Threatening another person is serious business. Particularly in today's climate, what was at one time considered venting or an exercise in frustration can boil over to criminal charges. Most importantly, Penal Code section 422 constitutes a strike under California's three strikes law. Remember, receive a third strike and you are out (25-Life in state prison)

Threatening a person is a "wobbler," meaning it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. Either way, a conviction for a Penal Code section 422 violation must be avoided at all costs.

In order to find a defendant guilty of making a terrorist threat (PC § 422), evidence to prove the following elements is required:

  1. The defendant willfully threatened to commit a crime which, if committed, would result in death or great bodily injury

  2. The defendant made the threat with the specific intent that the statement be taken as a threat

  3. The threatening statement, on its face and under the circumstances in which it was made, was 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

  4. The threatening statement caused the other person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety, regardless of whether the defendant actually intended to carry out the threat. (People v. Melhado (1998) 60 Cal. App. 4th 1529.)

Not all threats — even those threats to kill — qualify under the statute. [See In re George T. (2004) 33 Cal 4th 620, (upon an independent examination of the record, the court concluded that the ambiguous nature of a poem, which stated in part that "I can be the next kid to bring guns to kill students at school," along with the circumstances surrounding its dissemination, failed to establish that the poem constituted a criminal threat).]

While the courts have repeatedly gone out of their way to decimate the plain language of the statute (immediate is not really "immediate," unequivocal is not really important and "unconditional" now means absolutely nothing), good lawyers can sometimes inject common sense back into the law and help their clients escape liability for making criminal threats.

California law provides that the determination whether a defendant intended his or her words to be taken as a threat, and whether the words were sufficiently unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific that they conveyed to the victim an immediacy of purpose and immediate prospect of execution of the threat, within the meaning of Pen C § 422, can be based on all of the surrounding circumstances and not just on the words alone. [People v. Mendoza (1997) 59 Cal App 4th 1333, superseded by statute as stated in People v. Franz (2001) 88 Cal App 4th 1426.] It is up to a creative lawyer to explain the "surrounding circumstances" in such a way as to favor the client.

Criminal threats must be defended forcefully. Mr. Bruno has the skill and track record to effectively defend these charges.

Based in Newport Beach, right by the Orange County Superior Court, Harbor Justice Center, Keith J. Bruno represents individuals who have been arrested or charged with all crimes, including making criminal threats.

Mr. Bruno has great expertise concentrating on and winning criminal threat-type cases. Mr. Bruno is consistent, responsible and a leader in criminal defense. Your call is welcome to discuss your case and how to address the charges. You cannot take on the prosecution alone, and you cannot win with the wrong attorney.

If you or your loved one has been arrested and faces charges for any crime, such as criminal threats, Mr. Bruno looks forward to taking your case. With so much to lose, you must demand nothing less than top quality in your defense.

If you or a loved one has been arrested, contact Keith J. Bruno of BRUNO│NALU, a firm serving all of California, including Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego. Mr. Bruno will speak to you frankly and will individually represent you throughout the case. You will get a free face-to-face consultation and an in-depth strategy meeting. You will have found your attorney.