It’s not uncommon to hear someone make a threat against someone else or against you. In fact, most of the time, these are idle threats that simply don’t mean anything. This may make it surprising if someone accuses you of a criminal threat and you are charged with a crime. What constitutes “criminal threats” and how can you defend yourself against these charges?

Criminal Threats Defined

For a threat to be considered criminal, a few criteria must be met according to California Penal Code 422 PC:

  • The threat must be to physically harm or kill someone and
    • Caused them to be reasonably afraid for themselves and/or their loved ones and
    • Must be unequivocal and specific, not vague and
    • Was communicated in writing, verbally or “via an electronically transmitted device.”

You can also be charged with criminal threats if a threat you make meets the above criteria. This is true even if you do not intend to carry out the threat, or whether or not you actually have the means to do so.

Examples of Criminal Threats

  • Threatening to kill or seriously injure a co-worker because they made you angry
  • Sending an email to your boss threatening to set their vehicle on fire after they terminated you from your job
  • Sending a text to your ex after a breakup stating that they should watch their back because you have a gun

How to Defend Yourself Against Charges of Criminal Threats

If you find yourself under investigation for criminal threats or were arrested on charges, know how you could defend yourself. Common defenses against charges of criminal threats include but are not limited to:

  • The threat was made in such a way that it is unreasonable for that person to fear for their safety or the safety of family members
  • The person who was threatened was never actually afraid and is only seeking legal action against you for revenge
  • The threat was vague and unspecific
  • The threat was not made verbally, electronically, or in writing, such as making a threatening gesture only

When to Contact a California Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been charged with criminal threats, it’s important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible. This is a wobbler crime, meaning that you may be charged with a felony or misdemeanor. Protect your rights with the help of Attorney Jennifer Mouzis by calling 916-822-8702.