California Penal Code 422 – Criminal Threats – Elements and Defenses

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California Penal Code 422 makes threats of a criminal nature against the law in California. The law states as follows: Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.So, criminal threats are really basically defined as a threat to seriously injure or kill an individual, causing that individual to fear for his or her well-being or life, even if the threat is never intended to be actually carried out. This might include a threat that was spoken or verbal, in writing, or via an electronic device such as on a computer, via a cell phone, etc. Being accused of criminal threats is a serious situation and individuals who have been accused could face jail time and/or fines.Defending a California Penal Code 422 Accusation:Attorneys will use a number of defenses for a criminal threats case, depending upon the unique situation of the case and the circumstances surrounding it. Some of the most common defenses for this charge are:Vague or Ambiguous StatementIf the accused individual made an ambiguous statement toward the alleged victim, or a statement that was not made in a serious way, it should not be considered a criminal act. This is also true if the statement was vague and did not actually threaten the alleged victim with death. For instance, if tempers flared at an office and the accused, in the heat of the moment, said, “You better watch your back,” it may not actually be considered a criminal threat. This kind of threat would also be considered ‘not imminent.’Not ImminentIf a threat is not backed by evidence that the accused would actually have hurt the individual or that a confrontation was imminent, it may not be considered criminal. For instance, in the case of the above example, the statement was not only vague, but lacked imminence to truly make the alleged victim fear for his or her safety. An imminent and serious threat would be more along the lines of, “When I see you in the parking lot after work, I’m going to get the gun I keep in my car, give you one minute to say your final words, and then I’m going to kill you.”No Requisite Fear or Fear UnreasonableIn another common defense, if the alleged victim never truly feared for his or her own safety, the threat was not criminal. If they were unreasonably afraid, this may also be used as a defense for penal code 422. An example of no requisite fear would be if the individual plainly knew that the accused was speaking in the moment and without serious intent to follow through on the threat. It must also be determined that any ‘normal’ person would have truly been afraid for his or her safety because of the threat that was made. If that can’t be established, it would be considered ‘fear unreasonable.’If you’ve been charged with a criminal threat charge, it’s important that you contact an attorney right away. Even if it seems juvenile because you truly didn’t threaten the alleged victim seriously, you could face serious consequences if your defense isn’t properly formed. A capable attorney can convey your innocence to the court and quite possibly get the charges dropped against you.