The starting point in preparing for a defense against any criminal charge
begins with the language of the statute with which you're being charged.
Here, according to California Penal Code section 422(a), it is a misdemeanor
or a felony to:
(1) willfully threaten to commit a crime which will result in death or
great bodily injury to another person,
(2) with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing,
or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a
threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which,
(3) on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is so
unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the
person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution
of the threat, and
(4) causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her
own safety or for his or her immediate family's safety.
Upon reading the statute closely, you will see that:
(1) The victim need not come face to face with person who is making the
threats. The crime can be committed, for example, by making a phone call
or sending a letter or email.
(2) The threats can be communicated through a third party.
(3) The language of the statute does not require the immediate ability
to carry out the threats. The threats can be made from a different city,
county or state. In a case called People v. Gant, an individual who was
incarcerated in state prison was convicted of making criminal threats
to someone on the outside.
You need to be aware that if you're convicted of criminal threats,
there are some very real consequences. First, the punishment includes
incarceration for up to 3 years. Second, you will be banned from owning
a firearm for 10 years for a misdemeanor conviction and a life-time ban
for a felony conviction. Third, a felony conviction for criminal threats
is a "serious felony" under California's "Three Strikes
How Can We Help?
It is helpful to know that Penal Code section 422 was
not enacted by the legislature to punish emotional outbursts. Angry comments
or ranting soliloquies by themselves do not constitute criminal threats.
Section 422 targets only those who try to instill fear in others.
In planning for a defense, the context and surrounding circumstances of
the alleged threats must be investigated. Some basic questions must be
answered. Questions such as:
(1) Is there a history of disagreements?
(2) Have either individual argued previously with the other?
(3) Say hostile or contentious words to the other in the past?
(4) Did the other person really feel threatened or is there some other
motive/bias for such a claim?
Since 1999, we have represented numerous individuals charged with criminal
threats. We can help! If you have been arrested or charged with criminal
threats (former "terrorist threats") in Temecula, Murrieta,
Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Wildomar, Perris, Banning, Hemet, Corona or Riverside,
it's critical that you obtain the assistance of an effective and experienced
criminal defense attorney.
Call us today for a free consultation.