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Orange County Criminal Threats Attorney

Criminal Threats

It takes a lot less than average people would imagine to commit a criminal threat. Because of this, however, a jury must be convinced that is the real thing when you see it. For this reason the following is some important information we all should know.

Defense of Criminal Threats

Defending against a criminal threat charge can be attacked on several fronts. First, the client must have intended for the threat to be communicated in a way that it would be understood as a threat. In so many life instances, it's easy to say something in a fit of rage that could not be taken seriously by the other person, no matter how insulting. Additionally, the supposed threat has to be clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific—which means the threat cannot be taken out of context by the listener. Finally, sustained fear must have been caused to the listener. Evidence, whether circumstantial or direct, can shed more light on whether or not these elements were present for the charge to be legitimate.

Law of Criminal Threats

Many people make joking threats with their friends – "Don't you dare send that text or I'll kill you!" – but at a certain point, joking threats become serious threats. When a threat causes real prolonged terror to the recipient and can be regarded as a clear, immediate, and specific danger with serious intent, the threat becomes a criminal threat punishable by up to three years in prison (Penal Code § 422).


The sender of the threat must intend for the statement to be understood by the recipient as a threat. If the recipient took the statement for a threat, but the sender had meant something else entirely, the threat might not qualify as a criminal threat.


Furthermore, the threat must be presented so clearly and unconditionally that the recipient believes there to be a serious intention to carry out the threat and as a result fears for a prolonged period of time for his own safety and the safety of his family.


There does not even need to have been an intention to actually carry out the threat as long as the sender had meant for the statement to be perceived by the recipient as a threat.