Penal Code Section 422
As you probably know by now, if you’re charged with criminal threats, pursuant to Penal Code Section 422, you can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. There’s a huge difference between what is charged. First off, if the case is charged as a felony, that’s a strike pursuant to the three-strikes law of California. You could be facing prison time and a conviction of your record for the rest of your life.
If on the other hand, it’s charged as a misdemeanor, you likely won’t get any jail time, although you could face up to a year depending on how serious the threat is and what your prior criminal record looks like. So, the big difference between the two is obviously, significant and has to do with the amount of time in custody you’ll spend and whether you’ll have a conviction on your criminal record for the rest of your life that will follow you around.
I don’t know if there’s any perfectly demarcated line between a felony and a misdemeanor as it relates to this criminal threat pursuant to Penal Code Section 422 in Los Angeles. It seems to me it’s just a judgment call on the part of the prosecutors, and they’re going to look at a whole host of different factors.
If somebody is holding a knife or a gun and they threaten to kill somebody, especially a family member of somebody close to them, this is probably going to be charged as a felony. The prosecutors don’t like these type of cases and they’re always very fearful that if they don’t really come down like a ton of bricks on these individuals who are threatening people, then they’re going to be in a position where the person’s going to do something even worse than threatening the next time, and they’re going to feel like they’re responsible for that person’s actions, because they didn’t take them serious enough the first time.
If on the other hand, somebody just becomes angry and says something because they’re mad, but it is a criminal threat, they don’t have any criminal record, it’s unlikely they’re actually going to follow through with their threat that case would probably be charged as a misdemeanor offense. The person would be looking at a lot less punishment. They’ll be able to expunge that or dismiss that particular case off their record if they can successfully complete their probation. It’s a huge difference and a far cry from a felony criminal threats case in Los Angeles.
But other factors the prosecutors are going to look at is your criminal records, and if you’re somebody who keeps going around threatening people, you’re involved in a bunch of violent behavior, you’re a dangerous person, you’re a gang member — these are all things that will cause a case to be charged as a felony versus a misdemeanor.
If on the other hand, you have a clean record, you’ve never been in trouble before and the threat is simply out of character for you, this would probably be a situation where they’re going to charge the case as a misdemeanor and maybe they’d even consider giving some other charge as part of a negotiated plea if we can show a good enough reason to do so.
So, really when you evaluate this whole criminal threats thing, they’re looking at the surrounding circumstances of the threat, whether or not you actually had some sort of a weapon related to the threat, and how menacing and dangerous you appear to not only the victim of your crime but other potential victims in the community as well. The more dangerous you appear, the more likely they believe you are to carry out some sort of a violent threat — the more likely the prosecutor and judge are going to through you in jail or prison and try to put a mark on your record to deter you from future activity and to make sure that if you ever do commit another criminal threat-related offense, that the hammer will easily be able to be dropped on you because you’ll have a prior strike, your sentence will be doubled-up and nobody is going to take pity on you when you’re coming back again doing the exact same thing.
So, these are all things to take into consideration. I like to have you sit down. We go over everything. We find out what was behind the alleged threat — in other words, why did it occur? W/hat did the other person do? Did the other person do anything illegal themselves, and what is the likelihood that you really were going to carry this threat out based on the circumstances that maybe the police don’t know about. That’s why it’s so important in the criminal threat cases in Los Angeles to get your story across to make sure that you are heard, and that is done through your attorney being prepared going in there and fighting for you and making sure that your side is represented.
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