In a recent California criminal case, a court affirmed that a criminal threat does not have to be made directly to the victim as long as the victim takes the statement as a threat.
The decision stems from a carjacking case where the defendant, Lipsett, and an accomplice were attempting to steal a dirt bike from the home of Smith, the victim. Smith came out of the house with his dog to confront the carjackers. Smith and Lipsett then got in a tug of war over the bike while the dog barked at the defendant. Lipsett yelled at his accomplice to “Shoot him, shoot the dog” several times. The accomplice pointed what appeared to be a gun at Smith. Smith ran back inside with his dog while Lipsett and his accomplice loaded the bike onto a truck and drove away.
Lipsett was eventually caught and charged with one count of carjacking (California Penal Code Section 215), one count of vehicle theft (Vehicle Code Section 10851) and one count of making a criminal threat (Penal Code Section 422). The charges contained a personal use of a firearm enhancement (Penal Code Section 12022) and Lipsett’s prior felony criminal history (Penal Code Section 667) was considered.
Lipsett was found guilty of all charges except the firearm use allegations. He was sentenced to 23 years in state prison for the three convictions. Lipsett argued that he was improperly convicted of making a criminal threat because he directed the alleged threat of “Shoot him” at Smith’s dog and not Smith.
However, the court found this argument irrelevant because Penal Code Section 422 contains no exception for threats that are technically addressed to third parties. The criminal threat conviction amounted for three years of Lipsett’s 23-year sentence.
What Constitutes Making a Criminal Threat? (California Penal Code Section 422)
Under California Penal Code Section 422, a person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or serious bodily injury of another person, verbally or in writing, is guilty of making a criminal threat. Even if the accused did not actually intend to carry out the threat, he or she may nonetheless face criminal charges. The threats must only cause the victim to reasonably fear for his or her own safety or the safety of the victim’s family.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, making a criminal threat could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony under California Penal Code Section 422. A misdemeanor criminal threat conviction is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a $1,000 fine. A felony criminal threat conviction can result in up to three years in state prison, a $10,000 fine and a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law.
Call Wallin & Klarich if You are Facing Charges of Criminal Threats
If you or a loved one is facing a charge of criminal threats, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully defending our clients accused of making criminal threats. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.