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If you need to file a complaint about criminal threats in California against you or a loved one, we can help. Also, we offer the best legal representation service to people who have been accused of committing this crime.

Our criminal lawyers in Los Angeles have vast experience of more than 40 years litigating these cases. Call us now to book a private and professional consultation with us.


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How to file a report for criminal threats in California in 2024

Making criminal threats of death or bodily harm against another person is a very serious crime in California. Regardless of who makes them, has the ability to materialize their threats or the real intention of executing them. 

Whether you have received death threats or are accused of making them by any means, you should seek legal representation or the advice of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

Our criminal defense attorneys for death threat claims have the ability and experience to win these types of cases.

After accepting your case, we will tell you how and where to report this crime. The California Penal Code provides very serious penalties for this crime.

What does California Penal Code 422 say?

Threatening to death is a crime under Section 422 of the California Penal Code. A “criminal threat,” as defined by law, is threatening another person with death or physical harm:

  • Provoking in that person “a reasonably prolonged state of fear” by fearing for their safety or that of their family.
  • Said threat is “unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific” and leaves no room for doubt in the person threatened.
  • It is done verbally, in writing, or through an electronic device.
lawsuit over death threats in los angeles

What is considered as criminal threats in California?

It is any deliberate act that implies the intention to cause death or bodily harm. Some examples of this type of criminal conduct may include the following:

  • Pulling out a firearm in a bar and pointing it at another person threatening to shoot.
  • After an argument in the workplace or on the street, say to another: “I will look for you and you will pay me”.
  • Calling or sending intimidating messages to another person threatening them with physical harm for going out with their partner.  
  • Pulling out a knife on the subway and threatening to cut up a passenger.

What can you do if someone threatens you with death?

Many times, death threats only seek to intimidate, manipulate, dominate and exert control over the victim. They are a way of instilling fear to achieve a specific goal: extortion, harassment or revenge.

In these cases, at Lluis Law we advise our clients to do the following:

  • First of all, and under no circumstances, ignore the threat you have received. 
  • Do not respond to the threat. It is best to stay calm and walk away from the person if the threat is made personally. 
  • Call 911 for help.
  • If you are at home, go outside or find a well lit and crowded place.
  • Try to contact a family member or friend as well while the police arrive.
  • Save the evidence related to the threat (voice message, text, letter, email, call log and others.)
  • Record threat details:
    • If it was verbal:
      • Make a note of the date, time and place where it happened.
      • Name of witnesses, if any.
      • Exact words spoken by the accused.
      • If it was by phone, keep the phone number.
    • Written:
      • Place, date and time of the received message.
      • Original text of the message.
      • Phone number, if it was from a phone.
      • Name of the person who sent it.
      • IP address of the computer from which it was sent (if it was an email).

What else can I do?

Seek professional help immediately and contact an experienced criminal attorney. Your attorney will tell you where to go to file a formal complaint for criminal threats of death or bodily harm in California.

They are threatening me with death, what do I do?

Submit to the police unit closest to your residence, the formal complaint of the death threat received. You can also criminally sue the person who made the threat against you.

Can I file a police report for verbal threats in California?

Yes. You can do this in person at the Los Angeles Police Department. Unless your life or that of your family is in imminent danger at that time. Then, as already indicated, you could call 911, report the event and ask for police help.

To criminally report a person for this crime, it is advisable to have the advice of a good criminal lawyer.

criminal threat in california

How to prove the crime of criminal threats in California?

To prove the crime of criminal threats, the guilt of the accused must first be proven. The elements of evidence that the prosecution must invoke are the following:

  • The defendant intentionally threatened to kill or cause bodily harm to the plaintiff.
  • They did it out loud, in writing or through electronic means.
  • In doing so, the defendant intended the plaintiff to take them as a threat.
  • Said threat was made in a clear, immediate and unequivocal manner, implying that it would be executed.
  • The plaintiff felt genuinely threatened and feared for their safety and that of his immediate family.
  • The plaintiff’s fear was reasonable, taking into account the circumstances of the event.

Can I go to jail for threatening someone in California?

Yes. This crime is punishable by imprisonment and fines, depending on the circumstances of the case and the criminal record of the accused. 

As a misdemeanor, the penalties for threatening to kill or causing bodily harm to another individual are:

  • One year maximum imprisonment in a county jail; and
  • Fines of up to $1,000.

As a felony or serious crime, the punishment increases from:

  • 16 months to two or three years in state jail, and/or
  • Fine of up to $10,000.

Note: If the criminal threat is made through the use of a deadly weapon, the court would increase the punishment by one year. On the other hand, if the threat was made to multiple people, the court could apply a penalty for each threat.

can you carry a concealed weapon in california

You may also be interested in reading our article “Can you carry a concealed weapon in California?” to know the consequences, also migratory, that this crime implies.

What is considered a death threat?

  • These types of crimes are treated as a “wobbler”. That is, they can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.
  • Additionally, serious criminal threats constitute a “three strikes” offense. It means that the convict must serve at least 85% of their sentence in prison.
  • A second strike or strike after a conviction for this crime carries a higher sentence. While the third strike would lead to a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.
  • Death threats are also considered a crime of moral turpitude and are punishable by:
    • The loss of professional licenses; and
    • Deportation, if you are an immigrant. 

What do I do if I am charged with criminal threats?

It is essential that you consult with a criminal defense attorney who will review your case. They will be able to explain the consequences of the crime of death threats and help you defend your rights.

Depending on the charges and the evidence submitted by the prosecutor, you could, through your defense attorney:

  • Get the judge to dismiss the charges;
  • Negotiate a lesser charge with the prosecution after a plea agreement;
  • Achieve a sentence reduction.
prove the crime of threats

Potential defenses against criminal threats in California

Apart from the Prosecution having to prove the crime, a criminal defense attorney could use these defense strategies:

  • The alleged “threat” is very vague or ambiguous, therefore it cannot be considered as such.
  • The alleged victim had no real reason to feel reasonably threatened.
  • The complainant did not express fear/dread at the time, or was only temporarily frightened. 
  • The accused barely made a threatening gesture, but did not communicate explicitly verbally or in writing.
  • The threat does not meet the legal definition of “immediate” or to be executed at once.
  • It is a false accusation easily demonstrable in the facts.

Our attorneys have over 50 years of experience litigating these cases in California courts. After examining the facts, we will be able to determine which defense strategy is best suited for your case. 

What are the consequences of a threat complaint? 

Being accused of threatening to kill or causing harm to another person could lead to severe penalties. If you have a prior conviction for another crime, you will receive a second strike on your criminal record. 

In addition, it will be computed for double the penalty that is commonly applied to the crime in the Penal Code. It means that, if found guilty of the crime, you will be sent to jail without immediate parole. 

It is different for people who do not have a criminal record, who could receive this procedural benefit.

What other crimes are related to death threats?

Typically, criminal threats are related to these two crimes under the California Penal Code: 

  • Brandishing a weapon or firearm – Section 417 PC.
  • Domestic violence – Section 243(e)(1) PC.
  • Corporal injury to spouse – Section 273.5 PC.
  • Elder abuse – Section 368 PC.
  • Dissuading or intimidating a witness – Section 136.1 PC.
  • Stalking – Section 646.9 PC.
  • Gang Enhancements – Section 186.22 PC.
  • Aggravated trespassing – Section 601 PC.
  • Extortion – Section 518 PC of the California Penal Code.

Criminal threats in a domestic violence case

The California Penal Code also makes it a crime to make threats against a family member or close person. Criminal or death threats against a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, and cohabitants in the home are considered domestic violence.

A domestic violence charge can proceed even without physical contact between the defendant and the plaintiff. 

Nor is it required that both individuals have been in the same place at the time of the event. As is well known, threats by telephone, by mail or by any electronic means, are also a crime. 

Do you need to file a death threat complaint or have you been arrested on a charge for criminal threats in California? Contact any of our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys. We have an impressive record of winning cases for our clients.


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