What Is the Legal Definition of ''Threat'' ?
"A threat is an ' "expression of an intent to inflict evil, injury, or damage on another." ' (U.S. v. Orozco-Santillan (9th Cir. 1990) 903 F.2d 1262, 1265.)
When a reasonable person would foresee that the context and import of the words will cause the listener to believe he or she will be subjected to physical violence, the threat falls outside First Amendment protection. (Id. at pp. 1265-1266; In re Steven S. (1994) 25 Cal. App. 4th 598, 607 [31 Cal. Rptr. 2d 644];
Wurtz v. Risley [(9th Cir. 1983)] 719 F.2d [1438,] 1441 ['It is true that threats have traditionally been punishable without violation of the First Amendment, but implicit in the nature of such punishable threats is a reasonable tendency to produce in the victim a fear that the threat will be carried out.'];
See also NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982) 458 U.S. 886, 927 [73 L. Ed. 2d 1215, 1245, 102 S. Ct. 3409] [involving public speeches advocating violence].)
"In contrast, 'political hyperbole' of the sort at issue in Watts v. United States, supra, 394 U.S. 705 (Watts) remains within the 'marketplace of ideas' protected by the First Amendment. (See U.S. v. Gilbert (9th Cir. 1987) 813 F.2d 1523, 1531.)
In Watts, a young man attending a political rally in Washington, D.C., during the time of the Vietnam War, informed a group of attendees that he had just received his draft notice to report for induction and declared he would not go.
'If they ever make me carry a rifle,' he stated further, 'the first man I want to get in my sights is L.B.J.' His listeners laughed. (Watts, supra, 394 U.S. at pp. 706-707 . . . .) In reversing Watts's conviction for threatening the life of the President, the United States Supreme Court considered the context and expressly conditional nature of the statement, as well as the listeners' reaction.
The high court concluded the statement, rather than a threat, was merely a ' "very crude offensive method of stating . . . political opposition." ' (Id. at pp. 707-708 . . .)" (In re M.S., supra, 10 Cal. 4th at pp. 710-711.)