Criminal Threats, PC 422

California defines Penal Code 422 (criminal threats) as threats of death or great bodily injury that are intended to (and that actually do) place victims in reasonable and sustained fear for their safety or the safety of their families. Criminal threats are wobblers and can be charged as misdemeanor or a felony.

*Remember, criminal threats can be charged whether or not you have the ability to carry out the threat, and even if you don’t actually intend to execute the threat.

Some examples are:

      • Calling an ex and threating to set her house on fire
      • Threatening to stab someone while holding a knife
      • An evicted person telling his landlord, “You better watch your back!”


      • False allegation of a threat
      • The threat was vague, not specific
      • The recipient of the threat could not have reasonably feared for his/her safety
      • Recipient of the threat wasn’t actually in fear
      • Recipient’s fear was merely fleeting or momentary, or
      • The threat was not made verbally, electronically or in writing…only by a gesture


*A criminal threat conviction is a “strike” under California 3-Strikes Law, you must serve at least 85% of your sentence before you are eligible for release.


      • Up to one year in county jail
      • Loss of government assistance programs
      • Immigration consequences


      • 16 Months, 2 years or 3 years state prison
      • Mandatory Strike/290
      • 10-year firearm ban
      • Loss of government assistance programs
      • Immigration consequence


(a) Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is 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, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.

(b) For purposes of this section, “immediate family” means any spouse, whether by marriage or not, parent, child, any person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree, or any other person who regularly resides in the household, or who, within the prior six months, regularly resided in the household.

(c) “Electronic communication device” includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cellular telephones, computers, video recorders, fax machines, or pagers. “Electronic communication” has the same meaning as the term defined in Subsection 12 of Section 2510 of Title 18 of the United States Code.

(Amended (as amended by Stats. 2011, Ch. 15) by Stats. 2011, Ch. 39, Sec. 16. (AB 117) Effective June 30, 2011. Operative October 1, 2011, pursuant to Secs. 68 and 69 of Ch. 39.)

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