Under California law, criminal threats of any nature, be they personal or terror-related, are charged in the same manner. That means whether you threaten to threaten to kill an ex or if you call in a bomb threat to an airport, you will still be charged with making a criminal threat. If you have been accused of making a criminal threat, you should immediately contact a skilled San Diego criminal threats attorney, even if you have not yet been formally charged with a crime yet.
The California Criminal Threats Law
While most people consider terrorist threats to be much more serious than threats made against a particular individual who is known by the suspect, under California Penal Code section 422 (PC), they are the same thing from a legal standpoint. It also does not matter if there is only one person being threatened or many. The threat can be made in person, over the phone or through an electronic communication such as an email or text message. To put it simply, a criminal threat is defined as threatening to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury with the intent it be taken as a threat, even if the person making the threat has no intention to actually carry out the threat. The threat also needs to be something realistic and immediate so that the victim has a sustained fear or his/her safety.
Penalties for 422 (PC)
Depending on the specifics of the case, prosecutors may charge criminal threats as felonies or misdemeanors. If you were were in possession of a dangerous weapon, have a criminal history or if the crime is considered to be a form of domestic violence because the victim is an intimate partner of yours, you will be more likely to face felony charges. If you work with a criminal defense lawyer from the time the accusation is made, you will have a greater chance of facing misdemeanor charges for this offense as your lawyer can often convince the prosecution to file the charges as the lower offense.
If you face felony criminal charges related to this charge, your potential penalties can include up to three years in state prison and a strike under the California’s three strikes law. If the charge is filed as a misdemeanor, you can face up to one year in county jail. You could also be issued a restraining order from the alleged victim or victims of the threat.
Fighting Criminal Threats Charges
The good news is that you can fight these charges in a number of ways, as long as you have a skilled San Diego criminal threats attorney. In some cases, it can work to explain that the statement was made as a result of a misunderstanding or joke. Other times, it may work to simply argue that you were either the victim of false accusations or a mistaken identity. It’s important to refuse to speak with police without a criminal defense lawyer though as it is very possible to say something that could damage your case by attempting to defend yourself. For example, if you say that someone made false accusations against you, but there is a video of you making the statement, you’ll dramatically reduce your credibility.
If you have any questions about this serious offense, please call San Diego criminal threats defense attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.