Nobody wishes to live looking over their shoulder. This is essentially what the law on criminal threats seeks to prevent. If you’re found violating this law, you’ll be apprehended for questioning and probably remain in custody for a considerable period awaiting court proceedings. 

And even though you may not have made any criminal threats, the police have to follow the same protocol of bringing you in for questioning. The last place anybody would want to find themselves is in jail, especially for the crime they didn’t commit.

If you are unfortunate enough to be in one, your first concern is securing your freedom as fast as possible. You would rather be out there gathering evidence to prove your innocence because if not, you’re looking at a lengthy prison/jail sentence and hefty fines if found guilty.

But how quickly can you walk out of jail? There’s only one way that works— posting bail. After you’ve been booked, you can then contact a bail bonds company to help you secure your freedom.  At 24 Hour Online Bail Bonds, we’ve helped arrestees throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Diego, and San Bernardino, navigate through the overwhelming process of posting bail. We make it possible for them to regain their freedom within hours of their arrest. Contact us right away, and we won’t hesitate to provide our services. 

Defining Criminal Threats

California PC 422 gives the legal meaning of criminal threats. It is threatening someone else with immediate injury when intending to and indeed causing sustained and reasonable fear in them. For you to be convicted of this crime, the prosecuting attorney must prove these facts beyond any reasonable doubt:

  • You knowingly threatened to injure severely or kill another person.
  • You intended the person to receive your electronically communicated, written, or verbal statement as a threat.
  • The threat under those circumstances and on its face was so immediate, specific, unequivocal, and unconditional that it sent an immediate likelihood of execution.
  • The person you threatened feared for their safety or that of their immediate family.

Remember, you can break PC 422 without really addressing the individual you’re threatening (People v. Lipsett). All that matters is you intended the victim to receive the statement as a threat. 

Understanding Elements of the Crime

Let us look at the phrases and terms that constitute the elements of the crime in detail to understand what they legally mean.

To Severely Injure or Kill Someone Else

You do not have to threaten to execute a specific offense against the person to be guilty. Merely threatening to cause significant bodily harm or kill is enough to sustain a conviction. Even though this statute addresses threatening an individual, the threat might be directed at several people or a single person. 

Electronically Communicated, Verbal, or Written Statement

Per PC 422, the threat has to be electronically communicated, written, or verbal. Gestures that aren’t accompanied by an electronically communicated, written, or verbal statement won’t sustain a conviction.  An electronically communicated threat is a threat conveyed through a telephone (cell phone or landline), video recorder, computer, pager, text, or fax machine. A criminal threat can also be sent through text messages. Text message threats are usually easy for the prosecution to prove. 

Empty and Conditional Threats

It’s worth repeating that the language under PC 422 calls for threats that are so unconditional, specific, immediate, and unequivocal as to send to the threatened person the weightiness intention and an immediate possibility of execution. But regardless of these precise words, an empty or conditional threat can nevertheless be deemed a criminal threat. 

1.  Empty Threats

An empty threat is that which the threatening person does not execute. They’re more of a scare tactic than real threats. However, whether you indeed intend to carry out the threat or not doesn’t count when it comes to prosecution. All that’s needed is conveying the threat credibly, so the threatened person reasonably believes you mean to execute it. 

2.  Conditional Threats

A conditional threat refers to one expressed in the form of a condition. For instance, ‘I’ll shoot you dead if you do not give me a hundred million dollars,’ or 'I will kill you once I’m out of prison.’ Courts have ruled that any conditional threat is a true threat if its concept reasonably gives the threatened victim the impression that they’re intended. 

Based on the facts, conditional threats could qualify to be blackmail or extortion. And when someone makes a conditional threat with the intention and possibility that they will execute it if the victim does/doesn’t satisfy the condition, it’ll be deemed criminal threats. 

Most threats are conditional. They’re meant to achieve something. The threatening person hopes they’ll achieve it so they won’t need to execute the threats. 

The Element of Fear

You do not violate PC 422 unless you make the victim have reasonable fear. In this case, fear comprises three concepts: 

  • The supposed victim was indeed afraid.
  • It was sustained fear (contrary to fleeting or momentary fear).
  • The fear was reasonable.

1.  Actual Fear

For you to be guilty of criminal threats, the prosecutor must show that the victim indeed feared for their safety or that of their family members. If the victim laughed off the threat, it’s probably good proof that they didn’t take that threat seriously. However, if they went into hiding or replaced their security system with a new one, that’s possibly good proof that they were indeed scared. 

The element that the victim believes the threat was credible and thus afraid that it’ll be executed may be met whether you convey the threat personally or through someone else. Therefore, you can still be guilty of a PC 422 violation even when you didn’t deliver the threat personally. If the alleged victim wasn’t scared, there’s no PC 422 violation, and the judge should dismiss your case. But if the alleged victim was afraid, the question the judge/jury will ask is, was the fear reasonable?

2.  Reasonable Fear

Unreasonable or silly threats don’t satisfy the legal meaning of criminal threats. For instance, if you threaten to bomb the whole world if your bartender doesn’t serve you a drink immediately, no reasonable individual would take this threat as real. 

However, this isn’t to say there has to be an immediate capability to execute the threat provided the victim reasonably believes it may be imminent. For instance, suppose you threatened to shoot someone and had your hand in your pocket pretending to reach for a gun. This would sustain a conviction, assuming the other elements were also met. 

3.  Sustained Fear

California courts have found it difficult to come up with the exact meaning of sustained fear. They have defined sustained fear as a state of mind that extends past what’s transitory, fleeting, or momentary. There’s no set duration to which this refers. Therefore, it has to be established based on the facts of a specific case. For you to be guilty of criminal threats, the victim has to experience sustained fear, meaning it lasts longer than just a moment. However, courts aren’t clear as to precisely how long this fear should last. 

Penalties for Violating Penal Code 422

Making criminal threats is a wobbler offense, meaning the prosecution can opt to charge you either with a felony or misdemeanor based on your criminal record and the circumstances surrounding your case. 

If guilty of a misdemeanor, you’ll be subject to a maximum jail sentence of a year and up to one thousand dollars in fines. And if you’re guilty of a felony, you’ll serve a three-year prison sentence and up to ten thousand dollars in fines. If you used a dangerous/deadly weapon to convey your threat, you’d be subject to an additional and consecutive 12 months in prison. 

Finally, if you made the threats:

  • On two or several occasions.
  • Against numerous people.
  • For different purposes.

You could be subject to the above penalties for every threat you communicated. 

Criminal Threats and The Three Strikes Law

A felony criminal threats crime is deemed a serious offense, meaning a conviction counts as a strike per the state’s Three Strikes law. If you’re facing subsequent felony charges for any crime and already have one strike on your criminal record, you’ll be a second striker. Thus, your prison term will be two times the sentence otherwise dictated by law. 

And if facing felony charges for any offense for the third time and already have two strikes, you’ll be a third striker. This means you’ll serve a compulsory minimum term of twenty-five years in prison to life imprisonment. And since PC 422 is considered a strike, you’ll have to serve a minimum of 85 percent of your prison sentence before you’re eligible for parole. 

Additional Consequences

PC 422 is classified as a crime of moral turpitude. Moral turpitude crimes are those viewed to be highly reprehensive and offensive than others. Since they are classified as so, being found guilty of making criminal threats will subject you to:

  • Removal or deportation if you’re an alien.
  • Professional discipline (because criminal convictions may impact professional licenses.

Legal Defenses Against  PC 422 Violation

If the prosecuting attorney cannot prove all the elements making up this crime, you can’t be guilty. Thus, your lawyer can poke holes into the prosecution’s case by arguing several legal defenses, including: 

The Threat Was Protected as Free Speech

PC 422 law doesn’t apply to speech protected by the constitution. This statute only targets persons who instill a sense of fear in other people, not those that engage in ranting soliloquies or simple angry utterances, irrespective of how violent. 

The Alleged Victim Wasn’t Scared.

If the supposed victim wasn’t afraid of your threats, either because they believed you were incapable of carrying them out or the threats were a joke, then you haven’t violated PC 422. The victim has to be in a state of fear. In case for any reason they weren’t, the judge should acquit you of the charges against you. 

The Alleged Threat Was Ambiguous or Vague

Whereas criminal threats should be specific, they mustn’t communicate the exact manner or time of execution. By this, it means that a threat may appear ambiguous or vague, but if the circumstances elucidate its meaning, it’ll be considered a criminal threat. Therefore, the lack of circumstances expected to make a statement a threat can be a valid defense to claims that your words were criminal threats. 

The Threat Was Not Immediate

PC 422 provides that the criminal threat should be so immediate, unconditional, specific, and unequivocal that it expresses an immediate likelihood of execution. By immediate likelihood of execution, it doesn’t necessarily imply that it must be a threat of doing something right at that moment. 

Whereas that could be the case, it could also be a case where the victim knows that if they don’t fulfill your demands later, you’ll carry out your threats then. However, if the supposed threat was unclear and there wasn’t any indication of when you may execute it, the unclearness would be a legal defense. 

The Threat/Supposed Victim’s Fear Wasn’t Reasonable.

If the victim didn’t feel threatened by your threats, or they did, but the fear was unreasonable, you shouldn’t be found guilty of this crime. There are two elements here: that the alleged victim’s fear has to be real and reasonable. If both of these elements aren’t satisfied, there’s no case to answer. This means it doesn’t count if the supposed victim feared your threats. Provided it was not reasonable for them to do so, given the circumstances, you are innocent. 

For instance, suppose you threatened to run someone over with a plane.  At the same time, you don’t even have a pilot’s license or the experience to operate an airplane, and both of you are near residential homes. In this case, it would be unreasonable for the person you are threatening to be scared that you would execute your threat. 

The Fear Was Not Sustained 

Another element of a PC 422 violation is that the fear should be sustained, not fleeting or momentary. Therefore, if the fear lasted only for a short period and did not lead to any prolonged concerns, you shouldn’t be guilty of violating the criminal threats law. Also, if the supposed victim’s fear was indeed sustained but it was only an overreaction and thus unreasonably sustained, this too may be a valid defense. 

False Accusations

Since there isn’t the requirement that a victim should suffer physical harm, a person can be falsely accused of making criminal threats. Someone jealous, angry, spiteful, vengeful, or attempting to escape their criminal liability can easily accuse another falsely of this offense. This is particularly so when the allegations are of a verbally communicated threat without any electronic or written recording. Your lawyer can help you prove that you’ve been falsely accused. They’ll scrutinize your case in a manner in which they can unearth the lies and disclose the truth. 

Why Bail Bond Agencies?

There are other ways to post bail, like cash bail and property bond, but bail bonds are the most preferred because it’s the cheapest and the process is quick. Bail bond agents are non-judgemental people who will secure your release within hours. Their primary duty is to serve you regardless of what charges you’re facing. 

Criminal accusations are an awful thing that you wouldn’t want everybody to find out. Bail bond agencies understand this and provide clients with confidential services. After you share your info with an agent, they take serious measures to safeguard the privacy of your case from third parties. They also prevent unauthorized agents from accessing the details, particularly if they aren’t working on your case. Bail bond companies strive to establish a trusted relationship with clients, and giving you an excellent service is a priority. 

Additionally,  arrests happen all the time, and you can’t choose when to be arrested. For this reason, most bail bond agencies offer 24-hour services to ensure those arrested at the most inconvenient times can post bail and go back to their families right away. Whether you are arrested on weekends, at night, or during the holidays, bail bond agents will serve you. 

And if your co-signer cannot reach the office, perhaps because it’s too late to come or the office is quite a distance, don’t you worry. These companies can bail online or over the phone. All your co-signer needs to do is visit the company’s website or call. Once they call, they’ll be taken through the bail process and be advised accordingly as the release process commences. 

You also don’t have to worry about how you’ll make your payment once you retain a bail bonds company. Most agencies have several bail bond payment options. You can pay using a debit or credit card, cash, money order, etc. They also have payment plans and financing on approved employment/credit history. 

Find Reputable Bail Bond Services Near Me

At 24 Hour Online Bail Bonds, we have dedicated ourselves to serve people facing criminal arrests in Southern California — Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Diego, and San Bernardino for several years. We’re committed to providing bail bond services for clients arrested for making criminal threats or any other crime so they can secure their freedom as quickly as possible and have a chance to build a defense. Contact us today at 800-930-8999 and let us post bail for you.