California Penal Code section 422 prohibits the threatening of another person with immediate bodily harm. The threat must be so immediate and so unequivocal that the person receiving the threat is in sustained fear for their safety. The offense is punishable for up to 3 years. Most importantly, this charge is classified as a strike offense and may have severe consequences attached.
In order for someone to be convicted of terrorist threats the prosecution has to prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements are laid out in the in the California criminal jury instructions. First, the government must prove that the accused willfully threatened to kill of cause great bodily injury to the named victim. Second, they must prove that it was the accused made the threat to the named victim. Next, it must be proven that the accused intended the statement be understood as a threat and that it be communicated to the named victim. The threat must also be clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific, communicating a serious intention and the immediate possibility that the threat would be carried out. Next, the threat must have actually caused the named victim to be in sustained fear of his or her safety or the safety of immediate family. Lastly, the fear must have been reasonable given the circumstances.
This statute is a wobbler that may be filed as a misdemeanor instead of being charged as a felony. The original filing decision lies with the prosecution. If the threats charge is filed as a felony, the court does have the discretion to reduce it to a misdemeanor under California Penal Code section 17(b).
The disturbing aspect of this criminal threats offense is that it is often overused. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to bring this charge when a disturbance starts off with a verbal altercation during which angry words were spoken.
The attorneys at Alin Cintean, Attorney at Law and Richard Dudek, Attorney at Law. have vast experience fighting these charges and as former prosecutors, have insight as to how the government’s attorneys view this charge. If you or a loved one has been charged with this offense, contact the office immediately at (415)946-4020.