Not long ago, Demarcus Cousins agreed to play next season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Just a few weeks after signing with the star-studded squad, Cousins finds himself in legal trouble. Law enforcement in the state of Alabama has issued a warrant for his arrest. The warrant is based on evidence of domestic abuse and threats of violence against an ex-girlfriend, with whom he happens to share a child.
According to reports, Cousins got into a heated dispute with his ex when he asked to have their child present at his late-summer wedding. The ex, who recorded the phone call with Cousins, declined his request. He responded by threatening to shoot her in the head. She reported the threat, and Cousins may now face criminal charges for the third-degree domestic violence crime of harassing communications.
States, Including Alabama and California, Prohibit Harassing Communications
Cousins is facing criminal charges in Alabama, where his ex-girlfriend lives. In Louisiana, it’s a crime of the third degree to communicate with another person with the intent to harass or alarm them. California has similar laws on the books.
Under California Penal Code Section 653m PC, it can be a crime to make harassing or annoying telephone calls to another person. Specifically, 653m PC says that “every person who, with the intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty” of a crime.
It’s also a crime to make repeated phone calls or repeatedly contact another person with an electronic device with the intent to annoy or harass.
It doesn’t matter if you make contact with the other person or not. What matters is that you intended to annoy and/or harass and that your actions were likely to annoy or harass another person.
It’s a Crime to Make Criminal Threats
It’s not just a crime to annoy or harass someone over the phone. It’s also a crime to make criminal threats using an electronic device. A criminal threat involves threatening to commit a crime that would result in death or great bodily injury. It’s a crime, even if the person who utters the threat doesn’t intend on carrying out the threat or actually harming the other person.
In order to face charges for making a criminal threat under Penal Code 422 PC, the threat must be “so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat,” that it “thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety.”
Let’s go back to Demarcus Cousins. He was on the phone with his ex-girlfriend when he reportedly to shoot her in the head. This is the type of direct, unequivocal threat that could reasonably make someone fear for their safety.
You Don’t Have to Cause Physical Harm to Break the Law
Abusive behavior isn’t always physical. Abusive behavior doesn’t always happen in person. That’s precisely why 653m PC and 422 PC exist. Under California state law, you can face criminal charges for threatening another person from anywhere if you use an electronic device.
Under 653m PC, the crime is “deemed to have been committed when and where the call or calls were made or received. If Demarcus Cousins made harassing phone calls from California, he could potentially face criminal charges in the state.
Several Crimes Can Be Charged As Crimes of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence isn’t just one specific offense. Instead, it’s a variety of crimes that have one common factor – the victim and alleged defendant have a special relationship. Crimes of domestic violence involve acts of violence, abuse, or threats between individuals who are married, dating, living together, or related by blood.
As a result, several crimes can potentially be charged as crimes of domestic violence. This can include making threats over the phone. Demarcus Cousins threatened a woman is not only his ex-girlfriend, but also the mother of their son. They’ll always be connected, thanks to their dating relationship and offspring. As a result, acts of violence or threats made by one against the other can fall under the definition of domestic violence, particularly if the threats are made repeatedly.
Is it a Felony to Make Threatening Communications in California?
In California, making threatening or annoying communications, as defined under 653m PC, is generally a misdemeanor offense. As a misdemeanor, a conviction is punishable by $1,000 in fines and up to six months in a Los Angeles County jail.
There are times when making threatening communications can be a felony. If you make criminal threats over the phone, you can face felony charges. As a felony, a conviction is punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and up to three years in a state prison.