Credible Criminal Threat

Credible Criminal Threat

Credible Criminal Threat

California Penal Code § 422


If you or someone you love is being investigated for, arrested for, or has been charged with violating Penal Code § 422 (Credible Criminal Threat) time is not on your side.  Every second that passes is vital.  Likely, the Prosecutor’s Office has already engaged their professional team to begin building their case against you.  And, depending on when you’re reading this, they could be working against you as you’re reviewing this information. We strongly recommend that you contact an attorney immediately after learning about these charges, to help you build a strong, successful defense.



Credible Criminal Threat involves willfully threatening to commit a crime that would result in the death or great bodily injury to someone else with the intent of causing someone to reasonably fear for their or their immediate family’s safety.


In the State of California, Credible Criminal Threat is governed by California Penal Code § 422, which states:


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.

California Penal Code §422


The Elements

In law, every charge carries with it a set of “elements” that the Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.  All of the elements must be proven in order to convict someone of a given crime.


The five elements to Credible Criminal Threat in California are:


  1. The accused made a threat. This can be verbal, using an electronic device, or written.
  2. The threat involved the death or great bodily injury of the recipient.
  3. The threat was made willingly.
  4. You intended for the threat to be taken as a threat.
  5. The other person was reasonably afraid for themselves or their immediate family as a result of the threat.


Our office is experienced at finding which elements the prosecution cannot meet, or which elements are weak points in the prosecution’s case against you and may keep the prosecution from being able to prove you guilty of Credible Criminal Threat under California Penal Code §422.


Possible Penalties

California considers Credible Criminal Threat to be a “wobbler:” a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the severity and the opinions of the judge. As you can imagine, the more serious the charge, the more serious the penalties you could face.


For misdemeanors, the maximum penalty is one (1) year in county jail.


For felonies, the judge may sentence you to two (2), three (3), or four (4) years in state prison. In addition, felonies under this provision qualify as a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law.


In either case, the court will almost certainly impose a protective order barring you from speaking or interacting with the victim.



The sooner you call our office the sooner we can hear the truth about what took place.  Depending on the facts of the situation, and whether you’ve called our office soon enough, we may be able to take the facts you share with us and meet with the District Attorney to keep charges from being formally filed against you.

If charges have already been filed against you, our office is experienced at going through all of the evidence line-by-line to find discrepancies and discover all possible defenses for your case.  As with all criminal cases, most defenses target at least one of the elements stated above.  Examples of defenses in a Credible Criminal Threat case that we may be able to find in your favor include (but are not limited to):


  • AMBIGUOUS: What you said was vague or not specific enough (i.e. “Watch your back!”).
  • HEARSAY: The only evidence is the victim’s testimony (“He said, she said”).
  • LACKED INTENT: You did not mean (intend) for the statement to be taken as a threat.
  • WRONGLY ACCUSED: You were wrongly accused.


Each case unique and may be better suited to one particular defense over another. Always speak to an attorney about all of your options when deciding the defense that may be best for you.  Call the Law Office of James Hassey at 619-745-5555 for your FREE consultation.