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Having handled many criminal threats cases under Penal Code section 422 you are in the right place.  As a former Army National Guard and Army Military Policeman, Persian Gulf War Veteran, Juvenile Corrections Officer, Probation Officer, and Deputy District Attorney and Adjunct Criminology Instructor I have the knowlege to help you.

California Penal Code 422 defines a criminal threat (formerly known as terrorist threat)

A "criminal threat" is when you  threaten to kill or physicall harm someone and

1. That person is thereby placed in a state of reasonably sustained fear for his or her safety for for the safety of his or her immediate family.

2. The threat has to be specific and unequivical and

3. You communicated the threat verbally, or in writing, or via an electronic transmitted device.



Examples of conduct which can lead to a criminal threats charge.  include but are not limted to

Threatening to shoot another person while you are holding a gun.

A recently fired employee calling a former boss and saying "you and the other office staff better watch your backs.

Texting you ex that you are going to set fire to her apartment.

Defenses to Criminal Threats

Even if the threat was made, it is a defense to the criminal threats charge if

1. The threat was not specific, rather is was vague or ambigious

2. The recipient of the threat could not have reasonably feared for his/ or her safety

3. The recipient of the threat wasn't actually in fear

4. The recipients fear was fleeting or momentary , Or

5. you only made a threatening jesture and did not convey your threat verbally electronically or in writing.



Criminal Threats ia a wobbler

Which means the offense can be either a Misdameanor or a Felony

Either The District Attorney or the Court can reduce per Penal Code section 17B

If you are conicted of a felony Criminal Threats than you could serve up to 4 years in State Prison with an added one year if the there was a weapon involved.


You do not have to threaten a spcific act to be convicted of criminal threats if the threat was immediate, unequivecal, and threatens death or serious bodily injury.


the threat can be to a person or a group of people.

The threat must be verball not completed through jestures alone. 

For example if you made the throat slashing gesture at someone but did not say anything this would not be enough under the statute. However, if you accompanied this with some words such as shut up , then that would probably be enough to satisfy the statute. 

As for a electronically communicated threat this would be



video recorder

fax machine

text or page


For the fear element of this crime the fear must meet three elements

actual meaning the person was actually in fear

that fear was reasonable

and that the fear was sustained.

before you can be convicted the prosecution must prove the person recipient actually feared for there safety if the person simply laughed at  you this is probably not sufficient.

If the person runs and hides that is evidence they were actually in fear.

The threat may be conveyed through you or a third party.

Even if the person was actually scared was there fear reasonable?

If you threat is silly or unreasonable for example I'm going to hijack and F-15 and fly it through your house.

Then even if the person was in fear it was not reasonable.

This is not to say there must be an ability to carry out the threat as long as the person reasonably believes the attack could be imminent.

A good example is if I act like I have a gun and threaten  you even though I don't have the ability to carry out the act that could be enough for reasonable.


Sustained Fear

This must go beyond momentary or fleeting.

There is no set time frame.


























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Gerald Schwab, Jr.


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Law Office of Gerald Schwab, Jr.
Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney
5588 N Palm Ave,
Fresno, CA 93704
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Phone: (559) 295-0391