The freedom of speech rights offered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution doesn't allow anybody to threaten others with violence in a way that puts the latter's personal security at stake. According to the California Penal Code section 422 PC, making criminal threats is illegal and punishable by law. Previously, this secti
on only covered the scopes of "terrorist threats" but, now if a person "threatens to commit a crime" that can eventually lead to "death or bodily injury" and is driven by a specific intention, then it qualifies as a violation of the law.
In order to ascertain that the convict is indeed guilty of the crime, the prosecutor will have to prove the following points:
· The threat was made orally, through electronic communication or in writing by the defendant.
· The defendant deliberately threatened to unlawfully cause physical injury or kill the victim.
· The defendant wanted to put forward his statements in such a way that they sound like threats.
· The tone and objective of the threat were so clear, unconditional, specific, and immediate that it made the other person perceive that the act would harm him and the latter’s fears about the vulnerability of his own life or that of his family were reasonable under the given set of circumstances.
Penalties under California Penal Code 422:
There are essentially two ways of punishing a case of criminal threats under the California penal code 422, and they are, either as a Misdemeanor, or as a Felony.
¾ If you are convicted under the Misdemeanor form of Criminal Threats then you might have to serve for a year in jail or state prison and be fined up to $1000.
¾ The punishments ascribed for the Felony form of Criminal Threats are, however, a bit more rigorous. You can be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 3 years and compelled to pay $10,000 as fine. Furthermore, if you employ a gun while committing a Felony, the maximum number of years of imprisonment can even go up to 4 years for a first-time offense.
The Felony form of Criminal Threats is included in California’s “Three Strikes” law. This implies that if the convict is found guilty of violating the regulations of Penal Code section 422 for the third time, he will have to spend 25 years in the state prison.
· The threat was too vague
If the defendant only made a threatening gesture but, did not verbally communicate the threat then the penalties for violating penal code 422 cannot be exercised. The interpretation of the threat cannot be based on vague actions or gestures.
· The victim was not really “feared”
If the threat of the defendant did not instill fear in the victim then the former cannot be held guilty of the crime. Under all conditions, the prosecution must establish that the victim developed the subjective feeling of fear.
· The fear of the victim was transitory in nature
If the victim was only scared for a few minutes or hours after hearing the threat (the fear was not sustained) but, soon after the fear subsided and he did not take the intimidation seriously anymore.
· The fear was unreasonable
If the evidence gathered can verify that the fear regarding the personal safety and wellbeing of the victim was completely unreasonable, the charges of violating penal code section 422 can be negated.
If you have been charged with allegations of criminal threat, find the best criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles who also specializes in defending cases of domestic violence to help you find the relevant loopholes in the accusation and shield his client from getting punished unjustly.