If you are like many people, you may assume that words alone cannot land you in jail. Unfortunately, you would be wrong in this assumption.

Indiana, just like every other state, recognizes the attempt or threat to cause bodily injury as a crime. Most state laws refer to the crime as “assault.” However, Indiana is unique in that the term “assault” does not show up anywhere in the criminal code. Rather, it uses the terms “intimidation,” “threat” and “criminal recklessness.”

Understanding “intimidation/threat”

According to FindLaw, the crime of “intimidation/threat” is the one that most closely resembles assault under other states’ laws. However, because of the language the statute contains, it is much broader than standard assault laws and encompasses both direct and indirect threats (whereas typical assault laws usually only encompass direct threats).

For example, most states would not charge a person with assault for sending a threatening letter to another. Indiana, however, would. In other states, assault is more of a direct threat, such as pointing a gun at someone or firing a gun above a crowd. In Indiana, doing either would likely result in criminal recklessness charges. The state may charge you with intimidation/threat if it can prove you intended to do any of the following:

  • Cause another person to engage in conduct against his or her will
  • Cause another person to fear for retaliation for a prior lawful act
  • Cause the evacuation of a building, vehicle or other structure

Intimidation/threat is a Class A misdemeanor. However, the state may elevate the charges to a Level 6 felony if you communicated a threat to commit a forcible felony or if the recipient of the threat was a police officer, trial witness, school or court employee, employee of a hospital or religious organization, corrections officer, or the owner of a public building.

Penalties for intimation/threat

If the state convicts you of Class A misdemeanor intimidation/threat, you face up to $5,000 in fines and up to one year in jail. If convicted of a Class 6 felony offense, the fine doubles to up to $10,000. The minimum jail sentence for a Class 6 felony is six months, while the maximum is 2 ½ years.