A 15-year-old Pomona teen has been arrested and is facing criminal charges for making criminal threats with a weapon. Reports indicate that the teen filmed himself holding a weapon and threatening the safety of another student at his high school. The video was uploaded onto a popular social media site for the intended victim and others to see. Police were notified of the video and promptly visited the threat-making teen at his home. A handgun was discovered in the home and the boy was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats.
While we generally have the right to speak our minds and communicate our feelings, we do not have the right to threaten others. It is a crime to make criminal threats in California. Criminal threats are defined in Penal Code 422 PC to mean specific threats to kill or physically harm another person that put victims in a reasonable fear for their safety. Criminal threats can be communicated electronically, verbally, or in writing.
Elements of a Criminal Threat
In order to be convicted of making criminal threats the state must be able to prove each element of the crime. The elements that are required to make a criminal threat include:
- You willfully threatened to kill or injure another person.
- You made the threat orally, in writing, or electronically.
- You intended that the statement be understood and comprehended as a threat.
- The threat you made was clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific.
- The threat caused the victim to suffer a reasonable fear for his/her safety, or the safety of his/her loved ones.
Threats Can Be Empty
You don’t have to follow through on a criminal threat for it to be a crime. It is enough to issue a threat that puts a victim in a reasonable state of fear for his/her imminent safety. Whether or not fear is reasonable is a question of fact that will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. Factors that may be relevant in determining if fear is reasonable include:
- The existing relationship between the parties,
- The actual substance of the threat itself,
- The proximity of the parties, and
- The criminal history of the defendant making the threat.
Consequences of Making a Criminal Threat
Making a criminal threat can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in California. The exact nature of the charge will depend on the substance of the threat and the defendant’s criminal history. If you make multiple threats you will face individual charges for each of those threats.
When charged as a misdemeanor, making a criminal threat is punishable by one year in a Los Angeles County jail and/or $1,000 in criminal fines.
When charged as a felony, making a criminal threat is punishable by up to three years in a California state prison and/or $10,000 in criminal fines.
Making a criminal threat, when charged as a felony, is considered to be a strike offense and a crime involving moral turpitude. This means that the consequences of a conviction will likely result in harsher criminal (and noncriminal) penalties. You may face additional jail time, adverse immigration consequences, and the loss of certain professional rights.
Fighting Criminal Threat Charges in Los Angeles
If you have been accused of making criminal threats in Los Angeles do not hesitate to speak with an attorney. You have the right to assert a defense. Hiring an attorney to handle this defense will increase the odds of beating these charges. A persuasive defense will limit the state’s ability to build a case against you. This will force prosecutors to the negotiating table. There, your attorney can leverage your arguments to secure favorable plea bargains or a dismissal of the charges.
Call the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center to request a free consultation and find out how we can help you fight the criminal charges you face. We offer a free consultation to prospective clients, so do not hesitate to call us today.