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Criminal Threat Laws And Punishment Under PC 422

June 26, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys
Criminal Threat Laws And Punishment Under PC 422
Under California Penal Code 422, it is against the law to put other people in fear for their safety with a threat of violence. This is known as making criminal threats. It can include any type of harm or threat of violence. There are certain elements a prosecutor must prove to achieve a guilty verdict against someone charged with making criminal threats.

Elements Of A Criminal Threat
These elements must be established during a trial for a guilty verdict for making criminal threats.

*Under the circumstances the other person’s fear was reasonable
*The defendant willfully threatened another person to unlawfully cause great bodily harm, unlawfully kill or cause serious injury
*The threat resulted in the other person to experience sustained fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family
*The defendant intentionally made threats to the other person via electronic communication, orally or in writing
*The communication contained a serious intention and provided a feeling of an immediate threat about to be carried out
*The defendant’s intention was for their statement to be understood by the other person as a threat
*The threat was communicated clearly, specifically and unconditionally to the other person

When a defendant intends a statement they make to be understood as a threat, it does not need to be carried out or intended for someone else to carry out. The ability for someone to carry out a threat is also not necessary.

Penalties
Individuals who are charged with making criminal threats have committed a wobbler offense. This means they can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. This is often determined by a defendant’s criminal history as well as the factual circumstances surrounding the offense. An individual convicted of making felony criminal threats may be punished with up to three years in prison. There could also be an additional year added if the defendant made the threat with a dangerous weapon. It is considered a strike under California’s Three Strike Law.

Legal Defenses
Simply because someone has been charged with making criminal threats doesn’t mean they are guilty. The facts of the case need to be carefully examined. Evidence must be gathered and witnesses interviewed. There are various legal defenses for individuals charged with making criminal threats.

Insufficient Evidence
The prosecution may not have enough evidence against a defendant. There may be an issue of credibility with the person making the accusation. It is also possible the accuser made an unsubstantiated claim and has not been able to provide any corroborating evidence.

Ambiguous Statement
Victims making ambiguous statements are something that will not be sufficient to obtain a conviction for criminal threats. If someone yells “I’m going to get you,” it could have many different interpretations. Many of them are not criminal. A conviction will require a statement that is much more specific and direct.

Intent
This particular statute applies to an individual who is acting with a specific intention for the statement they made to be an actual threat. This statute is not designed to punish individuals for emotional outbursts. It has been made to arrest individuals who attempt to have another person or persons experience fear.

Conditional Threat
A conditional threat is not considered enough to show criminal intent. It lacks the immediacy and the seriousness associated with the threat being carried out in the future. It is essential the subject of the threat must feel great bodily injury or death is imminent. Conditional threats often have the requirement of an action before the threat will happen. When determining if what someone has communicated is a threat, the words themselves play an important role in this determination. A prosecutor will have to determine if they can use surrounding circumstances in conjunction with the alleged threat to charge someone with a crime.

Fear
The prosecution will be required to prove the victim of the crime experienced sustained fear. This is a fear that lasts more than a few seconds and is not transitory or fleeting. It is common for an accuser to exaggerate the level of fear they experienced as well as how long they felt intense fear. It is common for arguments to be made that an accuser is too hypersensitive for the level of fear they are claiming. The fear they describe may not be consistent with what a reasonable person would experience.

When someone is charged with making criminal threats under PC 422, they are facing a criminal charge that could result in receiving serious punishment. If anyone finds themselves facing this situation, they should immediately contact an experienced attorney. They will know how to protect a person’s rights. These legal professionals will know how to gather the facts of a case and develop the best possible legal defense.

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