Criminal Threats, formerly known as “Terrorist Threats”
Threatening someone with serious bodily injury or death is a crime, if words were meant as a threat, could have realistically been carried out, and put the person threatened in “sustained” fear. The threat may be verbal, in writing, or electronic (phone, text, email, etc.). This means physical signs or gestures, by themselves, are not enough.
It does not matter whether the threat was actually intended to be carried out or not. It’s also not necessary that the defendant had the present means to carry out the threat when the threat was made.
This crime is a “wobbler” and can be charged as a misdemeanor, or felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, it carries up to a year in jail; if charged as a felony, up to three years in state prison.
The felony charge is a strike (serious felony) if there is a prior serious or violent felony conviction, the defendant is a registered sex offender, or an enhancement is charged. A serious/violent felony is not entitled to the 50% good time, work time, early release, and the defendant must serve out 85% of the sentence.
A misdemeanor conviction carries a ten year gun ban. All felony convictions carry a lifetime gun ban.
The victim’s fear must be reasonable. Someone can claim to be terrified by a remark, but this, by itself, is not enough for a conviction of this charge. The surrounding circumstances will be taken into consideration and must support the idea that a reasonable person would have experienced this fear. The fear also must be “sustained,” meaning that the victim must continue to be afraid for some time after the statement was made. “I’m going to kick your ass” is likely not enough, nor specific enough to qualify. Because, if someone says this but doesn’t act, there’s little chance that the person this was directed to would feel any danger beyond the fleeting moments when it was said.
Defendants typically say, as a defense, that they didn’t really mean to do what they said – they were just mad. But the crime does not have to do with measuring the probable likelihood of carrying out the threat. It has to do with act of threatening and the effect of the threat. The words only have to be meant “as a threat,” and be taken seriously.
The threat must be to kill or commit serious bodily harm against a victim or immediate family of the victim. Threatening to harm someone in a non-physical way does not qualify. Threatening to cut a neighbor’s tree down, back over their yard or property, or even poison their pet, are not instances of criminal threats.
If you are charged with Criminal Threats, Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney Peter Sebastian may be able to get the charge reduced, or dismissed through diversion, depending on the facts of your case. He is a skillful Los Angeles Criminal Threats Lawyer
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