December 26, 2009 By Wallin & Klarich

Law enforcement agencies and courts do not take threats lightly. Many times a statement intended as a joke or a statement that was hastily made with little or no thought of its implications, could be construed as a criminal threat under Penal Code Section 422.

In order to qualify as a threat, the statement only needs to reasonably be thought of as immediate and actionable. In other words, a conviction for criminal threats depends on how the person who received the alleged threat felt. If the person has a reasonable belief that they may be in danger, the otherwise innocent statement could get you arrested.

The California Supreme Court has set forth the five elements of a criminal threat (PC section 422) violation: The prosecution must establish all of the following: (1) that the defendant willfully threatened to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person; (2) that the defendant made the threat with the specific intent that the statement is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out; (3) that the threat-which may be made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device (email or cell phone)-was on its face and under the circumstances in which it was made, so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat; (4) that the threat actually caused the person threatened to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety; and (5) that the threatened person’s fear was reasonable under the circumstances.

With the help of an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney from Wallin & Klarich, you will be better able to defend against such criminal threats allegations. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich work hard to ensure that the prosecution must prove all elements of every crime before our clients can be found guilty of any criminal charge. The lack of proof for just one element could mean the difference between jail time and freedom in your case. If you or a loved one has been accused of making a criminal threat, contact the experienced criminal defense law firm at Wallin & Klarich immediately. Our attorneys have over 30 years of criminal trial experience and can be reached by phone at 1-888-280-6839 or through our website at

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