Criminal Threats

In the Coachella Valley and throughout California, many are arrested on false charges of issuing criminal threats; and yet, a conviction on a criminal threats charge can have severe, long-lasting consequences.

At The Law Office of David J. Givot, we have a deep understanding of the legal details and the courtroom proceedings involved in criminal threats cases. Attorney David J. Givot has handled numerous criminal threats cases in the past and has consistently won the best possible outcome for his clients.

For a free legal consultation and immediate attention to your case, contact David J. Givot 24/7 at 888-293-0396.

How Does California Define "Criminal Threats?"

California Penal Code Section 422 makes it a crime to issue a "criminal threat" directed at another person. The crime is primarily concerned with inciting fear in the other person rather than with the specific words or motions involved in issuing the threat. But the content of the threat must have been to kill or inflict bodily injury on the one threatened.

To count as a criminal threat, the one threatened must have actually been put in a state of fear as a result of the threat. That fear must also have been "sustained" rather than "momentary," and the fear must have been "reasonable." 

The threat must be to imminently inflict bodily harm on the person threatened or on his/her family member(s). The threat must also be specific rather than vague and unclear.

It does not matter if the threat was issued verbally, in written form, or electronically — it still counts as a criminal threat. And you can even be charged with making criminal threats if you did not intend or were not able to carry out the threats issued. So long as you instilled a reasonable fear of your actually carrying them out in the victim, that is sufficient.

Momentary or Unreasonable Fear

While there is no specified "time limit" on how long one must have been in fear, a criminal threat cannot produce simply a passing moment of fear. Since this part of the law is rather vague, it must be sorted out on a case-by-case basis.

The fear involved must also be reasonable. That is, it must be “reasonable” to believe (true or not) that the person making the threat can and will attempt to carry out the threat. If a ridiculous threat like "I'm going to knock you clear to the moon!" is issued, it cannot count as a criminal threat.

Conditional and "Empty" Threats

In many cases, conditioned and empty threats are not criminal threats, but in other instances, they are.

The placing of a condition on a threat does not destroy the criminality involved if the threat is conveyed in a way that causes the victim to reasonably fear that the threat will be carried out. 

In the same way, an empty threat — one that the person making the threat has no intention of carrying out, is a criminal threat if it is conveyed in a convincing enough manner. It may only have been a "scare tactic," but that does not preclude its being a criminal threat.

Possible Penalties 

Issuing criminal threats (PC 422) can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the details of each case and on the defendant's past criminal record.

As a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. As a felony, it is punishable by 3 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. And those who utilize a "deadly weapon" while issuing the threat are subject to an additional 1 year in prison.

Also note that making multiple threats can result in each threat issued being punished as a separate crime, if those threats were made on different occasions or against different people.

As a criminal threat conviction is a "strike" on your record under the "Three Strikes Law," you cannot get out of parole or otherwise until 85% of your incarceration term has been served.

As criminal threats is a crime of "moral turpitude," it can lead to loss of certain professional licenses and to deportation of non-citizen U.S. residents.

Common Defense Strategies

At The Law Office of David J. Givot, we are familiar with all of the best legal defenses against the charge of making criminal threats. We always "custom-build" each defense to the realities of the particular case, but here are some of the most common basic defenses we often use:

  1. Lack of immediacy or specificity: There must be enough specificity to the threat and enough of a possibility of immediate "enforcement" for it to create genuine fear. It can be a threat to do something later upon a condition, but there must be a reasonable fear of immediate injury being inflicted at that time, at least. An threat that is overly vague as to what will be done and when cannot be a "criminal threat."

  2. Lack of fear: If the "victim" did not take the threat seriously at the time it was issued, he/she cannot later prosecute it as a criminal threat. Not just the existence of a threat but also of genuine fear in the victim is required.

  3. Unreasonable or un-sustained fear: If there was genuine fear but it was not reasonable in the context in which the threat was made, or if the fear was merely momentary, it cannot be a criminal threat.

  4. Falsely accused: It is not uncommon for someone "with an axe to grind" to falsely accuse another person of making a criminal threat. A good defense lawyer, however, will know how to cross-examine witnesses and challenge and defeat falsified evidence.

  5. Free speech: Mere angry outbursts or rants do not count as criminal threats. As unpleasant of speech as they might be, no one can Constitutionally punished for this in the United States.

Related Offenses

In many cases, there are additional crimes that are charged along with that of making criminal threats, including the following:

  1. Intimidating a witness (PC 136.1): Threatening a witness in an attempt to keep him/her from reporting on a crime or testifying in court is a distinct crime. It can be a misdemeanor or a felony, but when charged as a felony, it is punishable by up to 4 years in state prison.

  2. Extortion (PC 518): When threats are issued so as to acquire money, goods, or services. Extortion can also be committed against public officials in order to scare them into acting in accordance with one's wishes. This crime is a felony and is punishable by up to 4 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

  3. Domestic violence: There are a number of different types of domestic violence, but the common thread is that they are all committed against an "intimate partner," child, or parent. When criminal threats are made against such persons, the offender could face additional penalties upon a conviction.

  4. Stalking (PC 646.9): Following, harassing, and threatening another person is covered under California's stalking statute, which is similar to and overlaps with at points the criminal threats statute. Thus, one could be prosecuted for both stalking and criminal threats.

  5. Aggravated trespassing (PC 601): Sometimes, a criminal threat is followed up with an illegal entrance into a person's private property or place of employment to reiterate or carry out the threat. This can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. As a felony, it can get you up to 3 years behind bars.

  6. Gang-related threats (PC 186.22): When a criminal threat is made in the interests of an organized gang, the "gang enhancement" can add 5 to 25 years in state prison to the ordinary criminal threats sentence under PC 422. In extreme cases, making gang-related threats can even get you life imprisonment.

Contact Us Today

At The Law Office of David J. Givot, we have the expertise in the practice area of criminal threats defense to win your case. David J. Givot has helped numerous clients in Palm Desert, Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, La Quinta, Indian Wells, and other localities to win dismissals, acquittals, and reduced charges/sentences, and he can do the same for you.

Contact us anytime 24/7/365 for a free legal consultation by calling 888-293-0396.

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