California Penal Code Section 422 PC – Criminal Threats

California Penal Code Section 422 PC makes it a crime for a person to make a threat to harm or kill another person. To convict an individual, the defendant must have made a threat to kill or cause great bodily injury to another person, and the recipient of the threat must have reasonably believed the defendant’s threat to do so.

Although people in the US have the right to free speech, making criminal threats that place people in fear for their safety falls under an exception to the right of free speech. If you have been charged with violating penal code section 422 PC, you should not take a criminal threats charge lightly as a conviction carries a maximum of three years in California State Prison. The crime of “criminal threats” was previously known as “terrorist threats.” The name was made more general, allowing the statute to encompass a greater amount of threats.

So, if you’ve been charged with this crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The H Law Group to defend you. We have the knowledge and experience to achieve the best possible results for you. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

Text of California Penal Code Section 422 PC – Criminal Threats

According to California Penal Code Section 422, “Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.”

What Must the Prosecution Show to Convict an Individual of Making a Criminal Threat?

For the prosecution to convict an individual of making a criminal threat, it must prove a number of elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to even prove one element, it will not be able to convict the defendant of making criminal threats.

The prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant threatened to kill or harm another person
  • The defendant made his threat orally, in writing, or via an electronic device
  • The defendant had the intent for his threat to be understood as a threat
  • The threat made by the defendant was unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific so that it’s possible of immediate execution
  • The threat was reasonably understood by the recipient and caused him to fear for his own safety or for the safety of an immediate family member

Examples of Making Criminal Threats Under Penal Code 422 PC

Here are a few examples of situations that would qualify as making criminal threats:

A man is hanging out with some of his friends at a café. A group of men passes by, the man decides to pull out of a toy gun of his pocket that looks like the real thing. He threatens to shoot the men if they didn’t leave immediately. The men are scared and run away. The man can be charged with and convicted of making criminal threats because he threatened to kill the men, and the men reasonably believed that he could kill them thanks to the real looking toy gun. So, it would be easy for the prosecution to convict the individual of making a criminal threat.

A college student is mad at his professor for giving him a failing grade on his mid-term paper. So, the college student emails his professor threatening to kill his professor’s son if he does not change his grade to an A+.  The student can be charged with and convicted of making a criminal threat because he communicated a threat of great bodily harm via an electronic device to harm an immediate family member of the professor’s family.

A girlfriend and boyfriend break up. The girlfriend threatens to burn the boyfriend’s home down while he sleeps. The girlfriend can be charged with and convicted of making a criminal threat.

Penalties for Making Criminal Threats Under Penal Code 422?

If the prosecution convicts an individual of making criminal threats under Penal Code Section 422, the penalties an individual faces depend on whether the prosecution charged the defendant with misdemeanor criminal threats or felony criminal threats. This crime is a wobbler, meaning the prosecution has the discretion to charge it as either a felon or a misdemeanor.

  • Conviction of either a misdemeanor or a felony offense
  • Misdemeanor conviction – up to one in county jail
  • Felony conviction – up to four years in California State Prison

Whether the prosecution charges the defendant with a misdemeanor or felony criminal threats depends on the defendant’s criminal record and the facts surrounding the defendant’s decision to make criminal threats. Also, if the defendant is convicted of felony criminal threatening, a strike will be added to his criminal record under California’s Three Strike’s Law. This means that the defendant will have to serve at least 85% of his prison term, and if he is convicted of a crime in the future, the penalties he faces will be enhanced, meaning that they will be lengthier and tougher.

That said, making criminal threats is a serious offense that can result in you being sent to jail or prison for a very long time. So, if you have been charged with making criminal threats, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney at The H Law Group to defend you and keep you from going to prison.

Defenses to Making Criminal Threats Charges

If you have been charged with making criminal threats, there are a variety of defenses that your attorney can use to defend you. For example, your attorney may be able to make the following defenses if supported by the facts of your case:

  • The defendant did not threaten anyone
  • The threat the defendant made was vague or ambiguous
  • The victim did not believe the defendant’s threat
  • The victim had an unreasonable belief of fear
  • The defendant is being falsely accused of making criminal threats

Related Offenses

  • Extortion – Penal Code 518 PC
  • Domestic Violence – Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC
  • Stalking – Penal Code 646.9 PC

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with making criminal threats, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend you and keep you from going to prison. Our defense lawyers have defended thousands of clients, often achieving successful results for them. So, rest assured your future is in great hands. For the best and most aggressive legal defense, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at The H Law Group. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

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