Criminal Threats

Orange County criminal threat attorney

Criminal threats is defined as any person who threatens to commit a crime which results in death or great bodily injury to another person. The threat can be made orally or in written form such as by email or text message. It’s important to know that making the threat is the crime. Even if the person fails or does not follow through with the actual threat, the person can still be found guilty of committing the crime of criminal threats. However, the threat the individual makes must be so specific and immediate that the person being threatened has to understand the seriousness of the threat.

Being convicted of a criminal threat can have serious consequences. Criminal threats can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. If you are convicted of a felony, the maximum punishment can be three years in state prison. A misdemeanor conviction will be punishable by up to one year in county jail.


Being charged with committing a criminal threat has serious consequences. A criminal threat is considered a “wobbler.” This means that the prosecution can charge it as a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor will normally charge it as a felony.

If the criminal threat is charged as a felony, you face up to three years in state prison.

If the criminal threat is charged as a misdemeanor, your maximum punishment can be up to one year in county jail.


The defendant is charged with having made a criminal threat in violation of Penal Code section 422.

To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:

  1. The defendant willfully threatened to unlawfully kill or unlawfully cause great bodily injury to <insert name of complaining witness or member[s] of complaining witness’s immediate family>;
  2. The defendant made the threat (orally/in writing/by electronic communication device);
  3. The defendant intended that (his/her) statement be understood as a threat [and intended that it be communicated to <insert name of complaining witness>];
  4. The threat was so clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific that it communicated to <insert name of complaining witness> a serious intention and the immediate prospect that the threat would be carried out;
  5. The threat actually caused <insert name of complaining witness> to be in sustained fear for (his/her) own safety [or for the safety of (his/her) immediate family]; AND
  6. The complaining witness’ fear was reasonable under the circumstances.

Additional Information:

Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose.

In deciding whether a threat was sufficiently clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific, consider the words themselves, as well as the surrounding circumstances.

Someone who intends that a statement be understood as a threat does not have to actually intend to carry out the threatened act [or intend to have someone else do so].

Great bodily injury means significant or substantial physical injury. It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.

Sustained fear means fear for a period of time that is more than momentary, fleeting, or transitory.

[An immediate ability to carry out the threat is not required.]

[An electronic communication device includes, but is not limited to: a telephone, cellular telephone, pager, computer, video recorder, or fax machine.]

[Immediate family means (a) any spouse, parents, and children; (b) any grandchildren, grandparents, brothers and sisters related by blood or marriage; or (c) any person who regularly lives in the other person’s household [or who regularly lived there within the prior six months].]


There are a number of defenses that you may have if you are being charged with committing a criminal threat. The available defenses will depend on the facts of the case. Below is a list and explanation of some of the more common defenses that may be available to you, but it will be important to speak with a Orange County criminal threats attorney to know what defenses will work for you.

Threat Does Not Constitute Crime

The threat must convey a death threat or a threat that will result in great bodily injury. Mere insults would not constitute a criminal threat for the purposes of this crime. The alleged victims in these types of cases will often times exaggerate what was actually said. You will need a Orange County criminal threat attorney to defend you if that is the case.

No Evidence of Threat

Often times, the alleged victim will make an accusation of a criminal threat, but it will be hard for the prosecution to prove their case without an additional witness or evidence. If the alleged threats were made orally and no one heard it other than the victim, it becomes the victim’s word against yours. Without any other evidence, this may be difficult for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a criminal threat, especially if you deny the allegations.

No Fear

The threat must actually have caused the victim to be in sustained fear for his/her own safety. The prosecution must prove that when the threat was made, the victim was in fear or his/her own safety. The prosecution must also prove that the fear sustained was reasonable. The facts of the case will be important in determining whether this defense is valid or not.

These are just a few of the defenses that may be available in your case. If you have been charged with committing a criminal threat, it is important to consult an Orange County Criminal threat attorney. At the Law Offices of Nam Q. Doan, I believe in quality representation at an affordable price. I will aggressively defend your rights in court and fight to get you results on your case. Call today at (714) 248-DOAN (3626).