Formerly referred to as “terrorist threats”, this offense is now called “criminal threats” in California and is defined in Penal Code section 422. While the title of this offense itself may sound ominous, many criminal cases where this charge is alleged involve angry speech delivered in the heat of passion. The term “criminal threats” refers to any specific and unequivocal statement threatening to kill or physically harm another person, which places that person in reasonably sustained fear for their own safety or the safety of their immediate family members. This includes threats conveyed verbally, in writing, or even transmitted via email, text message, or other electronic media. Legally, it does not matter whether you intended to carry out the threat or not!
In California, “criminal threats” is a “wobbler” offense, meaning that it can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony, depending upon the specific circumstances involved in each case. The decision to file felony versus misdemeanor charges depends largely on three things: (1) the egregiousness of the alleged conduct involved; (2) the extent of the harm suffered by the alleged victim, if any; and (3) the alleged perpetrator’s prior criminal history, if any. These same three factors will also have a significant impact on what the precise criminal penalties will be in each case.
As a misdemeanor, a criminal threats conviction carries a maximum possible sentence of one year in county jail. As a felony, this offense carries a maximum of four years in state prison. If a deadly or dangerous weapon is used in the commission of the offense, an additional, consecutive term of one year may be added to the custody sentence imposed.
It is important to note that a felony conviction for a violation of Penal Code section 422 qualifies as a strike offense pursuant to California’s Three Strikes Law. As such, a felony conviction for criminal threats could have the collateral consequence of doubling the sentence for any felony convictions that may occur in the future. This is true even if probation is granted, a petition is later filed to have the underlying criminal threats conviction expunged pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4, et seq., and that request is granted by the court. Criminal threats is a strike offense, so even if it is later expunged, it will still count as a strike for purposes of enhanced punishment in the future.
At the Law Office of Julie Ann Baldwin, APC, we understand that mistakes happen, and we firmly believe everyone is entitled to vigorous, competent and compassionate legal representation. We also understand that the criminal process can be daunting and confusing. In many cases, there are often huge discrepancies between what people think the law is, what they think the law should be, and the reality of what the law truly is. That’s why we are committed to keeping you fully informed throughout the legal process as we work to strategically develop and prepare your defense, with a keen eye toward achieving the most favorable outcome possible for you.
Remember that the legal issues relevant to your case are best identified and addressed early on by a qualified Murrieta defense lawyer. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your case, it is imperative that you act swiftly and smartly by hiring an experienced, local attorney who is familiar with the rules, common practices and procedures, and individual prosecutors and judges in the jurisdiction where you are facing criminal charges. As a former prosecutor at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, California for the better part of fifteen years, Ms. Baldwin has worked hard to establish her reputation as a trusted, knowledgeable and effective advocate and looks forward to the privilege of putting her skills and experience to work of you.
If you have already been charged or anticipate being charged with assault with criminal threats in the Murrieta area, contact your Murrieta criminal defense lawyer at the Law Office of Julie Ann Baldwin, APC for your free, confidential case consultation now. Your future and your freedom deserve to be taken seriously by an experienced attorney who is committed to quality representation and compassionate advocacy, every step of the way.