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The Ins and Outs of Intimidation in Indiana

Freedom of speech is one of our most treasured rights, but it doesn’t mean that we’re legally allowed to say whatever we want, whenever we want. Lying to the police is a classic example of unprotected speech. The same goes for trying to incite other people to break the law—that’s not allowed. Generally speaking, threatening language is also not protected speech. In many cases, it’s criminal.

In Indiana, intimidation exists where a person communicates a threat to another person with the intent that the other person either: a) engage in conduct against their will; or b) is placed in fear of retaliation for a prior lawful act. If you use a threat to cause a building or vehicle to be evacuated, that also counts as intimidation, which starts as a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a maximum penalty of 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

There are many ways that intimidation can be charged as a Level 6 felony, including:

You’d better do what I say, or else . . .
  • if the threat is to commit a forcible felony
  • if the threat is communicated to a person because of their occupation, profession, employment status, ownership status, or related consideration
  • if the threat is communicated to a witness (or the spouse or child of a witness) in any pending criminal proceeding against the person making the threat
  • if the person has a prior unrelated conviction for an intimidation offense concerning the same victim
  • if the threat is communicated using property of a school corporation or other governmental entity

A Level 6 felony carries a maximum penalty of two-and-a-half years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In most cases, intimidation won’t be charged as a Level 5 felony unless the threat involves a deadly weapon. A Level 5 felony carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Indiana’s intimidation statute also clarifies that the communication of a threat can be accomplished by posting a message electronically, including on a social networking website. There are no loopholes that make it acceptable to intimidate someone on Facebook.

In an age when social media use is so prevalent, it stands to reason that intimidation charges are only likely to rise. So the next time something on the internet gets your blood up, and you’re ready to respond with a furious post—take a moment. Remember that no electronic communications are truly private, and ask yourself: Am I living my best life?

If you or someone you know is facing criminal intimidation charges, call the Marc Lopez Law Firm at 317-632-3642. Try to keep your cool, and remember—always plead the 5th!