Criminal Threats

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Is a violation of California Penal Code 422 always charged as a felony?

California Penal Code 422 defines the crime of criminal threats. The offense can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of the case. The decision to charge someone with a felony or misdemeanor under Penal Code 422 will be influenced by factors such as the severity of the threat, the specific details of the incident, and the defendant’s criminal history.

A prosecutor may choose to charge the offense as a felony if the threat is deemed serious and involves factors that warrant a more severe punishment. On the other hand, if the threat is considered less severe, the prosecutor may opt for misdemeanor charges.

In California, the charge of criminal threat (previously known as terrorist threats) is filed under Penal Code 422. The decision to file the case as a misdemeanor or a felony, depends on various factors, for instance:

1. Did the suspect make the threat when he was extremely angry or intoxicated?

2. Was the suspect in possession of a weapon when he made the threat?

3. Did the suspect in fact attack the victim?

4. Did the suspect make multiple threats within a short period of time?

5. Did the suspect do something else to indicate that he would act in conformity with the threat.

6. Did the suspect have access to a gun or did he own a weapon?

7. Has the suspect made similar threats to the same victim or other individuals in the past?

8. Does the suspect have a history of violence?

9. Does the suspect have a criminal history, that is any felonies or strikes on his record?

10. Is the victim willing to drop the charges and/or cooperate so that the suspect may receive minimal penalties.

As you can see, it is important that each and every element indicated above is studied and investigated by your criminal defense attorney. A conviction of the crime of criminal threats could have severe consequences as to your employment and social status, and if you are not a citizen of the United States, severe immigration consequences. You must call an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with the crime of criminal threats or are facing prosecution under California Penal Code section 422.


What are some possible defenses to a violation of California Penal Code 422?

Some potential defenses to the crime of criminal threats may include:

  1. Lack of Credible Threat: If the prosecution cannot demonstrate that the alleged threat was credible, immediate, and specific, it may weaken their case.
  2. Free Speech: If the communication is considered protected speech under the First Amendment, it may be a defense. However, this depends on the context, and not all speech is protected.
  3. Lack of Intent: If the defendant did not have the intent to instill fear or make a credible threat, it might be a defense.
  4. False Accusation or Misunderstanding: If there is evidence that the alleged threat was a result of a misunderstanding or false accusation, it could be a defense.
  5. Self-Defense or Defense of Others: In some cases, a threat might be made in self-defense or defense of others. If the threat was reasonable in the context of protecting oneself or others, it could be a defense.
  6. Mental Incapacity: If the defendant was not mentally capable of forming the intent required for the offense, it might be a defense.
  7. Consent: In certain situations, if the alleged victim consented to or invited the communication, it could be a defense.
How does the crime of making “criminal threats” intersect with a “hate crime” under California Penal Code 422?

Under California law, the crime of making criminal threats, as defined in Penal Code 422, can intersect with a hate crime when the threat is motivated by bias, hostility, or prejudice based on certain protected characteristics. California Penal Code 422.55 addresses threats that are committed with a hate crime motive.

If a criminal threat is made with the intent to intimidate or terrorize another person because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, it may be charged as both a criminal threat and a hate crime. The prosecution would need to establish not only that a credible threat was made but also that the threat was motivated by bias against the victim’s protected characteristics.

The penalties for committing a hate crime may be more severe than for a standard criminal threat, and the defendant could face enhanced sentencing. Sentencing enhancements may include longer prison terms or additional penalties.

What are the penalties for a hate crime under California Penal Code 422.7?

(a)  A person who commits a felony that is a hate crime or attempts to commit a felony that is a hate crime, shall receive an additional term of one, two, or three years in the state prison, at the court’s discretion.

(b) Except in the case of a person punished under Section 422.7 or subdivision (a)of this section, any person who commits a felony that is a hate crime, or attempts to commit a felony that is a hate crime, and who voluntarily acted in concert with another person, either personally or by aiding and abetting another person, shall receive an additional two, three, or four years in the state prison, at the court’s discretion.

Criminal prosecution can affect your health, freedom, employment, and social life. You need help and you need the best criminal defense you can get. At the Law Offices of Tony M. Seyfi, with the state-of-the-art computerized legal research tools and forensic techniques, we will focus on identifying the defenses you may have and will develop numerous challenges to any crime possible.

Our goal is victory for our clients and to keep them from going to jail, and we are confident of our defense strategies. If you would like to discuss your case, call us today for a FREE CONSULTATION and case analysis.

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