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Criminal Threats in Domestic Violence Cases in Los Angeles

Posted by Sam Israels | May 10, 2020

Getting charged with a domestic violence related crime doesn't always involve the use of physical force. Under California Penal Code 422, it's a crime to make criminal threats against a victim and these frequently include a spouse, cohabitant, family member, or co-parent.

Penal Code 422 prohibits making willful threats to commit a crime resulting in great bodily injury or death to someone. These threats could be made verbally, in writing, or through electronic communication. Also, the threat must be made with the intent that it was actually taken as a threat.

In some cases, PC 422 can be filed as a felony by the prosecutor that might lead to being sentenced to a California state prison.

Criminal threats are frequently directly connected to a domestic violence incident and are far more common than most think. The crime of criminal threats is a “wobbler” that means the prosecutor can file the case as either misdemeanor or felony offense. Their decision is typically based on the details of the case and defendant's prior criminal record.

A felony conviction will normally include harsh penalties and even considered a “strike” under the three strikes law.  Our Los Angeles domestic violence attorneys are providing a closer review below.

What Must the Prosecutor Prove?

To obtain a conviction against a defendant for Penal Code 422 PC criminal threats, the Los Angeles County prosecutor has to be able to prove all the crucial factors of the offense, which are commonly known as the “elements of the crime” which are contained in CALCRIM 1300 Jury Instructions. These factors include that a defendant:

  • Made threats to kill or cause great bodily injury to victim
  • Threat was made verbally, in writing, or electronic communication
  • The statement was intended to be understood as a threat
  • Threat was immediate, clear, specific, and unconditional
  • The threat caused the victim to be in reasonable fear of their safety

It's worth noting that there are not specific crimes that you must threaten in order to be convicted of Penal Code 422 criminal threats. For instance, if you just make a threat that could cause a great bodily injury, or worse, on your spouse, then it could be considered an unlawful criminal threat.

A great bodily injury (GBI) is described as a significant or substantial injury to them.  If the threat does not rise to this level, it would not generally be considered a PC 422 criminal threat.

It' also worth noting a criminal threat does not have to be directed at just a single victim. It could also apply if the threat was directed a group of people, such as family members of the spouse. For example, let's say you spouse tells you they want a divorce. In anger, you send threats though group text messaging to her entire family.

Anyone who makes threats to cause damage to a victim's property is not typically enough to support criminal threats charged under Penal Code 422. The threat needs to deal with intent to cause physical harm to the victim.

Criminal Threats Involving Domestic Violence

There are situations where a domestic violence charge might include allegations you made threats to cause serious injury or even kill you intimate partner. It should be noted that physical contact is not required in order to be charged with PC 422 criminal threats in a domestic violence case.

Further, you don't even have to be in the same physical location as you intimate partner due to the fact criminal threats are frequently made over the phone, text messages, emails, or through other means of electronic communication.

If arrested for Penal Code 422 making criminal threats, you will most likely have a domestic violence restraining order issued against you. The alleged victim could make an application for an emergency protective order and then later submit a petition to the criminal court for a full domestic violence restraining order.

If you make threats of violence against your domestic partner, it could be enough for a Los Angeles criminal court judge to grant a full restraining order.

In most domestic violence cases, the prosecutor will request that a protective order be issued against you at the arraignment link. A protective order remains in effect during the entire period where your criminal charges are pending.  Any violation of the protective order could result in new criminal charges defined under California Penal Code 273.6.

What Are the Penalties for Penal Code 422 Criminal Threats?

Penal Code 422 is a California “wobbler” crime that means the Los Angeles County prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony offense.

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor criminal threats, the penalties include up to one year in county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and terms and conditions of probation set by the judge.

If you are convicted of a felony criminal threats, the penalties include up to three years in a California state prison, and a fine up to $10,000. If a deadly weapon was used while making the threat then you could receive an additional one year in prison.

Further, a felony Penal Code 422 criminal threats conviction is considered a “strike” under California's Three Strikes Law that could be used to enhance any future offenses.

Defending Penal Code 422 Criminal Threats Charges

If you were charged with making criminal threats related in domestic violence incident, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can use a variety of strategies to obtain the best possible outcome.

During the heat of the moment in a domestic violence indecent, there are often many false allegations as to what exactly happened, especially on the issue of a criminal threat.

Our lawyers could potentially argue the alleged victim was not honest with police or exaggerated the details. Additionally, we could argue the alleged threat was misunderstood, vague and not immediate, which are the elements of the crime the prosecutor must prove to obtain a conviction.

Further, perhaps we could make an argument your intimate partner was not actually in fear, which is another factor that has to be proven. Recall that the victim must have taken your statements as a threat and that you had an intent to cause them harm.

If you were arrested and charged with criminal threats in connection with domestic violence in violation of California Penal Code 422, call our criminal defense lawyers will examine the details of the case and options.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a criminal defense law firm located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025 and 401 Wilshire Blvd #1200, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Contact our office for a free case consultation at (424) 372-3112.

About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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