Let's assume I'm thinking about ___ [1] - am I liable to prosecution?

I assume that having thoughts of any kind is not illegal and therefore cannot be prosecuted. We are not in "Minority Report" - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181689/ - situation just yet.

What happens if I express verbally or on Facebook or on my personal blog:

  • I had thoughts about ___
  • I was thinking about ___

Do these statements put me in a prosecutable position?

[1] Related question would be - how do I express my thoughts without fear of being prosecuted?

If I engage in a discussion with a doctor, a psychologist or a lawyer - privileged information kicks in - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privilege_(evidence) - however in certain circumstances they are obliged by law to take action.

Is talking about crossing the line crossing the line?

(just like spammers sending a message asking me is it OK to send the actual spam)

Do I have to make a formal agreement with a chartered professional before privileged information applies? (as opposed to an informal conversation during the research phase)

I would like to operate my language in a manner that would not put me vulnerable to misquotations and misinterpretations. Maybe there is a magic formula such as:

I'm a young, healthy, reasonable individual who wants to discuss sensitive manner - I want to remind you about privileged information - I do not constitute a threat and you should rest assured.

Deep in my heart I would like to be able to communicate in public.

I don't want to use public WiFi, VPN, virtual machine, TOR some darknet forums and fake identity if I could only say what I really think. I hope that this will happen but first I need to establish some fundamentals.

Can a person be prosecuted for their thoughts?


  • 2
    Minor nitpick: I would argue that even in Minority Report, people are not prosecuted for their thoughts, but for their actions, even if they haven't occurred yet. I think this is not "you were thinking about doing X", but rather "you are going to do X in the future" . But it's sci-fi, so this may or may not be a meaningless distinction.
    – jimsug
    Oct 15, 2015 at 22:05
  • @jimsug - it means that I need to watch the movie again. I asked about thoughts specifically because there is some evidence - amazon.com/Hidden-Messages-Water-Masaru-Emoto/dp/0743289803 - "influence of our thoughts, words and feelings on molecules of water can positively impact the earth and our personal health" - one may say it's pseudo-science but who knows... (better be safe than sorry) Oct 15, 2015 at 22:12
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    This started out making sense, and then I got lost. It looks like you intended to structure this in an obvious progression from having thoughts to expressing them, and trying to figure out at what point a thought can become a crime. But the middle section is stream-of-conscious rambling. Could you either tighten it up or, if they're really separate questions, post them as separate questions?
    – feetwet
    Oct 16, 2015 at 1:41
  • HMMM... I did my best. I wanted to provide some context and background information. I really want to know about thoughts, expressing them, privileged information, discussing with chartered specialists... Link in a comments to book that measures relation between thoughts and structure of water - curiosity, peculiarity, aside. Just a little thing to make you aware how thoughts can influence reality. (but maybe I should keep to myself) --- one way or another --- I agree --- expect me to ask more, more precise questions. Oct 16, 2015 at 6:19
  • 1
    The UK's Treason Act 1351, still in force (with amendments), defines the crime of treason to include the case "When a Man doth compass or imagine the Death of our Lord the King..." (emphasis mine). Taken literally, this would seem to outlaw thinking about the death of the monarch. However, it's my understanding that this is interpreted to mean something more like "plan", "conspire", etc. Oct 18, 2015 at 4:43

2 Answers 2


If you wrote for example "I had thoughts about taking the axe from my garage and decapitating my neighbour", and your neighbour read that, he would reasonably be worried and contact the police. I would take that as a death threat, and the death threat is by itself illegal. There would be some range where I could claim that you were making a death threat and making excuses to avoid legal responsibility.

You can have all the thoughs you like, you can write them into your private diary where nobody can read them, but as soon as you publish it, it becomes "speech" and some speech is illegal.

  • 1
    Out of interest, what if someone broke into your house and stole your private diary (containing what would be illegal speech) then published it?
    – rwolst
    Dec 4, 2015 at 22:18
  • That should have no consequences for you (Ok, police might want to talk to you to make sure that you didn't mean the horrible things you said), but if someone else does this, that's not your responsibility. Unless it was proven that you hired someone to break into your house, steal your diary and publish it.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 15, 2018 at 11:39

In the US, you can supposedly simply add a sentence opener such as "In my opinion..." or "I wish..." and that removes there being a statement of fact (with the first option) or intent of action (with the second). Though, it may be different under British law.

  • 1
    In the UK, there was a case where in a court case, the father of the accused talked to a very good friend of a witness in very hypothetical terms about hypothetical consequences of making a witness statement, and father and son both got into deep trouble with it.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 15, 2018 at 11:34

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