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California Criminal Threats and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is rife with threats and highly-charged emotions. Therefore, it is imperative for those individuals who may be involved in domestic disputes to understand that their words-every bit as much as their actions- can get them into serious trouble.

An unrestrained tirade can result in a violation of Penal Code 422 PC California’s criminal threats law. To be found guilty of making criminal threats, a prosecutor must establish the following elements:

  • The defendant willfully threatened to unlawfully kill or otherwise cause serious bodily harm to another person
  • The defendant made the threat orally, in writing, with an electronic device, or via a third person
  • The defendant intended his or her statement be taken as a threat
  • The threat was specific, unconditional, and clear enough that the other person had no reason to think it would not be carried out
  • And the other person’s fear was reasonable under the circumstances

Some examples of behavior that could generate a criminal threats charge include texting your ex that you’re going to sabotage her car, or a recently fired employee calling his or her former boss and telling him to watch his back.

An immediate ability, or even intent, to carry out the threat is not necessary for prosecution. The individual making the threat need only to make his or her statement understood as a threat. Additionally, with this charge, it is very easy for someone to make false accusations against you.

Consequences for Criminal Threats

Depending on the defendant’s criminal history and the facts surrounding the particular offense, someone who makes a criminal threat could be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor. A conviction for felony criminal threats is punishable by up to three years in prison with an additional year if the defendant made the threat using a dangerous or deadly weapon. Under California’s Three Strikes Law, this offense can be used as a “strike” to be used to exacerbate penalties on future convictions.

Defenses for a Criminal Threats Charge

Even if a threat was made, a legitimate defense to a criminal threats charge would include:

  • Equivocal, unclear, or unspecific threats
  • A threat made by gesture alone without words, text, or writing
  • If the threat could not have reasonably caused fear in the recipient
  • If the threat did not actually cause fear in the recipient
  • If the threat caused only fleeting fear in the recipient

Facing Domestic Violence Charges?

Being accused of domestic violence and criminal threats can damage your reputation, your future, and your life. The penalties in domestic violence cases can be severe, which is why you need an advocate who understands these laws. Start by reaching out to our Oakland domestic violence attorney today: (510) 07-6600.

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