When Can Words Lead to Arrest in Illinois?

The 1st Amendment protects every Americans right to speak freely, but Illinois has enacted legislation that precludes some forms of speech.  Typically, a prior restraint on speech is a per se constitutional violation, but not all speech is protected.


A person commits intimidation when, with intent to cause another to perform or to omit the performance of any act, he or she communicates to another, directly or indirectly by any means, a threat to perform an unlawful act.  Acts that fall under this section ordinarily involve acts involving a threat of physical harm (assault), a threat of confinement or restraint (kidnapping), or expose any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule.  Intimidation is a Class 3 felony for which an offender may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 2 years and not more than 10 years.

A penalty for intimidation may be compounded depending on the context and/or the place where the conduct happens.  For instance, if the act of intimidation is a byproduct of street gang activities, the charges will be increased.  A person commits criminal street gang recruitment on school grounds or public property adjacent to school grounds when on school grounds or public property adjacent to school grounds, he or she knowingly threatens the use of physical force to coerce, solicit, recruit, or induce another person to join or remain a member of a criminal street gang, or conspires to do so. Additionally, A person who knowingly, expressly or impliedly, threatens to do bodily harm or does bodily harm to an individual or to that individual’s family or uses any other criminally unlawful means to solicit or cause any person to join, or deter any person from leaving, any organization or association regardless of the nature of such organization or association, is guilty of a Class 2 felony.

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