I've been doing this now for almost 30 years and I've noticed that recently a lot of people are being arrested and charged with the crime of California Penal Code 422 criminal threats.
It used to be called terrorist threats, but now it's called criminal threats, and it basically has to do with somebody threatening another person in some way, and obviously, the threat has to be real, actual, and clear that they are threatening that particular person.
Typically, I'll go over what happened with the client and find out from their perspective, what was said, why it was said, the circumstances and context of what was said, and then we get the police report and can see what the alleged victim is claiming was said, whether there are any witnesses.
Sometimes, it's audio or videotaped again, depending on the circumstances, and then we are going to decide whether it was a threat or not for purposes of a criminal threat charge.
A lot of times what I'll do is just get the jury instructions because if somebody goes to trial on a criminal threats case in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, anywhere, the California Criminal Jury Instructions always control.
So, the jury is going to be given what the elements are — what the prosecutors have to prove in relation to a criminal threats case. So, we'll look at that. We'll see what they're claiming you said and see if it meets those elements and then we'll decide how we're going to deal with the case.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will take a closer look at the law below.
What are Criminal Threats?
California Penal Code Section 422 makes it a crime for someone to communicate a threat to another person that could result in great bodily injury or death. PC 422 is normally called “criminal threats.”
Put simply, this statute prohibits threatening to harm or kill another person when the threat places the victim or another person reasonably sustained fear for their safety or that of their family.
The threat has to involve inflicting a great bodily injury (GBI) or death to the victim or immediate family members. Criminal threats are frequently directly connected to California domestic violence crimes. Penal Code 422 PC defines criminal threats as:
- “Anyone who willfully makes a threat to commit a crime resulting in a great bodily injury or death to someone, with intent their statement to be taken as a threat, even without intent to carry it out, which was specific to the person threatened with the immediate prospect of execution of the threat, causing victim or their family to be in fear of their safety.”
The threat could be made verbally, written, or through electronic communication, such as text messages. You can't be guilty, however, unless the threat placed the victim in reasonable and sustained fear.
Penal Code 422 PC is considered a serious crime that can expose a convicted defendant to severe penalties.
What are the Related California Crimes?
- Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC – domestic battery,
- Penal Code 273.5 PC – corporal injury to a spouse,
- Penal Code 368 PC – elder abuse,
- Penal Code 136.1 PC – intimidating a witness,
- Penal Code 646.9 PC – stalking,
- Penal Code 601 PC – aggravated trespassing,
- Penal Code 186.22 PC – gang enhancement,
- Penal Code 518 PC – extortion.
What are the Penalties?
Unfortunately, criminal threats are a strike. It's a serious felony, so you'll have a strike on your record if you plead guilty to it as a felony. That's where it gets a little bit interesting and there's a little bit of a twist on it.
Criminal threats is also a wobbler, meaning that it could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. A lot of people are trying to figure out if they're going to be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.
If you were arrested and your bail was $50,000.00, then you were booked as a felony. That doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be charged as a felony. The police have to make a decision when they arrest you whether you're going to be booked as a felony or a misdemeanor.
But, ultimately, the charging decision is with the prosecutors — the lawyers like me on the other side — who will be the ones deciding whether or not they're going to file it as a felony or a misdemeanor.
The types of factors that they're going to assess, consider and evaluate, are your prior criminal record, what type of threat there was, whether there was a weapon involved, as they decide whether or not to charge it as a felony or misdemeanor.
Defending Criminal Threats Charges
So, the bottom line is, if you or a loved one is charged with criminal threats, you want to hire an attorney. Let that attorney work for you and figure out what the best angle is to handle the case.
I've been doing this for nearly 30 years. When I first started out, I worked for District Attorney's office in east LA and then later a Superior Court Judge in Burbank, and then in 1994 I put out my shingle as a criminal defense attorney and have been defending people just like you ever since.
We might be able to make an argument that the victim was not placed in sustained fear or that the threat did not involve a great bodily injury or death.
Further, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to negotiate with law enforcement and the prosecution to avoid the formal filing of criminal charges before court.
Pick up the phone and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding if you've got a criminal threats case in the San Fernando Valley or anywhere in Los Angeles. I stand at the ready to help you.
Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and offers a free case review by calling (213) 542-0979, or filling out our contact form.