When Can You Be Charged With Making A Criminal Threat in Orange County, CA?The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives us the right to free speech. However, in California, your right to free speech does not entitle you to threaten other people with violence or put them in fear for their safety. Under California Penal Code Section 422, you could be facing misdemeanor or felony charges for making criminal threats against another person.

What is a “Criminal Threat” in California?

Section 422 states that “any person who 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 to be taken as a threat that causes that person to reasonably be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety” is guilty of making a criminal threat. The threat can be made verbally, in writing, or via an electronic device. (Examples of electronic devices include telephones, cellular telephones, computers, video recorders, fax machines, and pagers.)

You Could Be Facing Misdemeanor or Felony Charges for Making a Criminal Threat in Orange County, CA

You can be arrested and charged with making a criminal threat even if there was no intent of actually carrying it out. 422 is a “wobbler” offense which means you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony offense. If convicted on misdemeanor criminal threat charges, you could be facing up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to a year in the Orange County jail.

A felony 422 criminal threat conviction could cost you up to $10,000 in fines and up to three years in a California state prison. A 422 felony conviction also counts as a “strike” under California’s three-strikes law. If the conviction is your third strike, you could be looking at life in state prison.

What Should I Do if I’ve Been Charged With Making a Criminal Threat in Orange County, CA?

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a violation of California Penal Code 422, the first thing you need to do is get yourself a lawyer. In order to convict you of making a criminal threat, the state will have to prove that:

  • You willfully threatened to commit a crime that would result in great bodily injury or death of the victim.
  • Your threat was explicitly communicated to be received as an actual, immediate threat by the victim.
  • Your threat placed the victim in sustained fear for their safety or their immediate family.

As stated above, you can be prosecuted under PC 422 even if you had no intent to actually carry out your threat. In order to get their conviction, the prosecution will have to prove that you are guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Depending on the circumstances in your case, there could be several defense strategies against charges of making a criminal threat:

  • You didn’t threaten the victim with injury or death.
  • Your threat was vague or ambiguous, not explicit.
  • You did not threaten immediate violence.
  • The victim did not experience fear or sustained fear as a result of your threat.
  • The accusations against you are false.
  • Your “threat” was protected free speech.

Speak to an Orange County, CA Criminal Threat Defense Attorney About Your Case

Jim Tanizaki is a former Orange County, DA turned criminal defense attorney. His unique background and experience give him an advantage other criminal defense attorneys simply don’t possess. Jim knows the strategies the prosecution will use to obtain a conviction and is able to craft effective defense strategies to counter their charges. Jim’s expertise often results in a reduction of charges or a dismissal of charges for his clients.

Contact the law offices of Jim Tanizaki through our website, or call us at (714) 655-7633 to schedule a free, initial consultation with a leading Orange County, CA criminal threat defense lawyer.