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Criminal Threats

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, it can be a frightening time for everyone involved. The consequences of a conviction for drug possession can be quite severe, and often times, the accused does not know where to start. If you have been accused of drug possession, the first step you should take is to contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer immediately. There are significant benefits to having a skilled attorney representing you from the outset of the entire process.

The most important benefit of contacting LACL early on in the process is that you will be scheduled for an initial consultation, where you will have an opportunity to provide your attorney with all the pertinent information surrounding your case. Providing a narrative of the events leading up to your arrest, while the information is still fresh in your mind will allow you to provide your attorney with thorough and accurate account of what happened. Having all the information is a critical component to a successful legal defense strategy. In the legal world, no fact is insignificant, and many cases are won and lost based on seemingly minor details. Once your attorney has all the information, they will begin hand crafting a theory of defense unique to you and your case.

Once your attorney has crafted a unique defense to your case, they will approach the District Attorney, and present a shortened version of their theory of your case in an effort to persuade the District Attorney to either dismiss the charges against you, or reduce the charges against you. The District Attorney does not pursue every case, they pursue the cases where there is enough evidence that they believe they have a strong chance of obtaining a conviction. As such, if your attorney presents a strong enough argument to the district Attorney, there is a strong possibility that the District Attorney will dismiss or reduce the charges.

Ultimately, your case may proceed to trial. The attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer have decades of combined experience representing individual accused of criminal conduct in court, and have perfected the art of trial advocacy. The additional time your attorney had to prepare your case because you contacted them immediately after you were arrested will allow them to perfect their theory of defense, and present it persuasively to the jury.

Even the best attorneys cannot win every case, and sometimes their clients are convicted. A skilled attorney’s job is not over if their client has been convicted however. If you are convicted, the case will move to the sentencing phase, where the judge will decide what penalties to impose. Having a skilled attorney with you at this phase can have the tangible effect of resulting in a lesser penalty.

California Penal Code §422(a) creates the crime of criminal threats. The crime of criminal threats has been committed when the Defendant intentionally causes the Victim to be placed in reasonable fear that the Defendant will kill or injure them severely. This crime punishes the intent of the Defendant when it results in a reasonable response in the part of the Victim; fear.

In California, a criminal threat occurs when: (1) the Defendant intentionally threatened the Victim with death or serious bodily injury, (2) the Defendant intended their statements to be taken as a threat, and (3)the Victim was objectively reasonable in feeling fear for their own well-being or their family’s well-being.

The crime of criminal threats is a major departure from general jurisprudence as it relates to criminal law. Generally speaking, words alone are not enough to form the basis of most crimes. However, criminal threats punish precisely that. The justification however is that the words the defendant used were not words of harm, but words intended to place another in fear for their life. As such, the crime of criminal threats has withstood constitutional challenges.

A criminal threat occurs the moment you threaten someone with a criminal act, have the intention that they take your statement as a serious threat, and ultimately are placed in fear for their life.

In order to obtain a conviction for the crime of criminal threats the Prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The Defendant threatened the Victim with death or serious bodily injury;
  2. The defendant intended that the Victim take the threat as a serious threat;
  3. The Victim must be certain the Defendant will follow through on their threat; AND
  4. It must have been objectively reasonable for the Victim to fear for their life, or the life of their family.

Since the Prosecution must first prove the elements of the crime, it is a common defense strategy to simply negate the elements of the crime the Prosecution must prove, and then submit other defenses to the crime[i]. The attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer (“LACL”) have decades of combined experience exclusively representing clients defending against criminal charges. The LACL attorneys have a deep understanding of the elements of every crime, including criminal threats. Using their mastery of the law, your attorney will provide you the best opportunity of receiving a positive outcome to your case. The remainder of this article will discuss: (1) the specific elements of a criminal threats charge, (2) the penalties associated with a conviction for criminal threats, as well the penalties associated with a criminal threats meeting; and (3) what Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can do to help you in the event you are charged with criminal threats.

The Nature of the Threat

The Prosecution must prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt. The first element involves the nature of the threat the Defendant made to the Victim. The Prosecution must show that the Defendant purposely threatened to kill, or cause serious bodily injury to the Victim. Whether or not the Defendant actually intended to follow through with their threat is irrelevant for the purposes of a criminal threats charge; it only matters that the defendant intended to make the threat.

The Defendant communicated the Threat to the Victim

Next, the Prosecution must prove that the Victim was aware of the threat, that the Defendant actually communicated the threat to the Victim. As such, the prosecution will have to introduce evidence that the Defendant conveyed the threat to the victim in writing, by electronic means, or verbally. The Courts have drawn a hard line, making clear that gestures and facial expressions are simply not enough to rise to the level of communication required for a conviction for criminal threats. This line was likely drawn to stop the slippery slope of allowing expression, something we have a constitutional right to do, to form the basis of a crime. Pursuant to California Penal Code §422(a) the Prosecution must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the threat the Defendant intended to make, was actually conveyed to the victim. This means that the Prosecution must show that the Defendant communicated the threat either orally, in writing, or by some other electronic means. The Courts are clear that obscene, or threatening, gestures and expressions are insufficient to satisfy this element of criminal threats in California.

The Victim’s Belief

Once the Prosecution has proven that the defendant intended to make a threat to the Victim that they would be killed or severely injured, and that the threat was communicated to the Victim, the Prosecution must then show that the Victim was fairly certain the Defendant would carry out their threats. If the Victim did not believe the Defendant would make good on his threats in earnest, then the Defendant cannot be convicted of criminal threats. The Prosecution will introduce evidence to support their contention that the Victim was truly afraid. Common examples of evidence in support of the fact that the Victim was in actual fear include: (1) the Victim installed new locks, (2) The Victim hired three large ex-military members to surround her at all times, (3) the Victim hired a patrolling security service.

Keeping in line with protecting our constitutional rights, California Courts have drawn a line in the sand and made clear that in order for the threat to serve as the basis of the crime of criminal threats, the threat must be unconditional and unequivocal. For example, if the defendant said “if it weren’t raining, I’d kill you right now” the Court would not allow a conviction for criminal threats to stand. This is because the threat was conditioned on whether or not it was raining.

I Have Been Convicted Of Criminal Threats, What Penalties Might I face?

In California, the crime of criminal threats can be brought as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This is known as a “wobbler offense.” The District Attorney will determine whether to bring the charges against the Defendant as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts surrounding the criminal threats. The more morally culpable the Defendants conduct was, and the more significant the harm to the Victim, the more likely it is that the Prosecutor will pursue felony charges.

If you are convicted of misdemeanor criminal threats you may face up to 1 year of incarceration in county jail, probation, and/or a fine of up to $6,000.

If you are convicted of felony criminal threats, you may face incarceration in county jail for a period of 2 to 4 years, probation, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

I Have Been Accused of Criminal Threats, How Can Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Assist Me?

If you or a loved one has been accused of criminal threats, it can be a frightening experience for everyone involved. Having competent counsel representing you can help alleviate some of that fear. From your initial consultation throughout the entire course of the proceedings against you, Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer will be available to you 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We will be available to provide information and updates as the status of the case against you, and provide insight as to how the case will proceed. If you have been accused of a criminal threats the best thing you can do to help your case is contact one of our skilled attorneys immediately so they can begin crafting a defense tailor made to the facts of your case. At LACL we believe that “cookie-cutter” defenses are both unethical and ineffective; we take the time to get to know you and your case. Armed with years of experience, and substantial skill, your attorney will approach the District Attorney in an effort to convince them that the case against you is not strong enough to pursue. In the event that your attorney’s efforts with the District Attorney do not succeed, your LACL attorney will skillfully present your case to the jury in the hopes of obtaining a favorable verdict. In order to do this, you attorney will raise defenses including:

  • The threat was insufficient

Courts have made clear that a threat must be unequivocal and unconditional in order to form the basis of a criminal threats conviction.

  • The Victim was not in fear
  • Wrongly accused

If you or a loved one has been accused of criminal threats, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer immediately at 310-502-1314 for a FREE consultation


i It could be properly said that the additional defenses also negate elements of the crime, but for ease of reading this article does not adopt that view.

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