California Penal Code 422 PC

PC 422 – Criminal Threats

Criminal Threats – Table of Contents

Criminal Threats, Penal Code 422 PC – Overview

Criminal threats, Penal Code 422 PC is defined by the state as when anyone willfully threatens to kill or inflict great bodily injury and as result of this intentional act, the victim experiences sustained fear for their safety or for the safety of their immediate family. According to PC 422, the threat can be made verbally, electronically or in writing.

Moreover, under the law, immediate family members include any spouse (married or not), parent, child and any person related by blood or relationship within the second degree. This also includes any person who currently lives in the household or resided in the household within the previous six months.

Certainly, criminal threats are crimes that could lead to actual violence, so the law is designed to not only punish anyone who makes a criminal treat against someone or their immediate family, but also prevent violence that often accompanies a threat. Of course, people sometimes make a threat as a joke or even in anger, but with no real intention of following through with the threat.

However, PC 422 includes criminal threats even when there is no intent to actually carry out the threat because the harm is not just in the possible carrying out the treat, but the fear that the victim experiences due to the criminal threat. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you beat your case by making sure your side of the story gets fully explained to the prosecutor, who may be persuaded to drop the case once all the facts are presented and win your case.

Criminal Threats, Penal Code 422 PC – Sentencing

Criminal threats, Penal Code 422 PC is known as a wobbler, meaning the crime can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor depending on the defendant’s criminal record and the specifics of the case. The sentence for a felony criminal threat can be significantly harsher than a sentence for misdemeanor criminal threat. Moreover, a felony conviction has potential for on-going consequences well after the trial and sentencing, so it is important to have an experienced defense attorney to help you win your case.

The sentencing for a criminal threat, Penal Code 422 PC as a misdemeanor is:

  • Up to one (1) year in county jail
  • Maximum of $1,000 in fines

The sentencing for criminal threats, Penal Code 422 as a felony is:

  • Up to three (3) years in state prison
  • Maximum of $10,000 in fines
  • A “strike” in accordance to the California Three Strike Law
  • 85% of prison sentence must be served before becoming eligible for parole
  • If this offense is a defendant’s second “strike” he or she will have their prison sentence doubled
  • Possible deportation for legal immigrants and aliens because CA criminal threats, Penal Code 422 is a deportable offense

Certainly, every effort should be made to avoid a conviction and sentence for any crime, particularly if the defendant has a valid defense. As mentioned, any felony criminal threat conviction under PC 422 can have significant long-term consequences.

First, as a convicted felon, you may lose certain privileges and have some of your rights limited.

For example, convicted felons cannot vote while incarcerated, and if you move to another state, you may not automatically have your right to vote reinstated.

Other long-term consequences of a felony conviction include your right to own a gun, to serve on a jury, deportation if you are not a U.S. citizen, and felony convictions can be a factor in child custody and parental rights cases.

Second, a conviction for PC 422, Criminal Threats, is considered a “strike” under the California Three Strike Law, California Penal Code 667 PC, which greatly increases prison time for a second and third felony conviction that is considered violent or serious. Make sure to have the best defense team possible so you can beat your case.

Prosecuting for Criminal Threats (Penal Code 422 PC)

Criminal Threats, Penal Code 422 can be difficult to prosecute because there is typically minimal evidence in these types of cases. Most of the time the prosecutor can only rely on “he said she said” testimony and then must make the case. However, the available technology to record conversations openly or surreptitiously has changed the landscape to some degree.

At trial, any recording of an alleged criminal activity must meet the standards established under the California Rules of Evidence. But, a recording can be helpful to either the prosecutor or defense team before trial. For example, you could have used your cell phone to record an argument and demonstrate that you did not make any threats, or that the alleged victim was not in fear because they were laughing at your threat. Certainly, a recording that can help the defense team will be extremely persuasive, and an experienced defense attorney can present the recording to the prosecutor and ask that the charges be dropped, and therefore win your case.

In all criminal cases, the prosecutor has the burden of proof to prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In order for a conviction under Penal Code 422 PC, Criminal Threats, the prosecutor must prove four different elements:

  • That the defendant made a threat to kill or inflict great bodily injury on another person
  • That the defendant made the threat either verbally, electronically, or in writing
  • That the threat was unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific as stated in CA criminal threats Penal Code 422 PC
  • That the victim experienced sustained and reasonable fear

If the prosecutor cannot prove within a reasonable doubt that the defendant performed each of these four elements of the criminal threats Penal Code 422 PC case then it is likely that the prosecutor will not be able to meet the burden of proof and you will win your case.

Moreover, an experienced criminal defense attorney will also be able to review and assess the evidence, and if the evidence is weak, persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges. Depending on the evidence, your attorney could also argue that the charges should be reduced or agree to an acceptable plea bargain. Any of these outcomes would result in avoiding a trial and save you resources including time and money.

PC 422 - Criminal Threats

Defending Penal Code 422

With the help of a talented criminal defense attorney there is a possibility that charges can be reduced or cases dropped altogether. There are several strategies that criminal defense attorneys utilize to prove that a criminal threat does not deserve a conviction under CA criminal threats, Penal Code 422 PC.

Firstly, a criminal defense attorney can prove that a threat was not unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, or specific enough to warrant a conviction. If a defendant expressed a threat that was impossible to execute for a known reason then that person should not be convicted of a criminal threat Penal Code 422 PC.

Similarly, if the threat is extremely vague as to when the act will happen or what the threat entails then there it’s unlikely that a conviction will take place. CA criminal threats Penal Code 422 PC makes it clear that a threat must be specific, and if the threat is vague and doesn’t have any specifications as to when, where, or how the threat will take place then a criminal defense attorney will make that clear.

Moving away from the threat and focusing on the victim can be a successful strategy as well. In order to be convicted of a criminal threat the victim must experience both reasonable and sustained fear. If either of the these criteria are not fulfilled a conviction will not occur. This leads into another defense strategy of proving that the victim was not afraid. If the victim does not believe that threat is real and is not afraid then there should not be a conviction because fear is a quintessential part of the CA criminal threats, Penal Code 422 PC crime.

If an over-exaggerated or unrealistic threat is made, like a person claiming that they are going to “buy a stealth bomber and blow you up!” and fear is evoked in the other party a conviction will not take place. Even though a threat was made and fear was evoked, the fear was not reasonable and therefore, CA criminal threats, Penal Code 422 PC conviction is not appropriate.

The final approach that a criminal defense attorney can take is proving that a victim wrongfully accused a defendant of making a threat under PC 422. If an attorney can prove that a victim made-up the threat for some explained or unexplained reason than the charges will be thrown out.

Furthermore, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to protect your rights by ensuring that no violations were made by law enforcement or the prosecutor, either purposely or inadvertently. All criminal defendants have state and federal constitutional rights, and you need an attorney to protect your rights as well as help you beat your case.

PC 422 – Case Study

My client Big Bubba was a gentle, giant man of few words. Everybody loved Bubba, so big and real that you saw what you got. Bubba had many challenges in life, including have a child with a severe learning disability, living on subsistence wages with his equally large, but delightful wife, Big Barbara, also known as Big Barb, who Bubba relied to make the most important decisions for the family. One day Big Bubba and Barb went to a “bring your own beer” party, drank several dozen light beers (they were on diets), and met their mutual friend Big Betty.

About 3 a.m. Big Bubs, Barb and Betty drove to Jack-in-the-Box to take care of their mega-appetites. They placed a large order, paid, and were asked to pull over into the parking lot to wait for their food. After an excessively long wait- so long that the three nearly lost their appetites- the bags of food came, and upon opening them Bubba and the others found them to be stale, cold and inedible, even for 3 a.m. fast-food. This time Bubba, Barb and Betty did lose their appetites. They drove to the window and demanded their money back. Rather than giving their money back, the Jack-in-the-Box employees charged their card again! When Big Barb and Big Betty got upset, the Jack-in-the-Box ladies showed them the finger and called them to “Shut the F- Up you Fat Pigs.”

Up to this point, Biggy B. was sitting in the back seat in his usual laid back Pacific Islander mode. But once he heard his Queen insulted in this way, Bubba’s hairs stood up- the beast had awoke. Big Bubba exited the car and allegedly loudly and aggressively threatened to “F-“ them up” and “kill” the Jack-in-the-Box employees. And for good measure, he allegedly punched the bullet-proof glass, now closed, so hard he put a crack through the window. This whole episode was caught on the drive-through cameras.

Unfortunately, good-natured but short-fused Bubba was charged with 2 counts of felony criminal threats, and one count of felony vandalism. Although criminal threats is a wobbler, the District Attorney decided to charge it as a felony which made them strikes. Fortunately, Big Bubba mortgaged his big truck to hire the Esfandi Law Group to defend him. Since the drive-through cameras did not have audio, ELG was able to argue that Bubba was only demanding his credit card back, not making any threats. The two criminal threat strikes were dismissed. The breaking of the drive-through window was on camera so there was not much to argue, but being wobblers, ELG negotiated the vandalism charge down to a misdemeanor pursuant to PC 17(b)(5). In the end, Big Bubba did no jail time and was able to get back into the warm embrace of Barb. Hubba Bubba!

We Want to Help

If you or a loved one is being charged with (Criminal Threats) Penal Code 422 PC, we invite you to contact us immediately for a free case review. Schedule an appointment to meet with us in person, or feel free to submit an evaluation online and we will get in contact with you ASAP. We can provide a free consultation in our office, or by phone. Our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyers will be sure to fight until the end to reduce or drop your charges completely.

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Lara S.
June 4, 2018
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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