21 Sep 23

Los Angeles Criminal Threats in Domestic Violence

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Last Updated on: 2nd October 2023, 06:52 pm

Los Angeles Criminal Threats in Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a serious issue affecting many families in Los Angeles and across the country. While physical abuse often comes to mind when we think of domestic violence, threats of violence can also constitute domestic abuse under California law.

In particular, criminal threats charges are increasingly common in domestic violence cases in LA. Even if no physical harm occurs, threatening words or actions that put someone in fear for their safety can lead to criminal prosecution.

What Constitutes a Criminal Threat?

Under California Penal Code 422, it is illegal to willfully threaten to kill or seriously injure another person when:

  • The threat is specific and unambiguous
  • The threat causes the target to be in sustained fear for their own safety or their family’s safety
  • The threat is made with the apparent ability to carry it out
  • The threat causes the target to reasonably fear for their safety

For example, statements like “I’m going to kill you,” “I’m going to beat you up so badly you’ll be hospitalized,” or “I’m going to shoot up your house” could potentially constitute criminal threats if they meet the above criteria.

Criminal Threats vs. Domestic Violence

While criminal threats can occur in any context, they are often charged in domestic violence cases in LA county. Threats against an intimate partner or family member may be prosecuted as:

  • Criminal threats on their own (a felony or misdemeanor)
  • Domestic violence criminal threats (a felony)

Domestic violence charges require the victim and defendant be in a specified relationship, like a spouse, cohabitant, dating relationship, etc. Threats against these victims are eligible for enhanced penalties under CA Penal Code 273.5.

Penalties for Criminal Threats in Domestic Violence

In LA county, threats against an intimate partner or family member are aggressively prosecuted. If convicted of felony domestic violence criminal threats, penalties may include:

  • 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Mandatory 52-week domestic violence class
  • Up to 5 years of formal probation
  • Restraining order up to 10 years

Even misdemeanor convictions can mean up to 1 year in county jail. The court may also impose protective orders, probation terms, fines, and domestic violence classes.

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Defending Against Criminal Threats Charges

These cases often boil down to one person’s word against another’s. However, several legal defenses may apply to criminal threats allegations:

  • No specific threat made – The statement was too vague or ambiguous to constitute an actual threat of violence.
  • Threat not taken seriously – The alleged victim did not feel genuinely afraid for their safety based on the threat.
  • Lacked intent – The statement was a joke, exaggeration, or figure of speech, not meant to be taken literally.
  • Self-defense – The threat was made to prevent an imminent attack by the alleged victim.
  • False accusations – The alleged threat was fabricated or exaggerated as leverage in a divorce, custody dispute, etc.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can evaluate the evidence and build a strong defense to get charges reduced or dismissed. They can also advocate for alternatives to jail time like probation, counseling, community service, etc.

Restraining Orders in Domestic Violence Cases

Along with criminal charges, the court may issue a protective or restraining order prohibiting contact with the victim. Even without a conviction, these orders can remain in effect for years and severely restrict your freedom.

A dedicated lawyer can fight the restraining order in the family court or advocate for mutually agreeable terms like exceptions for child custody exchanges, allowing peaceful contact, etc.

Get Strong Legal Representation

Being accused of domestic violence threats in Los Angeles can disrupt your life and freedom. An experienced local attorney can protect your rights at every stage.

To discuss your case in a free consultation, contact a reputable criminal defense law firm today. With an attorney on your side, you can avoid the worst penalties and start moving forward.