A violation of California Penal Code section 422, or “Criminal Threats,” is a very serious charge that is often taken lightly by the accused because of their belief that criminal threats are “only words.” But Criminal Threats are far more serious than most people realize. Although Penal Code section 422 is a “wobbler” (meaning it can be charged or pled as a misdemeanor or a felony”) it is also a “strike” for purposes of the Three Strikes Law. This means that if you plead guilty or are convicted of a felony violation of Penal Code section 422, you will have a “strike” on your record. If you have been charged with making criminal threats, call The Rodriguez Law Group today for a free consultation.
A charge of Penal Code section 422 is most often charged after a domestic dispute, an argument with a neighbor, a business quarrel or any other similar situation where words are said in anger. We have all said something regretful in a moment of anger at some time, it does not mean that we should plead guilty to a crime, let alone be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of a “strike” offense. Penal Code section 422 is used in every type of case from Battery to Domestic Violence to Gangs to Homicides to a simple disagreement over a fender bender in the parking lot of Target.
California Penal Code 422 PC Overview
Penal Code section 422 is defined in part as when someone “willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement …. is taken as a threat…” In order to convict someone of making Criminal Threats the government must prove to a jury ALL of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt (From California Criminal Jury Instruction 1300):
- The defendant willfully threatened to unlawfully kill or unlawfully cause great bodily injury to the complaining witness or his/hers immediate family;
- The defendant made the threat orally/ in writing/by electronic communication device;
- The defendant intended that his/her statement be understood as a threat [and intended that it be communicated to the complaining witness];
- The threat was so clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific that it communicated to the complaining witness a serious intention and the immediate prospect that the threat would be carried out; AND
- The threat actually caused the complaining witness to be in sustained fear for his/her own safety or for the safety of his/her immediate family.
Misconceptions About Criminal Threats
The stereotypical Criminal Threat scenario that most people think of is during a face-to-face confrontation. Those cases are difficult to prove because it’s just the so-called victim’s words against the accused. More problematic are the cases where angry words are texted, emailed, or left on a voicemail. Please DO NOT express your anger or frustration over any modes of communication because they will be used against you in a court of law.
Moreover, if you are under investigation, do not, under any circumstances, speak to the police. Nothing good will come out of it. Do not give your side of the story, do not explain yourself, do not blame the accuser, and do not even admit to knowing the accuser or having had an argument or disagreement with him or her. Truly, anything you say during an investigation that mostly depends on “he said-she said” can and will only incriminate you and be used against you in a court of law.
If the police contact you concerning a Penal Code section 422 investigation, just say no and exercise your constitutional right to remain silent. Do not contact the alleged victim after the police contact you. It is very likely that he or she, with permission from the police, is recording everything you say. In fact, it is very likely that the police even gave the alleged victim a recording device to record your phone calls.
Hire An Experienced Attorney To Protect Your Rights
If you or a loved one has been charged with making criminal threats, you need a qualified Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. As a former prosecutor, Mr. Rodriguez has the experience to aggressively defend you. Choosing a qualified criminal lawyer is an important and difficult decision. Call The Rodriguez Law Group today for a free consultation (800) 852 – 9851.