Criminal Threats (Penal Code Section 422)

A person may be found guilty of a criminal threat (also called a terrorist threat) under penal code section 422 if:

  1. The Defendant willfully threatened to unlawfully kill or unlawfully cause great bodily injury to the victim;
  2. The Defendant made the threat orally or in writing;
  3. The Defendant intended that his statement be intended as a threat and that it be communicated to the victim;
  4. The threat was so clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific that it communicated to the victim a serious intention and the immediate prospect that the threat would be carried out;
  5. The threat actually causes the victim to be in sustained fear for his own safety or that of his immediate family;
  6. The victim’s fear was reasonable.

The threat in question here cannot be conditional. If someone says “I am going to kill you, if you do not return my phone.” That would not be a criminal threat because the threat is conditional on the person returning the phone and therefore not immediate. This crime can be alleged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Generally, the prior record of the Defendant will determine if it gets filed as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Punishments: As a misdemeanor this charge faces a maximum confinement time of 1-year in custody; as a felony it carries a maximum of three years in custody and is a “strike” offense.


Contact Orange County criminal defense attorney Katie Walsh for help with criminal threats or any other criminal matter.


×Coronavirus and the Orange County Courts: The Criminal Courts are still open. Don’t miss your court date. Let the Attorney appear for you. Free Consult-Call Katie Walsh at (714) 351-0178.