Kansas City Criminal Defense Lawyers
KS Supreme Court Strikes Down Part of Criminal Threat Law

KS Supreme Court Strikes Down Part of Criminal Threat Law

On October 25, 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that part of a 2010 law against making a criminal threat is unconstitutional and violates free speech rights. However, portions of the law that criminalized “true threats” (i.e. intentional threats of violence) were kept in place.

What was struck down was the provision that made it a felony to “recklessly” use threatening language that strikes fear in others, despite the fact the individual making the comments doesn’t intend to follow through with their words and commit a violent act. As a result of this ruling, the state’s highest court overturned the convictions of two men who used threatening language in 2014.

Clayton Perkins, the public defender who handled the appeals of both men, said the court’s decision protects individuals whose comments are taken out of context or those who are misunderstood, such as children and people with mental health issues. He also said jurors are smart enough to determine whether there was any intent behind the person’s words or not.

The first case that questioned the constitutionality of the Kansas criminal threat law involved Timothy Boettger, who violated the section of the law against using reckless, threatening language. He was convicted and sentenced to probation for 12 months after he told an acquaintance, whose father worked for the sheriff, that the father would end up “in a ditch.” Boettger was originally upset by the shooting of his daughter’s dog.

The second case involved Ryan Robert Johnson, who was convicted and sentenced to 14 months in prison for threatening his mother that he would kill her and burn down her property. During his trial, Johnson, his wife, and his mother minimized the gravity of the situation by testifying that loved ones frequently make such threats without meaning them.

Under the law, Perkins argued that a protester could be charged for reciting anti-law enforcement lyrics from N.W.A.’s classic album “Straight Outta Compton” in front of police officers. The state’s highest court said Perkins’ argument was “persuasive.”

If you or a loved one has been charged or convicted of the unconstitutional part of the criminal threat law in Kansas, contact Rokusek Stein Law, LLC today at (913) 583-0465 for a free consultation.

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