Criminal Threats Law

Many times in the heat of the moment, a person will say “I’m going to kill you” or “You better watch your back.” While these may seem like meaningless words, in many situations they are considered criminal threats.

Formerly known as terrorist threats, they are taken quite seriously, and often result in the person saying them being charged with a crime.  If you find yourself in this position, you should call a bail bonds company to help facilitate the bail process.

What is Considered a Criminal Threat?

The California Penal Code defines a criminal threat as one where a person threatens to kill or physically harm someone. To meet the legal criteria, the threat must place the person being threatened in a reasonable state of fear for their safety and/or that of their immediate family. Along with this, the threat must be very specific and must be done in writing, verbally, or by means of an electronic device. Unlike some crimes, a person can be charged with criminal threats even if they have no reasonable way or have no intention of carrying out the threat. Read also about hate crime laws

Examples of Criminal Threats

Criminal threats can take various forms. These include holding someone at gunpoint and threatening to shoot them, phoning an ex-employer and telling them they should be looking over their shoulder or sending a text message to an ex-spouse threatening to damage their property. While these are some of the most common methods used to communicate criminal threats, they are not the only ones. Therefore, persons should give careful consideration as to how their words or actions will be perceived before issuing any threats.

Criminal Threats Penalties

The legal penalties for criminal threats differ, depending on whether the person is charged and convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. Under the California Penal Code, the case can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony by the prosecutor. For a person who is convicted of a misdemeanor, the penalty is up to one year in county jail. Those who are convicted of felony criminal threats, they may face up to four years in a state penitentiary. In addition to these penalties, if a person used a deadly or dangerous weapon while issuing the threats, they may have one additional year added to their sentence. And to make matters worse for the defendant, being convicted of a criminal threat falls under California’s Three Strikes Law, meaning the person must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence before being eligible for release.

Is Bail an Option?

When a person makes criminal threats, they are taken very seriously by the courts. As a result, in some cases, bail may be denied if the threats were perceived to be very strong and those threatened are deemed by the court to be at risk. However, most defendants are allowed to be free on bail while awaiting trial.

While to many people a threat may seem meaningless when they say it, to others it may be taken quite seriously. Therefore, it’s always best to think before one speaks, writes, or transmits messages they may later regret.
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