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When is a Criminal Threat a Crime?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Mar 27, 2023

California Penal Code 422 PC controls the criminal threats area, which can be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor. 

If someone does threaten to kill another person, and it looks like they can do it, and an average person will be scared based on the threat, then you can bet that the prosecutors will file that charge against whomever the person was that made the threat.

It used to be called a terrorist threat back when I started dealing with these cases about 30 years ago, but now they've changed it to a criminal threat.   

See a lot of these cases more and more where people get frustrated and angry with another person and end up threatening them.  I've often seen it in a voicemail or text message, which is wrong because then there's proof of the criminal threat.

I often see the alleged victim trying to get out of some responsibility to be defended. 

In other words, maybe the alleged victim owes money, they were allegedly threatened, and now they can try to get out of paying the money back because they get the police involved, contact the person arrested, and end up not having to pay the money back that was legitimately owed.

Avoiding a Criminal Threats Charge

Your best strategy is not to get a criminal threat charge – handle things differently than threatening somebody using the authorities as an example. 

However, since you are on this website, you're probably charged with a criminal threat – Penal Code Section 422- or when your loved one is accused of a criminal threat.

What we have you do is come into the office.  We sit down.  We go over exactly what the alleged threat was. 

You've got to give me all of the information because then I can assess by using the jury instructions for Penal Code Section 422 to see if that threat will meet each element. 

Sometimes there are problems with some of the elements. For example, sometimes people conditionally threaten others and say, I will do this to you later if you do this.  Now you get into the realm where the case can be defended.

Usually, the prosecutors are going to deal with threats that are blatant and clear.   The more dangerous the person sounds, the harsher the threat is, and the more likely it will be filed as a felony versus a misdemeanor. 

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

Other charges besides criminal defense can be used in criminal threats if they've got the evidence against you because a criminal threat is a strike pursuant to the California Three Strikes Law.

California Criminal Defense Lawyer

Therefore, you don't want that on your record because you can't get it off.  It's always there.  Prosecutors can see it.  Police can see it.  Even the general public or an investigator can see it if they figure out the right way to look for it. 

So, a criminal threat is a severe charge. So, therefore, you want an attorney who has much experience.  As I said, I've been handling these cases for over 30 years. 

I started out working for the district attorney's office, then for a superior court judge, and then in the early 1990s, I began defending people just like you or your loved one. 

I've gone down the path you're about to go down.  If you need the best when it comes to defending a criminal threat, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. Our Los Angles criminal defense attorneys offer a free case evaluation.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.