California Criminal Threats Attorney – Penal Code 422 PC
Criminal Defense Attorneys Defending People Accused of Making Criminal Threats
The consequences of a criminal threat crime can be serious and follow you for the rest of your life, especially if you did not handle them correctly initially. An experienced violent crimes lawyer will defend and protect your rights. My Rights Law have a proven track record of success. Call (888) 702-8882 or reach out through our secure web form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
California law makes it a crime to communicate threats to individuals. A criminal threat is a threat of death or great bodily harm intended to place the victim in reasonable and sustained fear for their safety or the safety of their family. For example, a verbalized or written threat to blow up the town hall constitutes a criminal threat.
To convict a defendant of a criminal threat, a prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant willfully threatened to kill or cause great bodily harm to the alleged victim.
The defendant made the threat orally, in writing, or through an electronic communication device.
The defendant intended to make a threat to the alleged victim.
The threat was clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific that it communicated a serious intention that the defendant would make the threat happen.
The threat actually caused the victim to fear for his or her safety or for the safety of their family.
The victim’s fear was reasonable under the circumstances.
It is important to remember that a criminal threat conviction does not require the threatener to have addressed someone directly. For example, if you tell your friend to hurt someone and the elements above are met, you may be charged with a criminal threat. However, if the prosecution cannot prove the above elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant cannot be convicted for making a criminal threat.
What Are The Penalties For PC 422 Criminal Threats Conviction?
The crime of making a criminal threat is known as a wobbler. A wobbler crime allows the prosecutor to use their discretion in charging someone with either a misdemeanor or felony. If you made a criminal threat, a prosecutor could charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. Prosecutors use several factors to determine whether they want to charge the defendant with a felony or misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor under this crime will result in one year in county jail, a $1,000 fine, or both the jail time and a fine. However, if a defendant is charged with a felony criminal threat, they may spend up to three years in prison, get a $10,000 fine, or get prison time and a fine. However, in Los Angeles, it is unlikely that an offender will be prosecuted for criminal threats. In Los Angeles, the prosecution is only likely to happen if the offense was related to domestic violence or a hate crime, the suspect made repeat threats within two years, there was a documented history of threats, or the suspect had a weapon during the offense.
Legal Defenses Against PC422 Criminal Threat Charges
First and foremost, if a prosecutor cannot prove every element outlined above beyond a reasonable doubt, a conviction cannot occur. In addition, there are a few common defenses to a criminal threat charge.
Under California law, the threat must convey an immediate possibility of execution. There does not necessarily need to be a threat to do something immediately. However, a threat occurs if the victim believes that if they do not comply with the demand at some point, the person who made the threat will execute it.
Vague Or Ambiguous Threat
A criminal threat must be specific. Even if the threat does not include a precise manner and time of execution, surrounding circumstances may clarify its meaning.
The vague or ambiguous defense applies when a threat is sufficiently unclear.
Victim Was Not Scared
As discussed above, one of the elements of criminal threats is that the victim was actually afraid. Therefore, even if the offender was serious, if the alleged victim believed they were joking, the offender would not be able to be prosecuted for criminal threats.
Threat Or Victim’s Fear Was Unreasonable
In some circumstances, even if the victim was fearful of the threat, the offender cannot be convicted if a reasonable person would not have been afraid. There are two requirements for the victim’s fear – (1) reasonableness and (2) reality. For example, if someone threatens to run you over with a bus but does not have access to a bus, it would be unreasonable to be afraid.
The Fear Was Not Sustained
Moreover, the victim’s fear must be sustained. It cannot be momentary. If the fear only lasts for a second and it did not cause prolonged concern, an offender cannot be convicted of criminal threats. Additionally, if the fear was unreasonably sustained, the victim was fearful for a long time. Still, a reasonable person in the same circumstances would not have been fearful for a long time.
The Threat Was Free Speech
Under California law, criminal threats do not constitute a crime if the constitution protects them. For example, if it was an emotional outburst to a psychologist, it likely does not rise to the level of a criminal threat.
Making criminal threats may include statements made to someone else in which the speaker declares that they plan to cause the listener harm, loss, or punishment. According to the laws in California criminal threats, you could be seriously punished for making statements about inflicting great bodily injury or making terrorist threats.
Criminal threats may become acts of assault in certain situations. For example, if a person is threatening another individual by saying they are going to hit them, these words may not garner a criminal threats charge. On the other hand, if the person says these words while wielding a baseball bat, then this could be grounds for criminal threats charges.
There may be legal penalties for criminal threats when:
The speaker threatens to harm or kill the listener or the listener’s family;
The speaker’s threat is specific and unambiguous;
The listener has reasonable belief and fear that the speaker will carry their threat out; and
The speaker communicates the threat either verbally, in writing, or through electronic correspondence (e.g., email, text message, etc.).
When these elements are met, and the circumstances suggest that a threat is serious, a person can potentially press charges for criminal threats.
Hiring A Criminal Defense Attorney In California
If you have been charged with a criminal threat, you should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney for representation. My Rights Law are highly experienced attorneys who know the law, process, and prosecution tactics that will help ensure that your rights are preserved and protected. The criminal threats attorneys at My Rights Law have a long and proven track record of success. Call (888) 702-8882 or reach out on our secure form to schedule a free, confidential consultation today.