In California, it is considered a crime to willfully communicate a threat
to another individual that would result in great bodily harm or death.
This criminal offense is known as making “criminal threats.”
In order to be convicted of this crime, the prosecution must prove beyond
a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s actions met all of the elements
of criminal threats.
The following are the all of the elements of criminal threats the prosecution
must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant willfully threatened to unlawfully cause great bodily injury
or death to the victim or an immediate family member of the victim. “Willfully” means the defendant did something of his/her
own free will and with intention. “Unlawfully” means the action
the defendant threatened to take is against the law.
The defendant made the threat verbally, in writing, or by means of electronic
communication. If a person makes a “threatening” gesture, it is not enough
to be deemed a criminal threat. For instance, if someone points their
fingers at another individual in the form of a gun, the person making
the hand gesture cannot be convicted because a reasonable individual would
not believe they are being “immediately threatened.”
The defendant intended that his/her statement be taken as a threat. A
criminal defense lawyer could attempt to raise reasonable doubt that the defendant intended
his/her statement to be a threat by providing some context behind the
statement in question, which demonstrates that it was not supposed to
be taken as a threat.
The threat was so apparent, immediate, unconditional, and specific that
it communicated to the victim a serious intention and the immediate prospect
that the threat would be executed. To be convicted, the defendant’s statement has left zero doubt that
he/she intended to cause another individual to fear for their safety.
The threat caused the victim to be frightened for his/her own safety or
for the safety of his/her immediate family. The victim must have felt a “sustained fear,” meaning he/she
had an actual fear for their safety for more than just a fleeting moment.
The victim’s fear was reasonable under the circumstances. This means that any reasonable person in the same situation as the alleged
victim would have believed the threat and taken the matter with utmost
If the defendant’s actions failed to meet all of the elements of
the crime, he/she cannot be convicted.
If you have been charged with making criminal threats in Ventura County,
contact The Law Offices of Jarrod M. Wilfert today.