PC 422 Elements
Home Up Videos Books of Interest Biography Paparazzi Workplace Violence Victim's Page Restraining Orders Articles of Interest Questions & Answers Resources Announcements

 

California Penal Code 422
Elements of Criminal threats

Penal code Section 422 defines a criminal threat as:

"Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is 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, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety."

1. A person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person.

The principle difference between a criminal threat and stalking is that a criminal threat is truly a crime of words rather than conduct. As such, Section 422 does not require a pattern of conduct: one threat is sufficient. However, the threat must be one of death or great bodily injury against the victim or the victim’s immediate family. However, recent case law indicates that even non-direct threats can be considered criminal threats depending on the surrounding circumstances.

2. The person who made the threat did so with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat.

The law does not require that the suspect had the intent to carry out the threat, only that the suspect intended the statement to be taken as a threat. The context and the circumstances under which the statement was uttered are important. The meaning of the threat must be gleaned from the words and all the surrounding circumstances.

3. The threatening statement, on its face and under the circumstances in which it was made, was 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.

Although the statute states that the threat must be "unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific," case law has held that the language of the statute does not mean that the suspect must be standing in front of the victim with a weapon in his or her hand when he or she makes the threat. The courts have held that there does not have to be a showing that the suspect had the immediate ability to carry out the threat, nor does the statute require a time or specific manner of execution. Rather, the statute requires that the words used be of an immediately threatening nature and convey an immediate prospect of execution. The threat may be conveyed either face-to-face to the victim by the suspect or by letter, fax, e-mail, telephone, through third parties, or any other form of communication. Conditional threats are true threats if their context and surrounding circumstances reasonably convey to the victim that the threat is intended.

4. The threatening statement caused the other person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or his or her immediate family’s safety.

Sustained fear is defined as "a period of time that extends beyond what is momentary, fleeting, or transitory." Fifteen minutes of fear may be more than sufficient to constitute "sustained fear".

If all the above elements are present but the victim states he or she is not afraid, recent case law provides that an attempted criminal threat may be filed.

Sentencing

The crime of making a criminal threat is a wobbler. That means it can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony. A defendant who is convicted of this crime as a felony can be sentenced up to three years in state prison. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable up to one year in the county jail. Conviction of a felony criminal threat is a strike under the state’s "three strikes" law.

Top of Page

 | Home | Biography | Commentary | Paparazzi Law Enforcement | Victims Page |
| Restraining Orders | Questions & Answers |Articles of Interest
 |Resources | Announcements |


 © All rights reserved. This website, or parts thereof, may not be used or
reproduced for any commercial purpose without the permission of the authors.