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Criminal Threats

Criminal Threats: California Penal Code 422(a)

A criminal threat is often referred as ‘terrorist threat’ in California even though the statute no longer uses this term to define the offense. The PC 422 in the California’s penal code addresses the offense of criminal threats. When a person threatens to kill, hurt or injure another person or his or her immediate family members, it is considered as a terrorist or criminal threat. But, criminal threat offense can also be charges if someone threatened a company, a building, a group of people, or employer.

According to PC 422(a), there are five elements of criminal threats that prosecutor must establish to prove an offense.

Elements of Criminal Threat

The person willfully threatened to unlawfully kill or unlawfully inflict great bodily injury on another person;

  • The person made the threat with the specific intent that it be taken as a threat even if there was no intention of carrying it out.
  • The person made the threat verbally, in writing, or through electronic communication.
  • The threat is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey a gravity of purpose and the immediate prospect of execution (the person was very clear and specific about carrying out the threat);
  • The threat actually caused sustained fear in the victim (for “a period of time that extends beyond what is momentary, fleeting, or transitory”); and
  • The sustained fear was reasonable.

Examples of Criminal Threat

For example, a person has a parking dispute with his neighbor. The person leaves a note on the car of the neighbor threatening to kill him, injure him, or damage his car. The statement is clear and intends to intimidate the other person. It can be charged as a criminal offense under statute of criminal threat.

A group of friends is hanging out and one friend while intoxicated tells the other friend that he would punch him in the face or he would kill him. It cannot be charged as a criminal offense as the person did not have specific intent of threatening the other person but meant it only as a joke or light-hearted conversation.

Other common examples of criminal threat are,

  • Threatening to hurt or injure your spouse or close relative of your spouse.
  • Threatening to burn down your old office building after you are fired.
  • Sending a threatening email to injure or kill your co-worker on a racial/ religious/ work dispute.
  • Sending threatening letters to a family with whom you have a dispute.
  • Sending threatening letters to local church or abortion clinic

Criminal threats, even if you did not intend to carry out the threat, can have serious consequences for you as a ‘wobbler’ crime. A ‘wobbler’ crime in the state is the one that can be charged as both a misdemeanor or a felony based on the seriousness of the crime and extent of damage.

Penalties for Criminal Threat

When charged with the criminal threat offense, you are in row to strict penalties that are part of California’s penal code system. The penalties include

  • Jail Time
  • Prison Time
  • Informal Parole
  • Heavy Fines
  • Community Service
  • ‘Strike’ in three strike law
  • Losing right to vote or own a firearm

Misdemeanor: A convict of misdemeanor criminal threat can be sentenced to informal probation of at least one year, community service, physical labor, counseling, restitution (paying the victim), fines ($200 to $2,000), and “stay-away” orders, and up to one year of jail time in county jail.

Felony A felony of criminal threat can be fined up to $10, 000, up to five years imprisonment in state prison or even more in some cases, a strike under strike law, and it can become a permanent part of your criminal record.

How Defense Lawyer David S. Chesley Can Help?

Our lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Chesley have dealt with hundreds of cases of criminal threats involving difficult situations such as divorce, parking disputes, racial discrimination and so on. We have seen a fair share of cases in which the statute of criminal threats is only used as a trap against the person and does not have any reality to it. By adopting a methodical approach, we identify and find out the facts about the case and present them in the court, resulting in dismissal of charges or minimum punishment specifically avoiding jail time. Our approach to the criminal threat cases include,

  • Immediately challenging the charges;
  • Conducting extensive investigations;
  • Interviewing law enforcement officials;
  • Locating and interviewing all the witnesses associated with the criminal threat allegations; and
  • Presenting applicable evidence against the person(s) making the charges.

Common Available Defenses

As mentioned, many of the criminal defense charges are baseless with no content in it. We will pursue all available defenses and will prepare a strong and aggressive defense through our experience of court and legal system. Some of the common available defenses are,

  • Mistaken identity
  • Impeachment of freedom of speech under fundamental rights.
  • Lack of sufficient evidences
  • A statement in self-defense
  • An off-hand statement or a joke with no real meaning.
  • Unreasonable fear.

Domestic Voilence

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is one of the most commonly reported in California and every year hundreds and thousands of domestic crime cases are registered.

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Assault and Battery

Assault and battery are often charged together, but these are not interchangeable criminal offenses.

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Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Being charged with aggravated assault (also known as assault with a deadly weapon), is a serious criminal charge.

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Resisting Arrest

When a suspect is uncooperative, dismissive or verbally indignant, some officers take it personally. People who have committed no crime suddenly find themselves facing bogus criminal charges.

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Criminal Threats

A criminal threat is often referred as ‘terrorist threat’ in California even though the statute no longer uses this term to define the offense.

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Unlawful Possession of a Firearm

Unlawful Possession of a Firearm is strictly illegal.

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Recent Results

  • Multiple defendants each facing 7 years charged with smuggling prescription drugs into California from Mexico our client was the only defendant who received NO JAIL TIME!

  • Client facing 5 years for possession of deadly weapon we negotiated a plea for NO JAIL TIME!

  • Client facing 3 life terms for multiple felony counts of Child Molestation and Sodomy with child we proved the charges were fabricated by victims mother DISMISSAL of all charges at preliminary hearing!

  • Strike case: Client charged with possession of methamphetamine facing 25 years we filed a Romero Motion which was granted case REDUCED TO MISDEMEANOR!

  • Client's estranged girlfriend alleged Client broke into her room and choked her facing 14 years in State Prison we won at trial JURY ACQUITTAL.

  • Police allegedly discovered 3 bags of marijuana in client's glove box faced 6 years we filed a 1538.5 motion to suppress resulting in DISMISSAL of all charges!

  • Client allegedly sold rock cocaine to undercover officer faced 10 years following our argument client received NO JAIL TIME!

  • Client facing 15 years for Armed Robbery we proved misidentification Judge DISMISSED the case!

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