While the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of speech, it doesn’t include the right to threaten other people with violence.
In the state of California, making criminal threats is illegal. California Penal Code Section 422 defines “criminal threats” as the crime of willfully threatening to kill or physically harm someone (e.g. telling your ex-girlfriend that you will kill her boyfriend if she continues to date him, or threatening to shoot another person while you are holding a gun, etc.)
To prove that you are guilty of “criminal threats,” the prosecutor has to prove the following:
- You willfully threatened to kill or seriously injure another person;
- You made the threat orally/in writing/by electronic communication device;
- You intended that your statement be understood as a threat;
- The threat actually caused the person to be in sustained fear for his/her own safety or for the safety of his/her immediate family;
- The threatened person’s fear was reasonable under the circumstances.
If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a criminal threat in California, your first step should be contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer! Let me explain WHY!
The Consequences You May Face When Accused of Making Criminal Charges
Penal Code 422 is categorized as a “wobbler” which means that prosecutors can charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of your case and your criminal history (if any).
If you are convicted of a Penal Code 422 misdemeanor, then you might face up to one year in county jail and may have to pay up to $1,000 in fines.
If convicted of the felony, you may face up to three years in a California state prison and may have to pay a fine reaching up to $10,000. If the threat involved a deadly or dangerous weapon, you can face an additional 1-year in prison.
Not to mention, if you make multiple threats, you might be charged with a Penal Code 422 violation for each separate threat.
Unfortunately, that’s not all. You will receive a strike on your record under California’s Three Strikes law if you are convicted of felony criminal threats. Being convicted of a second strike crime could lead to your sentence being doubled. If you commit a third strike crime, you are facing 25 years to life in prison (scary, right?).
On top of that, you may lose your license to practice if you are a licensed professional, such as a nurse or a doctor.
Finally, if you are not a citizen of the United States and are convicted of a Penal Code 422 violation, you can face deportation or removal.
Long story short, making criminal threats is a serious offense that can impact you for the rest of your life. The penalties may include a jail or prison sentence, expensive fines, and a strike on your criminal record.
That is why the first thing you should do when you are accused of making criminal threats is to contact a reputable criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will negotiate with the district attorney and prosecutors to either get the charges against you dropped or get you a favorable plea offer.
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If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at (888) 900-3080 or via email at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you!