CRIMINAL THREATS ATTORNEY ORANGE COUNTY CA
Threatening another person may be your way of dealing with a dangerous or frightening situation, but if you intend for your statements to be construed as a threat and the threat puts the other person in reasonable and sustained fear for his or her safety, you could find yourself being charged with the Orange County crime of making criminal threats, even if you don’t intend to carry out the crime you threatened to commit. Depending on the specific details of the criminal threats charge against you, you could even find yourself convicted of a felony offense and sentenced to four or more years in state prison. If you are facing charges for making criminal threats in Orange County, your future and your freedom is at stake. Consult our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.
Orange County Criminal Threats Defense Attorney
The Orange County criminal justice system can be complicated and confusing, especially for someone who doesn’t have much experience with criminal court. Our trial lawyers at Seyb Law Group have more than 60 years of combined criminal defense experience and we understand how devastating a criminal threats conviction can be for you and your family. When you hire our law firm, you will work with a top criminal defense attorney whose primary goal is to help you get the best possible outcome in your case, whether that means being acquitted or granted probation as part of your sentencing. We will protect your rights every step of the way, from the moment you hire our firm to the conclusion of your case, including representing you at court and in trial, if necessary. We also offer potential clients a free initial consultation, which means you can have a skilled criminal threats defense attorney assess your case with no obligation to hire our firm. Contact our legal team at Seyb Law Group for a free evaluation of your criminal threats case.
Making criminal threats is defined as the act of threatening another person with immediate harm with the intention of, and being successful in, causing that person to suffer reasonable and sustained fear for their safety and well-being. Unlike the crime of Orange County assault, which involves the act of threatening to injure someone else and having the ability to follow through with the threat at the present moment, the crime of criminal threats can be charged whether or not the person accused of making the threat has the ability to carry it out, and even if he or she doesn’t actually intend to execute the threat. You can even be charged with and convicted of the crime of making criminal threats without ever actually addressing the person you are threatening. Some examples of actions that can result in Orange County criminal threat charges include:
- Sending a text to your ex-boyfriend threatening to set his house on fire
- Threatening to shoot another person while holding a firearm
- After being fired from your job, calling your former boss and threatening to kill his family
There are other criminal offenses that you can be charged with in connection to making criminal threats. For instance, if you threaten to kill or seriously injure another person while committing grand theft, you could be charged with both Orange County grand theft and criminal threats and a conviction on both crimes could result in more severe penalties.
California Criminal Threats Penal Code § 422 PC
Penal Code § 422 PC is the law in Orange County that makes it a crime to make criminal threats against another person, and that law states:
“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, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.”
Under this law, an act can be charged as a criminal threat in violation of PC § 422 if the person accused of the crime threatens to kill or physically harm someone and:
- The threat makes that person reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her immediate family;
- The threat is specific and unequivocal; and
- The defendant communicates the threat verbally, in writing or via an electronically transmitted device.
Other criminal offenses related to, but separate from, the crime of criminal threats include: dissuading a witness (PC § 136.1), extortion (PC § 518), domestic violence (PC § § 273.5 and PC § 243(e)(1)), stalking (PC § 646.9), aggravated trespass (PC § 601) and Orange County’s criminal street gang enhancement (PC § 186.22).
Orange County Criminal Threats Penalties
Under Orange County law, PC § 422 is a “wobbler” offense, which means the prosecutors can file the charge as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. If you are convicted on charges of misdemeanor criminal threats, you could face a penalty of up to one year in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. If you are convicted of felony criminal threats, you could face a penalty of two, three or four years in state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines. There are also certain “sentencing enhancements” that can result in steeper penalties for criminal threats charges in Orange County. For instance, using a dangerous or deadly weapon can increase your prison sentence by an additional and consecutive one-year state prison term upon conviction. Additionally, if you make criminal threats against multiple people, on more than one occasion or pursuant to different objectives, you could face criminal penalties for each threat you communicate.
California’s “Three Strikes” Sentencing Law
The state of California has a “Three Strikes” sentencing law in effect that imposes harsher prison sentences for defendants with one or more previous serious and violent felony convictions on their record, known as “strike” priors. Under PC § 422, a felony criminal threats conviction qualifies as a “serious felony” and is therefore considered a “strike” offense in Orange County, which means you will be required to serve at least 85% of your prison sentence before being eligible for release. Additionally, with this strike prior on your record, you could face increased prison sentences for future felony convictions. If you are convicted of a felony offense and you have one strike prior on your record, you could face double the prison sentence otherwise required by law, and if you have two strike priors on your record, you could face an automatic prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Orange County Criminal Threats Defense
Being arrested for making criminal threats in Orange County can be scary and stressful and it is easy to feel like the deck is stacked against you when facing such charges. However, it is important to remember that in any criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden of proof. That means, in order to get a criminal threats conviction in Orange County, the prosecution will have to prove each of the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you willfully threatened to kill or cause serious injury to another person;
- That you intended your statement (whether verbal, written or electronically communicated) to be received as a threat;
- That the threat under the circumstances was so “unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific” that it conveyed the possibility of immediate execution on your part; and
- That the recipient of the threat reasonably feared for his or her safety or for the safety of his or her immediate family.
If the prosecution is unable to prove each element of the crime in your case, you cannot lawfully be convicted of criminal threats in Orange County.
Best Defense Strategies in Orange County Criminal Threats Cases
Crimes like PC § 422 are treated seriously in Orange County and the prosecutor assigned to your case will likely try to portray you as a dangerous and violent criminal in court. However, there are a number of defenses a skilled criminal threats defense attorney can present in court to combat these charges. Some possible defenses to Orange County criminal threat charges include the following:
- Conditional threat – Conditional threats typically include words like “or else,” which may not satisfy the criminal threats requirement that death or great bodily injury is “imminent.”
- Vague or ambiguous threat – Making ambiguous statements that could be construed as threats generally will not suffice for a criminal threats conviction.
- Intent – If you didn’t intend for your statement to be taken as a threat, you would not be criminally liable under Orange County criminal threats law.
- Great bodily injury or death – In order to be convicted of the crime of making criminal threats, the threats must be such that a reasonable person would believe that they would result in great bodily injury or death.
- Insufficient evidence – If the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence against you to warrant a criminal threats charge, your attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed.
- False accusation – If you were falsely accused of making criminal threats, you cannot lawfully be found guilty of the crime under PC § 422.
Despite the fact that the First Amendment to the Constitution protects your right to free speech, conveying a threat to another person is considered unprotected speech in Orange County and “free speech” is therefore not typically used as a criminal defense in criminal threats cases.
How Hiring a Criminal Threats Defense Attorney Can Help
If you are convicted of making criminal threats in Orange County, you could face time in jail or state prison and other serious penalties. Additionally, making criminal threats is considered a crime of moral turpitude and is therefore seen as more offensive and reprehensible than other criminal offenses. As a result, a criminal threats conviction in Orange County can have a negative impact on your employment prospects, professional licensing and immigration status, among other aspects of your personal and professional life. That is why hiring a reputable criminal defense attorney when facing criminal threats charges is so important. With the right attorney on your side, you may be able to get your criminal threats charge reduced to a lesser offense that carries less severe penalties or you may even be able to get your criminal charges dismissed altogether. When you hire our law firm, our criminal defense attorneys will investigate every aspect of your case to find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you and begin building a strong defense. Any time you are facing charges for criminal threats or another criminal offense in Orange County, your first course of action should be to contact a reputable criminal defense attorney to defend your case.
Contact Our Skilled Criminal Threats Defense Attorneys
Even though the crime of making criminal threats doesn’t involve actually causing anyone any physical harm, this charge can result in life-changing penalties and therefore requires immediate intervention by a skilled criminal defense attorney. By making threats that put another person in sustained fear for his or her life, you could expose yourself to Orange County criminal threats charges, even if you never intended to follow through with the acts you threatened. If you or a loved one has been charged with criminal threats in Orange County or the surrounding counties, don’t leave a conviction up to chance. Contact our skilled Orange County criminal defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group as soon as possible to find out how best to defend yourself against charges involving criminal threats.