How To Defend a Criminal Threats Case – Penal Code 422 PC

California Penal Code 422 makes it a crime to threaten someone with great bodily injury or death, commonly known as “criminal threats.” This statute prohibits threatening to harm or kill somebody when the threat places the victim in reasonably sustained fear for their safety or that of their family members.  

The actual threat involves inflicting a great bodily injury (GBI) or death. PC 422 criminal threats cases are frequently related to domestic violence crimes in California. The statute for criminal threats is defined as:

  • “Anyone who willfully makes a threat to commit a crime resulting in great bodily injury or death, with intent their statement is to be taken as a threat, even if not carried out, which was immediate and specific and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, causing the victim to be in fear of their safety or family members.”

Threats under this law can be verbal, written, or through the form of electronic communication, such as text messages, but you can be guilty of PC 422 criminal threats unless the following is true:

  • the threat placed the victim in reasonable fear of their safety,
  • there is proof the victim was fearful that was sustained.

In California, criminal threats cases are serious crimes that carry harsh legal consequences if convicted, including a “strike” under California's three strikes law. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a closer review below.

What Must Be Proven for a Criminal Threats Conviction?

The prosecutor will have to prove several different factors to convict you of violating Penal Code 422 PC, which is called the “elements of the crime” and listed under California Criminal Jury Instructions 1300:

Best Defenses for a Penal Code 422 Criminal Threats Case
  • you deliberately threatened to injure or kill someone,
  • threat was verbal, written, or by electronic communication,
  • threat was made to be received as an actual threat,
  • threat was so specific under the circumstances, it relayed an immediate possibility of being executed,
  • threat placed the victims in fear for their safety, or immediate family, which was a sustained fear.

The threat must be communicated explicitly, meaning just a gesture with your hands is not ordinarily sufficient to support a charge under this statute.

Further, the threat must involve a great bodily injury or death to the victim, and it placed the victim in fear, but how can a prosecutor prove somebody was put in fear and sustained?

This is a subjective reaction by the victim, and this crucial factor is a frequent target by experienced criminal defense lawyers. Finally, a PC 422 criminal threats case can still be prosecuted even in a situation where you had no intent actually to carry out the threat.

What are the Related California Crimes?

  • Penal Code 186.22 PC – gang enhancement,
  • Penal Code 136.1 PC – dissuading a witness,
  • Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC – domestic battery,
  • Penal Code 273.5 PC – corporal injury to spouse,
  • Penal Code 368 PC – elder Abuse,
  • Penal Code 646.9 PC – stalking,
  • Penal Code 601 PC – aggravated trespassing
  • Penal Code 518 PC – extortion,

Domestic Relationship, Business Partners, Road Rage

These cases are being filed more and more at all different levels.  Sometimes it's between domestic partners who get in a fight, and one party threatens the other. Sometimes it's between business partners who have a dispute. Sometimes, road rage incidents occur, and somebody endangers another person.  I can go on and on and on. They're very prevalent in today's society. The bottom line is, the legislature, for whatever reason, and I wouldn't say I like it, have said that:

  • if you threaten somebody,
  • you threaten to kill them, do something to them,
  • threaten that somebody else is going to do something to them.

Then, you put yourself in a position if that person goes to the police, you're likely going to get prosecuted for criminal threats.  That's a serious crime. If it's charged as a felony, it's a strike.  If you get convicted, you serve a higher percentage of time in custody, and you can't get it off your record.  That's the sad thing about it.

Retain a Criminal Lawyer Early in the Process

So, first and foremost, if you're coming here and under investigation, get to be quick so we don't do or say anything else that will get you in further trouble. If you've been arrested and you've got criminal threats under Penal Code Section 422 charge pending, don't try to handle it yourself.  Get a criminal defense attorney.

I've been doing this for almost 30 years. I've worked for the DA's office. I've worked for a Superior Court Judge.  I know how these guys think, and I know how to defend people.  Since 1994, I've been handling these criminal threat cases. I remember when they made criminal threats a strike under the Three Strike Law in California. I've always been troubled by it because a lot of times, these people who are allegedly being threatened are creeps.

They've cheated somebody. They're trying to manipulate the system. They've done something horrible to another person, and the other person reacts out of anger. This is because they're dealing with a creep, and the next thing you know, the jerk uses that to their advantage and gets them arrested and prosecuted for what I consider a grave crime.

Preparing an Effective Defense Strategy

So, I'll get right to work. Once I'm hired, I will call the District Attorney's office if filed as a felony. I'll call the City Attorney's office if it's filed as a misdemeanor, and I will try to do everything I can to get my client's side of the story across.  Because these prosecutors are human, they're people.

If they see that the alleged victim has done some bad stuff, they will consider that in how they deal with the case.  That doesn't necessarily mean that you have a complete defense to the point because you can't threaten to kill somebody.

Often, I'm getting cases where people threaten to kill another person on the person's voicemail. They save the voicemail, give it to the police and make the police's job easy. The next thing you know, they are handcuffed, taken away, and now they have to deal with the case.

What's your defense on that one?  You can't get mad.  In today's society, there's no such thing as an eye-for-an-eye; somebody does something to you, you do it back. If somebody does something to you and it's criminal, you call the police and let the police deal with it.

If somebody does something to you and it's civil, you hire a lawyer, and you sue the person and take their money away from them, but you can't threaten them.  That's the problem. I don't necessarily agree with that because many times, some people deserve to be threatened because of what they've done, what they've said — some of the actions they've taken.  All I know is, the law is the law, and I've got to deal with it.

Fighting Penal Code 422 Criminal Threats Charges

So, if you're looking for somebody who's on your side who wants to fight for you and your charge with this Penal Code Section 422, you've come to the right place.

I will do everything I can to fight for you and ensure that you're treated right. Sometimes we can get a different charge if they've evidence against you.  Other times, we can get some diversionary program. There are all sorts of things we can get done. The bottom line is that:

Criminal Defense Lawyer for Penal Code 422 Criminal Threats
  • I have to know the facts of your case;
  • I have to know exactly what happened and why it happened;
  • I have to know the facts of the case from your perspective and the prosecutor's perspective because just having your side of it will not be enough.

Often, I say, I'm going to hear everything you've got to say, but do me a favor.  Please tell me what the other side, and don't leave anything out, says that you did.

At least I know what we're up against, but often people have such a hard time giving the correct information about what happened because they're so upset about it. All they want to do is talk about how they were wronged.  That doesn't necessarily help me, though.  I need to know what is being claimed that you did.

Because sometimes they can say you did something; we can do some excellent investigation on the case, and we can say, wait a minute, they may have done that, but do you know what the other person did?  Sometimes you might be able to get that into a defense.

So, pick up the phone. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I'm a warrior.  I've done these cases before.  It doesn't matter whether it's a felony or a misdemeanor. Take the first step so you can get out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible. Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case evaluation.

When Be Will Criminal Threats Charged as a Felony?