Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words really can hurt you under criminal threat laws. That's why, before you decide to say something you might regret, it's a good idea to know which words you can let fly and which words you may regret saying.
The Definition of Criminal Threats
A criminal threat in violation of Penal Code 422, is a verbal, written, or electronic communication by one person to commit a crime that could result in death or great bodily injury, and the reasonable fear that such a crime might be carried out. Criminal threat is a “wobbler” meaning that the prosecutor's office can charge it a misdemeanor or a felony, in their discretion.
But I Didn't Do Anything!
There's a common misconceptions that criminal threats only matter if you follow through on them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. All you have to do is make the threat, and the person receiving the threat has to reasonably believe that you are going to follow through on it.
That's where these cases often get sticky; the phrase reasonable belief.
Say, for example, that you were in an altercation with someone, and when words got heated you reached into your coat and said, "If you don't shut your mouth right now I'm going to take out my gun and kill you." That is an immediate, and definite threat that someone could reasonably believe you intend to follow through with. Even if you have no intention of doing so, and even if you don't have a gun, the belief that the threat could happen is very real.
When that belief becomes less reasonable, though, it becomes harder to prove that criminal threats did happen. Whether it was a random comment on social media, or something mumbled while a person was too intoxicated to be a threat, or just an outlandish threat ("I'm going to stampede a herd of buffalo through your house to kill you and your whole family!" is an example that comes to mind) the question of whether or not someone could reasonably expect the person making the threat to follow through on said threat.
If you find yourself caught up in a situation involving criminal threats then you should get legal representation as soon as possible. For assistance with your case simply contact us today!
Our law office is located near the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta. We represent adults and juveniles who has been arrested in the Riverside County cities of Temecula, Menifee, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, Perris, Hemet, Banning, Corona, Murrieta and Riverside.