Threat of Harm Law & Legal Definition


Threat of harm generally involves a perception of injury. Harm is physical or mental damage, an act or instance of injury, or a material and tangible detriment or loss to a person. The precise definition varies according to the context in which it is used. For example, in child welfare law, one definition is as follows:

"Threat of harm is defined as, "all actions, statements, written or non-verbal messages conveying threats of physical or mental injury which are serious enough to unsettle the child's mind. It includes: expressions of intent to inflict pain, injury, or punishment on the child."

In criminal law, a threat of harm varies according to the crime and state law. For instance, the crime of inciting a riot involves the threat of public alarm. The threat of harm involved in an assault may involve a reasonably perceived threat of physical injury. Pointing a banana at someone and threatening to shoot them would not be a reasonably perceived threat, however, if the banana was concealed in a pocket to appear as a weapon, the threat may be a reasonable perception of harm. In the crime of blackmail, the threat may be not only to harm the person being blackmailed, but a family member as well. Local statutes should be consulted to determine degrees of harm and imminent nature of harm required.