention of a threat doesn’t always equate to a criminal threats of violence felony charge because context matter, which includes whether the person made the threat in the midst of ‘transitory anger’. Before discussing this defense, let’s start at the beginning of what must be proven by the State.

The State must prove two elements: the defendant (1) threatened to commit a crime of violence; and (2) made that threat with either (a) specific intent to cause extreme fear in another, or (b) reckless disregard of the risk that it would have that effect. This charge is not intended to apply to the kind of verbal threat which expresses transitory anger rather than the settled purpose to carry out the threat or to terrorize the other person. This is why context is so critical.

Under the transitory anger defense, the defendant argues that the threat or acts were in the midst of a fit of rage, essentially, and, therefore, the defendant did not possess the requisite intent to terrorize another person. This is where context is so critical. If it can be shown that the defendant did not have the requisite intent due to the transient anger, then the State may find it difficult to satisfy the second element detailed above.

Unfortunately, this is not a true affirmative defense in the sense that a defendant is not entitled to a jury instruction – though, one can certainly make the request for it. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the second element has an alternative option to specific intent – reckless disregard. Reckless disregard is defined as having a “conscious indifference to the consequences.” So, though this defense may negate the specific intent part of the element, it may not overcome the reckless disregard alternative option available to the State.

With all of that being said, pursuing a transitory anger defense is still important and possibly a critical part of an overall defense strategy to this serious charge. With context being so important to this charge in general, it is necessary to have an experienced and knowledgeable threats of violence attorney to build your defense and fight for you.