Criminal Threats Defense Attorney, Matthew Ruff
The crime of criminal threats or Penal Code section 422 has become an increasingly common offense charged in the state of California. The offense started out as "terrorist threats" and still is referred to by that nickname even though the statute no longer uses that terminology. Criminal threats is a felony wobbler meaning that it is capable of being charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor depending upon the severity of the evidence. If charged as a felony the offense is considered a strike crime meaning that a conviction down the road for any other felony will increase the punishment and a third strike will carry a sentence of 25 years to life. This particular offense is most commonly seen in domestic violence cases and circumstances involving gangs and disputes among neighbors.
What constitutes a criminal threat under California law? To answer this question we must look to the statute that governs this crime, Penal Code section 422. This offense, like all other criminal charges, can be broken down into elements that must be proven ion order to find a defendant guilty. For the crime of criminal threats the first is that there be an actual threat to injure or kill another or a family member of the victim, this can be accomplished either directly or through a third party. Second, the threat must be intended to be taken as a threat as opposed to a joke or talking smack. Third, the intended victim must have heard the threat and be in sustained fear for his or her life, not just momentary or fleeting. Lastly, the threat when made must have been unequivocal, immediate and serious as to convey in the intended recipient a gravity of purpose and a real meaning that the threat would be carried out. Under the current state of the law even conditional threats can constitute a crime if the above criteria are met. Further, the issue of the extent of fear for purposes of the "sustained" element is often a fertile area of attack when defending an individual on a criminal threats charge.
One very recent case involved a client charged with Penal Code section 422, criminal threats, in Torrance. The accused was facing a state prison sentence. Matthew exposed the lies in the reports and got all charges dismissed in Court.
In the 20 years that Matthew has been practicing criminal law he has seen many abuses of the criminal threats statutes. He has seen the offense used in divorce cases, in cases where the woman is scorned in a relationship and is seeking revenge and when the people involved are simply "talking smack" and do not intend any harm. Since the charge is one of words it is often charged when the evidence is weak.
Over the last two decades Defense Attorney Matthew Ruff has personally handled hundreds of cases involving criminal threats, both as a felony and misdemeanor. In one recent case Mr. Ruff was able to get a felony charge completely dismissed at a preliminary hearing involving a young man and his ex wife. The client was charged with Penal Code 422 alleging he threatened to kill his recently divorced wife. The lawyer had implored the District Attorneys office to dismiss the case however, as is often the case in these situations, there was a concern about future problems and potential liability should the client actually harm the alleged victim in the future. Given this mindset, Mr. Ruff challenged the evidence at the hearing, effectively cross examining the witness about the threat and the intent of the accused. The Judge agreed with Matthew and threw out the PC422 charge after the hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, LAX airport on April 15, 2009.
If you know someone that is facing charges of criminal threats in any Southern California Court, including Los Angeles and Kern County. Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Matthew Ruff today for a free case review and consultation at 310-527-4100 For cases in Torrance, Long Beach, Inglewood, Gardena, Redondo Beach, Palos Verdes, Lomita, Manhattan Beach.
Follow Matthew on Google