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Criminal Threats

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California Criminal Threats Lawyer


Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person is guilty of violating California Penal Code section 422, also known as “deadly threats” or “terrorist threats”. The threat can be made verbally or in writing. The crime is committed even if the threat itself isn’t carried out, but the victim must believe that the threat would’ve been carried out immediately. The crime of criminal threats is a wobbler. If charged as a felony, it is considered a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law and carries a maximum punishment of three years state prison. The District Attorney’s office has the discretion in determining whether to charge criminal threats as a felony or misdemeanor. Their determination will be based on the circumstances of the case as well as the criminal history of the suspect.


The District Attorney’s office has to show each of the following elements, beyond a reasonable doubt, in order to prove the crime of criminal threats:

  • The defendant willfully threatened to unlawfully kill or unlawfully inflict great bodily injury on another person;
  • The defendant made the threat orally or in writing or by electronic communication device;
  • The defendant intended that the statement be understood as a threat and intended that it be received by the other person;
  • The threat was so clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific that it communicated to the other person a serious intention and the immediate prospect that the threat would be carried out;
  • The threat actually caused the other person to be in sustained fear for her or his own safety or for the safety of her or his immediate family; AND
  • The other person’s fear was reasonable under the circumstances.

Other Consequences

Not only can a criminal threats conviction lead to criminal penalties, but it can also have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences. Criminal threats is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Having a criminal threats conviction can prevent a person from finding a job or lead to a person being fired from their current job. Furthermore, many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, nurses, lawyers, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks. A professional who has a criminal threats conviction on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place. Perhaps the most severe impact of a criminal threats conviction involves immigration consequences. Non-citizens who are permanent residents (green card holders) or temporary visitors, with a visa, can be denied admission, naturalization or even deported, with a criminal threats conviction on their record.

The Right Lawyer

Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer will be the most important decision someone can make when facing criminal threats charges. Many people who face criminal threat charges are good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment. There are also some people who have been wrongfully accused of criminal threats, based on a misunderstanding or false evidence. You need an attorney who will listen to your side of the story carefully, who will evaluate the evidence thoroughly, who will negotiate with the judge and the District Attorney’s office skillfully, and who will fight in trial aggressively. You need an attorney like Fred Thiagarajah.

As a former Deputy District Attorney, Fred Thiagarajah has the negotiating skills and trial experience necessary to get the best results for his clients. Fred Thiagarajah has actually gone to trial on these types of cases as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney – and he has won on whichever side he was on. For an example of his work, please see his case results and read his client testimonials. With offices in Newport Beach, Long Beach, Riverside, Murrieta and Rancho Cucamonga, Fred Thiagarajah’s team has criminal defense experience in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County and San Bernadino County.

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