The crime of threats takes place when a person acts with the intention of harming a third party or expressing the intention of causing harm in the future. It is described in articles 169, 170 and 171 of the Spanish Penal Code.
Requirements for a threat to be considered a crime.
As the jurisprudence reiterates, citing, for example, Judgment 650/2015, of November 2, issued by the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court, the essential core of the type is:
A) The announcement in facts or expressions, of causing another an evil that constitutes a crime; announcement of an evil that must be serious, real and persevering, in such a way that it causes an undoubted social rejection.
B) The evil announced must be future, unfair, determined and depend exclusively on the will of the active subject and produce natural intimidation in the threatened.
C) The occasion on which it is uttered, the persons involved, previous acts, simultaneous acts and, above all, subsequent to the material fact of the threat must be assessed.
D) Pressure should be exerted on the victim, frightening and depriving her of her peace and quiet.
We also want to specify that for the crime to occur, the existence of an action is not essential, but only its announcement is sufficient.
Types of threats that are considered crimes and their punishments
The Penal Code lists several types of threats:
1- Article 169 of the Penal Code: Threats of an evil constituting a crime.
2– Article 170 of the Penal Code: Threats of an evil constituting a crime against a group of individuals. It is a type of aggravated threat.
3– Article 171.1 of the Penal Code: Threats (conditional) of an evil that does not constitute a crime.
4– Articles 171.2 and 3 of the Criminal Code: Blackmail.
5- Article 171.4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Penal Code: Minor threats.
1. Threats of an evil constituting a crime
In this type of threat, included in article 169 CP, whoever threatens another person with causing harm to him or his family consisting of a crime of homicide, injury, abortion, against freedom, sexual freedom, crimes against privacy, property and the socioeconomic order.
The penalty to be imposed will change depending on whether the threat is conditional or not. In other words, if the threat is made, it is conditional on the threatened person doing something that is asked of them.
It also influences whether the person who threatens achieves her purpose or not.
-If the person who threatens has achieved her purpose, the prize is prison from 1 to 5 years.
-If the person who threatens does not achieve his purpose, the punishment is prison from 6 months to 3 years.
- When the threat is not conditional, the prison sentence is from 6 months to 2 years.
2. Threats of an evil constituting a crime against a group of individuals.
Within the aggravated modalities there are two types and they are included in article 170 CP:
- Threats aimed at frightening a group
Threats of an evil that is considered a crime are punished when they are aimed at frightening the inhabitants of a population, ethnic, cultural or religious group, or any other group of people and have the necessary seriousness to achieve it.
The penalties are superior in degree to those provided for in article 169 of the Penal Code.
- Threats aimed at frightening a group
Those who publicly claim the commission of violent actions by terrorist organizations or groups are punished with a prison sentence of 6 months to 2 years.
3. Conditional threats of an evil that is not considered a crime
This case, described in article 171.1 CP, is when an act is requested to be committed that is not a crime, but is illegal from an administrative, civil or criminal point of view.
Example: Require a worker to submit ITV certifications for cars that have not passed the appropriate tests under threat of dismissal if he refuses.
The penalties for conditional threats of non-criminal evil are:
When the intended purpose is not achieved, imprisonment from 3 months to 1 year or a fine of 6 to 24 months, depending on the seriousness and circumstances of the act.
If the author of the threat achieves his objective, the sentence will be imposed on the upper half of him.
Within this class of threats, specified in article 171 of the CP, we can distinguish two classes:
- Blackmail in a generic way
Demanding an amount from another under the threat of discovering or disseminating facts regarding his private life or family relationships that are not publicly known and may affect his fame, credit or interest is punished.
We understand as a reward the payment or compensation in cash, privileges, benefits or advantage of any kind that are lucrative for the blackmailer.
The prison decoration is from 2 to 4 years if the delivery of all or part of what is required has been achieved. On the contrary, if it is not achieved, the prison sentence is from 4 months to 2 years.
- Blackmail consisting of revealing the commission of a crime
This type of blackmail consists of the threat to reveal or denounce the commission of a crime. The action must always be related to the threat of revealing a fact that must be related to some infraction committed within the framework of the private life or family relations of the threatened person.
As far as punishment is concerned, and considering that the crime occurs in the private sphere, the Public Prosecutor's Office could not accuse or even the judge or court could lower the sentence by one or two degrees.
5. Threats considered a minor offense
It is important to highlight the difference between gender violence and domestic violence.
It is also important to point out that the commission of a crime is not the same as a minor crime.
The difference between the crime and the minor crime according to the Jurisprudence of the Supreme Court lies in the intensity of the evil with which it is threatened, so it will always have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
In the case of the crime of threats, to define whether we are in the presence of a minor or serious crime, we must look at the following aspects:
- The context in which they occur
- The relationships between those involved
- The means of the person who threatens
- The possibility of being able to consummate the threat
- The attitude before and after the threat...
How to prove that there is a crime of threats?
The demonstration of the commission of the crime will be accredited by any means of proof valid in Law.
The most used means of proof are:
- Declaration of the victim and witnesses.
- Contribution of emails or WhatsApp. Transcripts must be provided in digital format and collated before the lawyer of the administration of justice.
- Declaration of experts.
- Audio recordings.
What are the consequences of a complaint for the crime of threats?
The consequences of a complaint for threats can be that a criminal sentence is issued in which the accused is convicted of a crime of threats and a sentence is imposed, which can be imprisonment.
Obviously, when someone is convicted of the crime of threats, there will be a criminal record that will be canceled based on the sentence imposed.
When does a crime of threats prescribe?
Once the period of prescription of the crimes indicated in the Penal Code has elapsed, the criminal responsibility of the subject is extinguished.
The crime of threats prescribes after 5 years.
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