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Criminal Threats, PC 422, can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, but it is filed as a felony in most cases.

There are 5 elements to Criminal Threats, PC 422:

  1. The defendant willfully threatened to commit a crime that would result in death or great bodily injury
  2. The defendant made the threat with the specific intent that it be taken as a threat
  3. The defendant may or may not have had the intent to carry out the threat
  4. The threatening statement was specific and clear enough so as to convey that it would be carried out
  5. The statement caused the victim to reasonably be in sustained fear for their safety or the safety of their family


For a misdemeanor, the maximum jail time is 1 year in county jail.

For a felony, the defendant faces 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison.


A felony conviction of Criminal Threats (PC 422) is a strike.


  1. You never meant it as a threat.

An example of a defense would be if you wrote a message that was clearly not serious. In fact, you were joking. For instance, you were referring to a joke in a movie that you had watched with someone, and you reasonably felt the person would know that it was a joke. Here, you never meant your statement to be a threat.

2. The victim was not in fear.

If you tell somebody that you are going to hurt them by blowing soap bubbles on them, it is safe to assume that nobody would fear for his or her life. This is an extreme situation, of course, but the point is that the victim must be in fear. In addition, that fear has to be reasonable. In this scenario, a person cannot reasonably fear that they will be hurt as a result of having soap bubbles blown on them.

3. The threat was too vague.

If you say something that is very generic that everyone says in a heated argument, such as “You’re going to regret this,” it doesn’t qualify as a criminal threat because “You’re going to regret this” could mean many things.

4. You were falsely accused.

Criminal Threats cases can simply be based on someone’s accusations so a person can be taken to court even if nobody was injured. It is important to fight a Criminal Threats case aggressively because these cases can be based on just one person’s accusations. It can oftentimes be a he-said, she said situation. This is why text messages, social media messages, voicemails, etc., can help your case. You want to be able to show the context of the correspondence between you and the other party and prove that were you not making threats.

Because Criminal Threats cases (PC 422) can be so messy, speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer about your case so that they can prepare a strong defense and fight the charges on your behalf. Our firm focuses ONLY on criminal defense because we love this practice area. We serve LA County, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and all of southern California. We understand the criminal justice system can be scary. Call us at 213-235-7969 for a free consultation.

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