Many people are not aware that it is possible to face a domestic violence charge even if there is no physical contact with the victim or the accuser. When you threaten to inflict great bodily injury on your girlfriend or spouse for whichever reason, you might be subject to criminal threat charges under the broad umbrella of domestic violence.
Law enforcement officers treat criminal threat charges severely because no one likes to live in fear. If you are under arrest for a criminal threat charge in Bakersfield, CA, you should know your freedom and reputation are at risk. At Koenig Law Office, we comprehend how judges and prosecutors treat this type of domestic violence crime.
During these stressful and nervous moments, we will be your right-hand man to protect your constitutional rights and fight for the best possible outcome.
Understanding Criminal Threats Charge Under the Law
Domestic violence laws are strict, and they seek to protect people in intimate or familial relationships against abusive behaviors and acts. Although physical abuse is the most common and recognizable form of domestic violence, don't forget psychological abuse can also attract domestic violence charges.
Psychological abuse typically involves threatening or intimidating behavior against a family member or spouse. Although we all have the freedom of speech, it doesn't mean you can threaten someone and go away with it. Intimidating or threatening another person even if he or she is not a family member or relationship partner is unlawful according to Penal Code 422 PC.
Also traditionally known as terrorist threats, a criminal threat is an offense chargeable whenever you threaten to commit acts that would reasonably put another person in fear of bodily injury or death. For the sake of this PC 422, a criminal threat can be verbal or non-verbal. Non-verbal criminal threats happen in writings or electronically through communication platforms like Facebook or Instagram.
Even if you didn't intend to inflict injury on the victim of this domestic violence case, it would not count as a defense during the trial to counter criminal threat allegations against you. To protect your rights during these confusing times, you should retain the legal services of a professional defense attorney who understands the criminal justice system in and outs.
What You Should Know If You are Under Arrest for a Criminal Threat Charge Related to Domestic Violence (DV)
An encounter with law enforcement officers can be confusing, especially if it is your first time. Here is what you should know if you are under arrest for a criminal threat charge against your wife, brother, or any other family member:
Don't Record Any Statement With the Police
Remain calm even if you might be under pressure to defend yourself from the charges. Remember, the police are not your friend and certainly are not on your side if you are under arrest for any criminal offense. Therefore, whatever information you decide to disclose to them can be used against you in court.
Speaking to the arresting officers or making statements with them is not wise if you are under arrest because you may unintentionally give incriminating evidence.
Having an Attorney By Your Side is One Of Your Constitutional Right
If you are in police custody, you should know you have a right to speak to an attorney to represent your interests and protect your legal rights as your case continues. If you don't have an attorney's number on your contact list, you should call your friend to call an attorney on your behalf.
You need a professional and aggressive criminal defense attorney by your side on every court proceeding to prove your innocence for the best possible results because a conviction for violating PC 422 can negatively affect your future.
You Have A Right to See A Judge As Soon As Possible
After an arrest for a criminal threat charge, police will keep you in custody until your first court hearing. You have a right to have your alleged criminal threat charge heard by a judge within less than forty hours after an arrest.
Once you arrive at the police station, you should maintain your legal right to remain silent as you go through the booking process. The booking process typically involves:
- Recording of your personal information, including address and your legal names
- Fingerprint recording
- Confiscation of your personal properties, including belts, wallets, jewelry, and clothing
- Health check
- Full body search
After the above booking steps, the police will keep you in the detention hall with other offenders until your first court hearing.
Arraignment/Bail Hearing Following A Criminal Threat Charge Under PC 422
The arraignment hearing will be your first court proceeding following an arrest for allegedly violating PC 422. If you have a defense attorney in your corner already, he/she can represent you during this first court proceeding, meaning your presence in court will be unnecessary unless the judge needs you to be there.
During the arraignment, the judge presiding over your case will formally read the alleged criminal threat charges against you. At this point, you can plead guilty to the charge or deny the allegations against you to fight the charge at trial, which is a wise idea. At the arraignment hearing, the court will also give you a chance to arrange your pre-trial release.
If the judge cannot grant you a pre-trial release from police custody through Own Recognizance, you will have to go through the bail process. Bail in the criminal justice system is the amount of money you should pay the court to act as security for your pre-trial release. Typically, the judge will consider the factors below to know if you are eligible for this form of pretrial release or not:
- Your community participation and ties
- Your likelihood of fleeing the area after release
- Your criminal history
- Your family ties
- Your current mental and physical condition
- Your history involving illegal drug substances, and alcohol abuse
Once you are out on bail, you must comply with the required conditions of your pre-trial release to avoid a rearrest and more severe charges without a possibility of posting bail until your underlying case is over.
To protect the victim before your alleged criminal threat case is over, the prosecutor may request the judge to order protective or restraining order against you during this arraignment hearing. The restraining order will remain in effect even if you are out on bail until your alleged criminal threat case is over.
The Prosecutor's Burden Of Prove During the Alleged Criminal Threat Charge Trial
During the trial hearing for your alleged criminal threat charge, the prosecutor will present his/her evidence against you to a judge to determine if you are guilty of the alleged offense or not. To obtain a conviction against you, the prosecutor must demonstrate to the judge every factor that makes up a criminal threat offense, also known as "elements of the crime," beyond a reasonable doubt. Elements of the crime in a criminal threat charge include:
- You willfully and intentionally threatened to inflict a severe bodily injury or kill another person.
- You were threatening or intimidating a familial or relationship partner
- The threat was specific, immediate, unconditional, and clear, meaning you would act on it
- The threatening or intimidating was verbal or communicated electronically through texts or emails
- The threatened person was in reasonable fear for his or her safety and wellness, considering all circumstances
Remember, even if you don't have the ability and capability to execute your threats, you could still be liable for violating PC 422 if the above facts are true. Therefore, during this stage of the criminal justice system, your defense attorney should be attentive and keen to note any possible weakness in the prosecutor's case against you to know how to prepare top-notch defense arguments.
Common Defenses Your Attorney Will Apply to Counter Criminal Threat Charges Against You
There are several defense arguments an experienced defense attorney can present to counter criminal threat allegations against you. The most common and viable defense arguments that most attorneys use to counter a criminal threat charge include:
The Alleged Victim of the Threat Was Not Afraid
Considering PC 422 requires the victim of your alleged threats to be reasonably afraid of what you could do to him/her, it would be reasonable to argue that the victim was not afraid. If the victim weren't in fear after your threats either because he/she reasonably believes that you are incapable of executing the threats or perhaps it is a joke, you would not be guilty of violating PC 422.
The Alleged Victim's Fear Was Unreasonable or Unneeded
Since the prosecutor must satisfy that the alleged victim was in reasonable fear of bodily injury or death, this defense tactic would be applicable to counter criminal threats allegations against you. Even if the victim were afraid of your alleged criminal threats, if it weren't reasonable to do so under those circumstances, you would not be guilty of violating PC 422.
Since the alleged victim doesn't have to sustain an injury under PC 422, the court considers a criminal threat charge a ripe offense for false accusations. A person with vengeful intentions or thoughts can falsely accuse you of threatening him/her to satisfy his/her interests and desires.
That would be possible, especially if the alleged threat were verbal with no video or audio recording. A person motivated by jealousy and anger can make you face a wrongful conviction for a crime that you didn't commit, and the court acknowledges that as possible.
The Alleged Threat or Intimidation Didn't Involve Significant Bodily Injury
According to PC 422, a significant or severe bodily injury is any injury that does not qualify as minor, for example, lacerations, bruises, bone breakages. Your defense attorney might be able to convince the judge that the alleged threat didn't involve severe bodily injury or death as claimed for a less severe alternative charge or dismissal of the case.
The Alleged Threat Was Vague
Since one of the elements of the crime in this offense is that your alleged threats were specific and clear, your attorney can use this defense argument to raise a doubt on the prosecutor's case against you to achieve the best results.
For example, telling your girlfriend that she will be sorry for her actions after a confrontation or argument can count as a vague or ambiguous threat under PC 422. A vague threat or intimidation is not enough to prove you guilty of violating PC 422.
A skilled and dedicated criminal defense attorney will take ample time to analyze facts and circumstances in your alleged criminal threat charge to build the best possible defense arguments to protect your rights and freedom.
Penalties You Are Like To Face Following a Conviction for Violating PC 422 in Connection With DV
Since a criminal threat charge is a wobbler under the law, the prosecutor presiding over your case can file it as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether the prosecutor will file your alleged criminal threat charge as a misdemeanor or a felony will depend on your criminal history and facts surrounding your unique case.
A misdemeanor criminal threats conviction will attract a maximum jail term of one year and a fine not exceeding $1,000. On the other hand, if you are guilty of a felony criminal threat under PC 422, you will face harsher penalties, which includes:
- A fine amounting up to $10,000
- A maximum imprisonment term of three years
Apart from the above possible penalties for violating PC 422, during your unique case sentencing phase, the following factors will also apply:
- If you are guilty of threatening more than one person or multiple people, the judge will punish you for each criminal threat.
- If there is evidence of you using a dangerous or deadly weapon like a knife or firearm to communicate your threat, your sentence will be harsher. Apart from the above penalties, you will also be subject to one year additional and consecutive term in prison for using a deadly weapon to communicate a threat.
- According to the Three Strikes Law, a felony conviction for violating PC 422 will count as a strike. That means your third conviction or "strike" under this law can make you subject to twenty-five years to life in the state prison.
- Regardless of whether your charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, a conviction for violating criminal threat law under PC 422 will attract immigration consequences if you are a non-citizen because this crime counts as a crime of moral turpitude under the law. That means you could lose your professional licenses and face deportation if you are guilty of making criminal threats to your spouse or his/her parents.
- You will attend a mandatory battery program for a maximum of 52 weeks
Offenses Related to Criminal Threats
Offenses explained below are termed as "related" because the prosecutor can charge them together with criminal threats under PC 422 or have common elements of the crime. That means, if there is insufficient evidence to convince the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of violating PC 422 in connection with DV, the prosecutor can file any of them against you. Some of these related offenses include (but are not limited to):
Stalking Under PC 646.9
Stalking involves any pattern of behavior that can make the targeted individual fear for the safety of his/her health or life. For instance, repeated phone calls to the alleged victim or appearing at his/her home without permission can count as stalking under the law. A conviction for stalking under PC 646.9 can attract an imprisonment term of one year and a fine of $1,000.
Aggravated Trespass Under PC 601
Penal Code 601 is the statute that makes it unlawful to make a credible criminal threat to the wellness and safety of another person. Then, you enter the person's property or workplace without his/her permission within thirty days with the intent to execute the threats.
Like a criminal threat, aggravated trespass is also a wobbler offense punishable by a maximum prison term of three years for a felony conviction.
Extortion Under PC 518
You violate extortion laws under PC 518 when you threaten or intimidate another person to gain property, money, or other services unlawfully. Extortion crime is chargeable and punishable as a felony under PC 518. A conviction for committing extortion will make you subject to two(2), three(3), or four(4) years in the state prison and pay a fine of not less than $10,000.
Find a Defense Attorney Near Me
We invite you to call the Koenig Law Office at 661-793-7222, wherever you are in Bakersfield, Ca, for professional and outstanding legal representation on a criminal threat charge. A conviction for a criminal threat charge related to domestic violence can affect many aspects of your life, and we understand this.
Once you contact us, our attorneys will dedicate ample time to examine and investigate your case to build top-notch legal defense tactics that can work out in your favor to achieve a favorable outcome.