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How to Defend Against a Criminal Threat Charge in California?

Posted by Dan Kann | Jan 24, 2023 | 0 Comments

How to Defend Against a Criminal Threat Charge in California?

Criminal threat used to be known as terrorist threat and is now usually associated with domestic violence cases in California. Penal Code Section 422 defines what constitutes a criminal threat in California. These cases are wobbler offenses, meaning that they can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. They can be life-changing since each felony occurrence is a strike under California's Three Strikes law. It is recommended that you work with a criminal defense attorney since this offense can be accompanied by both less severe and extreme consequences.

Elements of a California Criminal Threat Charge

Criminal threats are complex offenses and follow a specific criterion of proof. The prosecution will need to establish the following:

  • You issued a threat against the person willfully
  • The threat was to kill or seriously injure the victim through other people or on your own
  • The threat was made orally, in writing, or via electronic communication
  • The threat was unconditional, specific, clear, and immediate
  • You had an immediate prospect and serious intention of carrying out the threat
  • The victim feared their safety
  • The fear felt by the victim was reasonable

You may still be found guilty of making a Criminal Threat even if you had no intention of carrying out the threat but it was still interpreted as a threat.

Element of Fear in Criminal Threat Cases

Fear is an essential factor in criminal threat cases. This is how fear is looked at:

  • The victim was fearful
  • The victim's fear was reasonable
  • The victim's fear was sustained

These are a few questions that need to be addressed:

  • Did the recipient fear for theirselvs or their family's life?
  • Did the recipient go into hiding or run away?
  • Did the recipient laugh it off or scoff at it?
  • Was the fear fleeting, momentary, or transitory?

Fear is highly dependent on the case in question. It may last for 15 minutes or 15 days.

Family Members Covered Under the Clause

Criminal threat requires the victim to be fearful for their own life or their family's well-being. The following family members are covered:

  • Spouse by marriage or not
  • Child
  • Parent
  • Family members related through consanguinity or affinity within the second degree
  • Anyone regularly residing at the household
  • Anyone that lived in the home periodically within the last 6 months

The prosecution's case can be disputed on the basis of any of the conditions above, not being met. With that said, it takes an experienced attorney to mount a good defense.

Possible Defense Strategies in Criminal Threat Prosecutions

An experienced criminal defense attorney in California will be able to prepare a good defense that ends up with an acquittal or reduced charges rather than a conviction. These are a few good defense strategies that can be used in such cases:

  • The threat was not made in writing, electronically, or orally
  • The statement did not cause any reasonable fear
  • The words were not enough for making the victim afraid
  • The threat is vague or overly ambiguous
  • The threat is not immediate

You are in the Hands of a Fighter: Get Legal Representation from a Seasoned and Aggressive Criminal Defense Lawyer

The legal team at here at the Kann California Law Group can help you fight for your rights and achieve the best outcome possible. We're here for you 24/7. To schedule your free consultation, call us at (888) 744-7730 or fill out our confidential online contact form. One of our attorneys will call you back. 

About the Author

Dan Kann

Daniel E. Kann has devoted his entire legal career exclusively to defending individuals facing criminal prosecution in Southern California. Dan fights criminal cases throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.


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