Many people don’t realize that causing bodily harm, death, or the deprivation of rights of another person are not the only circumstances under which an act is considered a crime and punishable by law. If any person threatens to commit a crime that would cause injury or death to another, with or without the intention of actually doing so, it is a crime and will be prosecuted under California law. It is a common misconception that threats aren’t crimes because they don’t involve actual action and many people, who have absolutely no intention of causing bodily harm or death to another, fall victim to criminal prosecution over something they said, perhaps even in a moment of anger, agitation, or frustration.
If you have been accused of making criminal threats in California, retaining the services of an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney can ensure that your rights will be effectively protected against unfounded accusations.
California Penal Code 422
Under California law, a person is guilty of the crime of criminal threats if he or she willfully threatens to commit a crime which would result in the great bodily injury or death of another individual, with the specific purpose that the statement, made in writing, through any electronic communication, or made verbally, is taken as a threat, regardless of any intent to actually carry it out, which 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,” thus causing the threatened person to reasonably remain in sustained fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her immediate family.
That is a complicated definition for a complex crime. There are many pieces to making a criminal threat that must all be present in order for the prosecution to make their case. The essential characteristics of the crime of criminal threats are as follows:
- A threat is made to cause bodily harm or death;
- The threat is specific;
- The statement is intended as a threat;
- The threatened person reasonably fears for his or her safety;
- That fear is sustained over a period of time, not fleeting; and
- The threatened person feels that the threat will be carried out.
Depending on the circumstances of the threat, such as if there is a deadly weapon involved, the crime may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. If found guilty, an offender would be subject to a maximum one year imprisonment in the county jail for a misdemeanor or imprisonment in state prison for up to four years for a felony.
Building a Strong Defense on Your Behalf
An experienced criminal threats defense attorney knows how the prosecution will try to convince the jury that the offense is punishable by the harshest penalties and likewise knows which defenses are the most effective. In many criminal threat cases, the threat itself is excessively vague, or it may have simply been an emotional outburst or the allegedly threatened person could have blown it way out of proportion and feared it unreasonably. False allegations of criminal threats are also, unfortunately, a reality. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to investigate the details of the complaint in order to determine how to rebut the prosecution’s allegations.
At The Law Offices of David A. Stein, our Irvine criminal threats attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of individuals accused of making criminal threats in California. We take our job of protecting your legal rights very seriously and can ensure that you will not be subjected to unlawful prosecution. To speak to Davie Stein about your particular case, contact us today at (949) 445-0040.