Penal Code 422 PC – Criminal Threats Law in California
California Penal Code 422 PC makes it a crime to willfully threaten to commit a crime that will result in death or great bodily injury to another person. The statement can be verbal, written, or by electronic communication. The person making the statement has to have the specific intent that the statement is to be taken as a threat.
This statute prohibits threatening to harm or kill someone if the threat places them in reasonably sustained fear for their safety or family. The illegal threat has to involve the infliction of a great bodily injury (GBI) or death. PC 422 criminal threats charges are often related to domestic violence.
PC 422 says, “Anyone who willfully makes a threat to commit a crime that can result in great bodily injury or death t someone, with the intent that their statement is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent to carrying it out, which was specific to the person threatened, an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, causing a victim to be in fear of their safety or immediate family.”
As noted, the threat could be made verbally or electronically through text messages or email. Still, the prosecutor has to prove that the threats placed the victim in reasonable fear that was sustained.
Criminal threats is a wobbler meaning that depending on surrounding circumstances, it may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. If charged as a felony, it will be a strike under the California three strikes law. Suppose it's your third strike. In that case, you are facing 25 years to life in prison. Let's review this state law further below.
What Are the Elements of the Crime?
To convict under Penal Code 422 PC criminal threats, a prosecutor has to prove all the elements of the crime within California Criminal Jury Instructions 1300, including the following:
- That you willfully threatened to injure or kill somebody;
- The threat was verbal, written, or made electronically;
- It was intended to be received as an actual threat;
- It was specific to the victim, and it implied an immediate possibility of being executed;
- It placed the victim in fear for their safety or immediate family and was a sustained fear.
A great bodily injury is a significant physical injury that must place the victim in fear of their safety. Further, it has to be sustained far, which can be challenging to prove. Notably, a PC 422 criminal threat can still be prosecuted when there is no evidence you intended to carry out the threat.
What are the Penalties for PC 422?
California Penal Code 422 PC is a wobbler offense that can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony offense. A misdemeanor criminal threat carries the following penalties:
- Up to one a year in county jail,
- A fine of up to $1,000,
- Informal probation.
Suppose you are convicted of a felony PC 422 criminal threats, then you are facing the following:
- 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison,
- A fine of up to $10,000,
- Formal probation.
Suppose you used a deadly or dangerous weapon to communicate the threat. In that case, you could be imprisoned for an additional year.
A PC 422 felony conviction is considered a “strike” under the three-strikes law. Therefore, it can significantly increase a prison sentence for second and subsequent convictions.
What are the Related Crimes for PC 422?
California has several laws that are related to Penal Code 422 PC criminal threats, including the following:
- Penal Code 136.1 PC – witness intimidation,
- Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC – domestic battery,
- Penal Code 273.5 PC – corporal injury to a spouse,
- Penal Code 646.9 PC – stalking,
- Penal Code 601 PC – aggravated trespassing,
- Penal Code 186.22 PC – gang sentencing enhancement,
- Penal Code 518 PC – extortion.
How to Get the Best Result for a Criminal Threats Charge?
Suppose you were violating Penal Code 422 criminal threats law. In that case, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can potentially use different strategies for the best possible outcome. Most practical challenges are against the elements of the crime to create reasonable doubt.
For example, maybe we can argue that the victim was not afraid of their safety, which is subjective. Likewise, it can't be proven that the fear was sustained. Maybe we could say that the threat didn't involve great bodily injury or death. Perhaps a threat was made, but it was minor.
Perhaps we can argue that you are the victim of a false allegation. For example, maybe the accuser claims you threatened them because they are trying to gain an advantage in a divorce case. Perhaps it's an argument over money or some business dispute.
Perhaps the alleged victim was motivated by anger or jealousy, or they are attempting to conceal their involvement in a crime. But, on the other hand, maybe we can argue that the threat was not immediate or vague. I know people are often arrested for domestic violence and charged with criminal threats under PC 422. So, to get the best result, we must first sit down and figure out precisely what happened:
- What is the source of the alleged threat related to you?
- What did you say?
- What evidence do the police and prosecutors have?
- Does it meet the criteria or elements of a criminal threat?
You have to threaten somebody, and it has to be a threat that is not just you saying it; it's more than you actually might carry out.
A perfect example would be threatening to stab somebody with a knife, and you have the knife. That would be a problem. You might even get charged with California Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC assault with a deadly weapon.
But on the flip side, if you yell at somebody in anger, even though it might meet the elements of a criminal threat, I often get that particular charge dismissed as I negotiate the case with the prosecutors. So, we review the whole case and decide whether it's the type of case we can fight or try to negotiate.
Once we decide, we put the pieces in place to get you the best result. This is part of an overall resolution once I submit a mitigation package to the prosecutors, which includes our version of events related to the case. So if you need the best result in a criminal threat case associated with a domestic violence arrest, pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you.