Citizens of the U.S. are constitutionally guaranteed the right to free speech. However, this right does not mean that you are allowed to say whatever you want at all times. For example, individuals are not allowed to:
- Make False Statements of Fact
- Incite Others to Imminent Lawless Action
- Make Criminal Threats
In California, individuals can be prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 422: Criminal Threats for frightening or threatening others. Learn more about this charge, possible penalties, and legal defenses with the Simmrin Law Group.
PC 422: The Legal Definition
Individuals in California can be charged with making criminal threats if they threaten another person with:
- Acts of Violence
Criminal threats can be delivered:
- Through Electronic Means
- In Written Form
All criminal threats must be specific. Individuals who violate PC 422 threaten to cause someone else great bodily injury or to kill them. The threat must be enough to make the victim fear for:
- Their Own Safety, OR
- The Safety of Their Immediate Family
Finally, individuals are only guilty of criminal threats if a reasonable person would be frightened by what they said. Individuals can be convicted under PC 422 even if they did not actually plan to harm or kill another person. Merely threatening another person in a believable way can lead to a conviction under PC 422.
PC 422: Examples of Criminal Threats
Some people are unsure exactly what qualifies as a criminal threat in California. Check out these examples to strengthen your understanding of PC 422:
A man and a woman recently broke up. The man calls the woman and tells her he is going to use the key to her apartment to get in and beat her severely while she is sleeping. She knows he has a temper and the threat he makes is very specific. She is reasonably afraid for her well-being and panics. He could be charged under PC 422.
A man loses his job. He feels he was treated unfairly by his boss. In a rage, he sends a letter promising to wait in the parking lot to kill his former employer. His employer believes the letter and begins fearing for his life. The man has made a criminal threat.
A woman finds out her boyfriend is cheating with her. She tracks the other woman down online and sends her a furious e-mail, making vague threats to blow off steam. The other woman does not believe she is actually in any danger, and laughs the entire thing off. Therefore, this is not an example of making a criminal threat.
PC 422: Penalties for a Conviction
The court system in Los Angeles can charge individuals with a misdemeanor or a felony for PC 422. Individuals convicted of a misdemeanor may be sent to jail for up to 1 year.
A felony conviction for making criminal threats can lead to 4 years in prison. Individuals who make use of a weapon while making a threat may have 1 year added to their sentence.
Note that any legal penalties may be increased if an individual is charged with additional criminal acts tied to PC 422. In some cases, individuals may make criminal threats that involve:
- California Penal Code Section 243(e)(1): Domestic Violence
- California Penal Code Section 417: Brandishing a Weapon or a Firearm
PC 422: Possible Defenses for Criminal Charges
Individuals who are accused of making criminal threats can reach out to a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles for help. A professional criminal defense lawyer can assess the facts surrounding any PC 422 charge. Depending on your specific situation, your lawyer could build a case by showing:
- The Threat Would Not Cause a Reasonable Person Fear
- The Threat was Ambiguous and Vague
- The Threat Did Not Result in an Immediate Risk
- The Threat Did Not Actually Frighten the Victim
These defenses can be difficult to build on your own. Contacting a criminal defense lawyer immediately after a PC 422 charge can increase your odds of beating accusations related to criminal threats.
PC 422: You Can Get Professional Legal Help Today
Individuals who are accused of making a criminal threat can end up facing misdemeanor or felony charges. Do not risk your future by trying to handle a criminal threat accusation alone. The legal professionals at the Simmrin Law Group can help you if you are charged under California Penal Code Section 422: Criminal Threats.