(714) 997-4400

California Criminal Threats Law

by Lindsay Chambers

California Penal Code 422 makes it illegal to threaten another person or their family in a way that makes them fear for their safety. This crime can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, resulting in fines and time spent in a county jail or state prison.

Examples of Crimes Under California PC 422

Under PC 422, anyone who deliberately states their intention to injure or kill someone else is committing a criminal threat, even if they ultimately have no desire, inclination or ability to carry it out.

According to PC 422, it’s against the law to threaten someone face to face, in writing or via electronic communication. For example, you could send a text or email message stating your intent to kill someone. Regardless of how you convey the threat, if it causes the other person reasonable, sustained fear for their or their family’s safety, a judge can find you guilty of this crime.

Penalties for a PC 422 Conviction

A criminal threat is a “wobbler,” which means that prosecutors may charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the crime and your criminal history.

If convicted of the misdemeanor, you face up to one year in county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. If convicted of the felony, you could spend up to three years in California state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. And if you use a weapon when conveying your threat, a judge could sentence you to an additional and consecutive year in state prison.

Finally, if you make threats on more than one occasion, against multiple people or for several different reasons, you could face penalties for each separate threat.

Potential Defenses to a Criminal Threats Charge

After learning about your specific circumstances, a criminal defense attorney can help you put together a case that may include arguments like these.

  • Your accuser is making a false allegation.
  • The threat was too ambiguous – for example, saying something like “You’d better watch your back.”
  • There was no immediate threat, or you had no ability to follow through on it.
  • The recipient of the threat didn’t take it seriously – such as if their only response was to laugh and dismiss you with a phrase like “Yeah, right.”
  • You only made a threatening gesture and never conveyed an oral, written or electronic threat.
  • The other party didn’t experience prolonged, profound fear due to your threat.
  • The threat was silly or unrealistic – for instance, telling someone you’re planning to hire an elite sniper to assassinate them, like in the movies.
  • The threat met the criteria for protected free speech under the First Amendment.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower

Ron Brower has practiced law in Southern California for more than 45 years, earning a reputation as one of the best attorneys in the state and nation. During a distinguished career filled with high-profile victories, he has handled thousands of criminal cases. As a testimony to his expertise and attention to detail, his former clients have included many of his peers in the legal and criminal justice community.

If you are facing potentially serious criminal charges, you’ll need an attorney of his caliber by your side in the courtroom. Contact us today to schedule your confidential consultation.

You may also like