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Can I be arrested for making a verbal threat?

Following a few too many drinks, you get into an altercation at a nightclub after someone insults a friend of yours. It makes you angry, naturally, and you follow them outside. During a heated and intoxicated argument outside the nightclub, you threaten to injure them. Fortunately, the police arrive before anything escalates and no one gets hurt.

Unfortunately, you still get arrested. But how is this possible? You never touched anyone. You never injured them. You made an empty threat, and never followed through on it. Could you still face charges?

South Carolina assault charges explained

In South Carolina, along with many other states, you can face assault charges if you offer or attempt to injure another person.

You don’t have to physically hurt anyone to break the law. If another person has reason to believe that you mean what you say and could actually injure them, then simply making a threat can be enough to trigger a charge.

Things can get vastly more serious when altercations become physical and injuries occur. While shouting verbal threats and actually physically harming someone constitute vastly different situations, do not assume that you can’t face criminal charges just because an altercation never becomes physical. Poor conduct and verbal threats may already be enough. Even if you are not charged with assault, you could face other charges for being loud and boisterous, including breaching of the peace or public disorderly conduct.

If you are facing charges that took you by surprise, call an experienced criminal defense attorney. It is crucial that you understand the intricacies of the law and the legal defense options that you have available before moving forward.