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Defining "Criminal Threats"

You might think that the only way through which you can be convicted of a violent crime in Fullerton would be to actually take action against another. Yet that is not always the case. Many clients have come to us here at The Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman thinking that their right to free speech also affords them the freedom to say whatever they want without facing any criminal charges. Yet law enforcement officials may often view the words you say as conveying an intent serious enough to warrant charging you with a crime. 

You might think that only by doing something like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater in order to incite panic warrants any type of criminal punishment. State law, however, recognizes direct threats made to another individual as constituting a crime. Section 422 of the California Penal Code states that if you communicate anything to another (be it through written or spoken words or electronic communication) that said person believes to be a threat credible enough to cause them to fear for their own safety (or that of their family members), you can be arrested for making criminal threats. This is true even if you never had any intention of carrying the threat out. 

Challenging such a charge may require you proving that your words would not have been taken seriously by a reasonable person. Indeed, the law does say that in order to qualify as criminal, as a threat must be "so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific" that one would have to take it seriously. Thus, a general statement (even if made in anger or the heat of a moment) might not qualify as a threat. 

You can learn more about dealing with criminal charges by continuing to explore our site.