The Crime of Threat (Article 612 of the Criminal Code)

Legal guide to the crime of threat pursuant to art. 612 of the Criminal Code, with all that one needs to know about discipline and penalties and how to protect oneself.

The threat is a crime against individual freedom of the person, punished by the penal code with a fine (up to 1,032 euros) and, in the most serious cases (provided for by the second paragraph of Article 612 of the Criminal Code), with imprisonment up to one year.

Definition of the crime of threat

Definition of the crime of threat

The crime of threat exists if an individual is intimidated with the prospect of unjust damage to the person or his property, of an entity such as to limit his psychological freedom. This is a crime that is a danger, as it can represent the background to specific harmful acts; however, every threat must be adequately assessed according to the circumstance, the conditions of the agent and the effect on the victim.

Text of the art. 612 cp

Text of the art. 612 cp

The crime of threat, as mentioned, is governed by Article 612 of the Criminal Code, which states: 1. Anyone who threatens others with an unjust loss is punished with a fine of up to 1,032 euros. 2. If the threat is serious, or is done in one of the ways indicated in article 339, the penalty of imprisonment up to one year. 3. Proceed ex officio if the threat is made in one of the ways indicated in article 339.

Unjust damage threatened

Unjust damage threatened

The main constitutive element of the crime of threat is represented by the prospect of unjust damage, such as to limit the moral freedom of the victim and whose future occurrence depends, directly or commissioned, by the agent.
Therefore, simple curses or insults are not included in the category.

Absence of the person threatened

For the threat to be prosecuted, the presence of the interested person is not a necessary condition; It is in fact sufficient that the latter is informed, even indirectly, by other subjects, provided that the agent’s willingness to produce the actual result of intimidating the injured person is detectable.
Furthermore, this offense does not only exist in the presence of verbal acts of intimidation: even the most varied communication tools, such as writings, gestures, text messages or e-mails can fall under the threat.

How to protect yourself: prosecution for a lawsuit or a court order?

How to protect yourself: prosecution for a lawsuit or a court order?

The crime of threat is, as a general rule, subject to a lawsuit: this can be carried out at any police station or presented, in written form, to the public prosecutor (see the form: lawsuit).
However, there are cases in which the procedurality of the office, which today, by virtue of the new third paragraph of the art. 612 of the Criminal Code (added by Legislative Decree No. 36/2018 with effect from 9 May 2018), occur if the threat is committed:

  • with weapons
  • by a misrepresented person
  • by more people gathered
  • with anonymous writing
  • in a symbolic way
  • making use of the intimidating force deriving from secret associations (existing or supposed)
  • by launching or using blunt instruments or other objects that could offend (including pyrotechnic devices).

Essentially, these are the hypotheses contemplated by Article 339 of the Italian Criminal Code

Severity of the threat

Severity of the threat

The aforementioned hypotheses, when they occur, also lead to an increase in the penalty for the threat, which is no longer the “base” penalty of up to 1,032 euros, but that of imprisonment for up to one year. There is also a general imprisonment even when the threat is serious. It is therefore necessary to clarify that the seriousness of the threat does not depend solely on its content, that is the concrete evil presented, but on the same disturbance expressed by the victim, the set of circumstances and the particular conditions of the subjects involved.

Serious threat: jurisprudence

The Court of Cassation has however been able to clarify, with the recent sentence number 3520/2019, that today the serious threat, if the aggravating circumstances referred to in Article 338 of the Criminal Code are lacking, is no longer admissible ex officio but to the complaint of part. In this regard, laws: “Serious threat, subject to prosecution”.