COA: Intimidation statute not vague

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Even though a man waived his challenge to the Indiana intimidation statute, the Court of Appeals of Indiana still addressed his arguments and found the law was not vague under the facts and circumstances of his case.

Brian Keith Gates Jr. was convicted of intimidation, a Level 6 felony, for threatening to blow up his girlfriend’s car.

At a bench trial before St. Joseph Superior Judge John Marnocha, Gates denied leaving his girlfriend a voicemail threatening to blow up her car. He maintained he had been in a drug rehabilitation facility that day.

But the court found Gates’ girlfriend more credible, especially because her testimony was supported by text and voicemail messages.

Gates was sentenced to two years in the Indiana Department of Correction.

On appeal, Gates argued the intimidation statute is unconstitutionally vague. In particular, he asserted the statute is vague in his case because it “requires no additional evidence for a conviction other than proof [that] he made a threat. There is no line drawn between simply making a threat and making a threat ‘with the intent’ that the other person essentially believe that the threat is going to materialize.”

The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction in Brian Keith Gates, Jr. v. State of Indiana, 22A-CR-247.

Although the appellate panel concluded Gates waived his claim because he did not raise it in any manner, it still reviewed his arguments.

“Contrary to Gates’ assertions, the statute does not simply require that, in order for the State to obtain a conviction, it must merely show that a threat was made. By its clear and unambiguous terms, the statute also requires that the State show that the threat was made with the intent ‘that another person be placed in fear that the threat will be carried out[,]’ thus creating a line between what is lawful (conduct or making a statement) and unlawful (conduct or making a statement with the intent to make another person afraid that it will be carried out),” Judge Patricia Riley wrote, referring to Indiana Code  §§ 35-45-2-1(a)(4); (b)(1)(A).

“Although we agree with Gates that the statute does not require any additional action apart from the making of the threat, the statute clearly proscribes the conduct it renders unlawful by detailing the intent when making the threat that is prohibited,” Riley concluded.

The COA also found sufficient evidence to support Gates’ intimidation conviction.

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