Under California law, making terrorist threats or criminal threats refers to an act of threatening to kill or physically harm someone. Regardless of whether an individual follows through, making the threat in itself is a crime under California law. A conviction can result in serious consequences including jail time, restraining orders, penalties and probation. If you or a loved one has been accused of making criminal threats, please contact an experienced Santa Clarita criminal defense attorney to better understand your legal rights and options.
What is a Criminal Threat?
California Penal Code Section 422 defines a terrorist threat or a criminal threat as one that threatens to "commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing or by means of an electronic communication device."
Under the law, any such communication is a criminal threat, even if the maker of threat does not intend to carry it out. A criminal threat causes the victim to fear for his or her safety or the safety or his or her immediate family. Under this law, "electronic communication device" includes but is not limited to telephone, cell phone, computer, video recorders, fax machines or pagers. Anyone who is found guilty of making a terrorist threat can face jail or prison time and other hefty penalties including fines.
Possible Charges and Defenses
To obtain a conviction in a criminal threat case, the prosecution must prove that the victim was actually fearful; that the victim's fear was reasonable; and that it was "sustained," meaning that it lasted over a period of time. If the threat you made was not specific and "unequivocal," you may not be convicted. Also, if the victim was not afraid or fearful of the threat, you cannot be convicted. Again, if the victim was unreasonably fearful, you cannot be convicted. There are some cases where the threats are protected as free speech. For example, when a member of the public has an angry and emotional outburst at a public meeting, that type of speech may be protected.
When it is charged as a felony, a conviction for making criminal threats can become a "strike" under California's Three Strikes Law. If this is your third serious felony conviction with two "prior strikes," you will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. Do not let this happen to you or a loved one. Please contact experienced criminal defense lawyer Daniel E. Kann to discuss your case at absolutely no cost.