Criminal Threats According to CA Penal Code 422 PC
The California Penal Code forms the basis for the enforcement of all criminal laws in the state, defining the elements of the crime of Criminal Threats, as well as the potential punishments. According to California Penal Code 422 PC, anyone who willfully threatens to commit a crime that would result in the death or seriously bodily injury of another is criminally liable under the Code. The crime includes verbal, written and even electronically communicated threats, as long as the statements were made with the intention to threaten.
It's important for individuals accused of making criminal threats to know that even if they made threatening statements to someone with no intention or immediate ability to act upon the threats, the California Penal Code will still impose criminal liability if the threatening statements were specific and unequivocal enough to cause the victim to reasonably fear for his or her own safety. Anyone accused of the crime of criminal threats in California will most certainly require the advice and representation of an experienced criminal lawyer, since the violation of this law carries significant consequences.
California Penal Code 422 PC allows for the crime of Criminal Threats to be charged either as a felony, or as a misdemeanor. This means that the possible sentences for a conviction for making criminal threats can vary depending upon a defendant's criminal history and the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Defendants charged with making criminal threats as a misdemeanor offense could be fined up to $1,000 and spend up to one year in county jail. A Criminal Threats allegation charged as a felony offense carries the possibility of a fine up to $10,000 and up to three years in state prison.
If the conviction is a second “strike” under the California Three Strike Law, any prison sentence will be doubled, and convicts must serve at least eighty-five percent of their sentence before they are eligible for parole. Further, legal alien immigrants face possible deportation for a criminal threat conviction, since a violation of California Penal Code 422 PC is a deportable offense in the state.
In criminal cases, the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of a crime. This is a heavy burden to bear, and depending upon the circumstances of a case a competent criminal defense attorney can often challenge a Criminal Threats charge on several grounds, the most common being: the alleged threatening statements were vague or ambiguous; there was no imminent danger; and/or the threatened individual was either not afraid or had unreasonable fear.
If the defendant's statements toward the alleged victim were vague, ambiguous or were not made in a serious manner, it would not constitute a criminal threat as defined by the Code. This defense would also hold true if the statements were vague and did not actually threaten the alleged victim with death.
For example, the statement, “You better watch out," even if made in anger, may not be considered a criminal threat because of the absence of specific language indicating the intent to cause imminent bodily harm or death to the individual to whom the comment was directed. Additionally, if a threat is not supported by any evidence that the accused would have actually inflicted harm on the alleged victim or that a confrontation was imminent, it may not be considered a criminal threat.
Another common defense to an allegation of making criminal threats in violation of California Penal Code 422 PC is if the alleged victim was not actually afraid for his or her own safety, or if the alleged victim's fear was unreasonable. The reasonableness of the alleged victim's fear is determined by way of comparison to how a ‘normal' or ‘reasonable' person would felt under the same set of circumstances.
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If a prosecutor does not believe there is enough evidence to rebut these defenses in order to prove the defendant's guilt within a reasonable doubt at trial, the most likely outcome is that the case will be dropped or charges against the defendant will be reduced without a trial.
However, regardless of whether or not the case proceeds to trial, the seriousness of a California Criminal Threats charge requires the assistance of a skilled and committed California criminal lawyer who knows every legal argument when defending clients.
If you have been arrested for the crime of making criminal threats in the Visalia, California area, contact an expert criminal lawyer as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.