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 Law".
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.