Criminal Defense in Ventura County
Elements of a Criminal Threat

Elements of a Criminal Threat

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 seriousness.

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.