Threatening someone is a crime, and you can be charged and convicted of it. However, not just any threat will receive the designation of a criminal threat; it must satisfy these elements first:
The Communication Doesn't Have To Be Verbal
Normally, people verbalize their intentions when they want to threaten others. In the context of criminal law, however, you don't have to verbalize your intentions for you to be charged with a criminal threat. What matters is that you communicated your intentions in some way that the victim could understand as a threat.
As such, sending text messages and emails clearly meet the threshold of communicating a threat. In fact, in some jurisdictions, even a gesture may be considered as a threat. Therefore, making a shooting gesture at a person who has angered you can attract criminal threat charges in such jurisdictions.
Your Intentions Are Considered
An innocent gesture that another person mistakes for a threat of harm will not attract criminal charges. For the charges to hold, you must have intended to harm the person for the charge of criminal threat to hold. Therefore, running a red light will not attract the charge of a criminal threat even if a pedestrian mistook your actions as threatening to knock them over.
The Threat Should Be Specific
Another thing with criminal threats is that they should be specific; anybody who sees, hears or reads the threat should understand it as a threat. A vague statement that leaves people scratching their heads does not constitute a criminal threat. For example, you are not likely to face criminal charges for telling a school's management board that they "will regret it" if they don't allow your child to enroll in the school. However, you will face charges of a criminal threat if you threaten to beat up the chairperson of the board – that is a specific threat.
The Threat Should Be Reasonable
Lastly, you can only be prosecuted for making a threat that you can actually see through. Threatening to burn someone's house, break their car's windows or deny them an employment opportunity fits this description because they are all things you can do if you want. However, threatening to "rain fire down on them" from heaven isn't reasonable; you can't execute the threat so you can't be prosecuted for it.
Facing the charges of a criminal threat is a serious thing even if you did not actually cause harm to the victim. Therefore, you need to defend yourself just as seriously as you would against any other criminal charge. Contact a law office like Fessenden Laumer & DeAngelo, PLLC for more information and assistance.