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San Bernardino & Riverside County

Criminal Threats (PC 422(A))
Law, Punishment & Defenses



We are Dorado & Dorado, APLC, a dedicated team of experienced private criminal defense lawyers, including winning trial lawyers, who have successfully handled hundreds of misdemeanor and felony criminal threats cases in all San Bernardino and Riverside County criminal courts.


We aggressively defend against allegations of criminal threats (PC 422(a)), and all crimes commonly charged alongside criminal threats charges, such as assault with a deadly weapon, stalking, battery, brandishing a firearm, vandalism, domestic battery, inflict corporal injury to spouse, robbery, destroying evidence, elder abuse, hate crimes, looting, rioting, weapons possession, witness intimidation, violation of probation, and more.

We fight for your rights and freedoms; we are five-star rated criminal defense attorneys and our success rate is second to none. Call for a free consultation.


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More info on criminal threats (PC 422(a))...

PC 422(a) Law

The law on the crime of Criminal Threats, formerly known as terroristic threats, is found at California Penal Code Section 422(a).


PC 422(a) reads as follows: 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, is guilty of the crime of criminal threats (PC 422(a) Abbreviated).

Note: “Immediate family” means any spouse, whether by marriage or not, parent, child, any person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree, or any other person who regularly resides in the household, or who, within the prior six months, regularly resided in the household (PC 422(b)).

Note: “Electronic communication device” includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cellular telephones, computers, video recorders, fax machines, or pagers (PC 422(c) Abbreviated).

In short, criminal threats means to threaten another person, or another person's immediate family member, with immediate and serious bodily harm, or death.


Keep in mind that the threat itself does not have to be communicated verbally (PC 422(c), and the person threatening another person does not have to intend to actually carry out the communicated threat, in order for the crime to be completed (PC 422(a)).

Elements: Per California law, to be found guilty of criminal threats under PC 422(a), the District Attorney must prove that the Defendant did all of the following:

  • Willfully made a statement that threatened to kill or cause great bodily injury to another person (victim), and

  • Communicated the statement to the victim while intending that the statement be understood by the victim as a threat, and

  • The statement was clear, unconditional, and specific, and

  • The defendant intended that the threat was to be carried out immediately, and

  • The defendant had the apparent ability to carry out the threat immediately, and

  • The threatening statement actually caused the victim to be in reasonable fear for his or her own safety or the safety of his immediate family (CalCrim 1300).

Note: PC 422(a) does not require that a weapon be used or displayed in conjunction with the criminal threat; however, when a weapon is displayed or "brandished" in conjunction with a criminal threat, then the defendant will likely also be charged with a brandishing a weapon crime (PC 417).

Pictures as Criminal Threats: In some situations, a defendant might be charged with PC 422(a) where the defendant communicates a threat by way of a picture (without words). For example, if the defendant shows the victim a picture of a decapitated person, and the showing of the decapitated person to the victim is made by the defendant in a manner that is reasonably interpreted as an imminent threat of physical harm towards the victim or his family, then the defendant could be charged with criminal threats. 

PC 422(a) Sentence & Punishment

Criminal Threats is considered a wobbler in California. A wobbler is a crime that may be charge either as a misdemeanor, or alternatively as a felony.

Note: Both misdemeanor and felony criminal threats charges are filed under PC 422(a). For purposes of distinction in San Bernardino County, felony criminal threats appears as PC422(a)-F in charging documents, and misdemeanor criminal threats appears as PC422(a)-M.

Felony PC 422(a) Prison Sentence: When PC 422 is charged as a felony, and the defendant is not granted a probation sentence (see below), then the defendant may face up to three years in California state prison.


Misdemeanor PC 422(a) Jail Sentence: When PC 422(a) is charged as a misdemeanor, and the defendant is not granted a probation sentence (see below), then the defendant may face up to one year in a county jail.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is period of supervision, in lieu of a long jail sentence. A probation sentence, with or without some limited jail time (see below), is allowed in both misdemeanor and felony PC 422(a) cases. However, a probation sentence is not guaranteed.


Whether or not a person will be granted a probation sentence after a conviction for criminal threats depends largely on the facts of the case, the defendant's criminal history, the harm caused to any alleged victim, the sophistication of the offense alleged, the disposition of any plea bargain agreement between the district attorney and the defendant's attorney, and more.

Felony Probation: If the defendant is granted probation sentence after a felony conviction of criminal threats (PC422(a)-F), then the defendant will be placed on formal probation. Formal probation carries terms of probation that must be followed in order for the defendant to remain on probation. The terms for PC 422(a) convictions will usually include criminal protective orders in favor of the victim, payment of fines and fees, the payment of restitution to victim, the refraining of further criminal acts while on probation (new misdemeanor or felony charges), and more. Additionally, felony probation for PC 422(a) convictions is supervised by a probation officer. Failure to obey the terms of probation could lead to a violation of probation and possible incarceration.

Misdemeanor Probation: If the defendant is granted a probation sentence after a misdemeanor conviction of criminal threats (PC422(a)-M), then the defendant will placed on informal probation (also called misdemeanor probation, court probation, and summary probation).


Usually, when a defendant is sentenced to jail as part of a PC 422(a) conviction, that jail sentence may be served alternatively on work release or house arrest (electronic monitoring).

PC 1170(h) Sentence: If the defendant is sentenced to prison on a felony criminal threats charge, as opposed to being granted probation, then he or she will serve his sentence in a state prison, as opposed to a local county jail, and no part of that prison sentence may be split or suspended (sometimes called joint suspension).

Three Strikes Law: Felony Criminal Threats is considered a "strike crimes" under California Three Strikes Law. However, misdemeanor criminal threats is not considered a strike.

CIMT: The crime of criminal threats is considered a crime involving moral turpitude. This means that if the defendant is convicted of criminal threats, either as a felony or as a misdemeanor, he or she may have problem with his or her immigration status (deportation or denial of entry into the United States),or professional licensing status (doctor, dentist, therapist, teacher, etc.).

Note: PC 422(a) is a fifty percent crime. This means that if the defendant is sentenced to jail or prison the defendant is entitled to two days of jail or prison credit for every one day actually served.

In addition to the punishment listed above, if convicted of PC 422(a), the defendant could suffer and of the following penalties: criminal protective orders, restitution, fines and fees, enhanced penalties for subsequent crimes, denial or entry into the armed forces, civil lawsuits, and more.

Defense to PC 422(a)

Defenses to Criminal threats include: A violation of the statute of limitations (3 years), Insufficient evidence to prove any element of the crime improper police procedure, illegal evidence, coerced confessions, insanity, use of illegal recordings to gain evidence (PC 632 violations), and more.

Conditional Threats

Ambiguous Threats

No Immediate Harm Threatened

No Close Relationship

Financial Harm

Plea Bargain PC 17b

Attempted Criminal Threats

Note: In some cases of felony criminal threats charges it may be possible to have the judge reduce the charges to a misdemeanor, even if the District Attorney objects to the judge's re-classification.

Note: The fact that the Defendant would not have been able to carry out the specific threat that was made to the victim is not a defense to a criminal threats.

If you have been charged with criminal threats, or PC 422(a) (formally terroristic threats), contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys dedicate 100% of their practice to criminal defense and initial consultations are provided at no cost to the accused. Call today!


Related Crimes

  • Attempted Criminal Threats PC 664/422

  • Assault w/Deadly Weapon PC 245

Quick Reference​ Sheet

Crime: Criminal Threats

Code: PC 422(a) (CalCrim No. 1300)

Wobbler: Yes: PC 422(a) is a wobbler crime. This means that PC 422(a) may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.

Incarceration:Felony PC 422(a) prison sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years (if probation not granted). Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.

Probation: Yes: Probation is allowed in PC 422(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

PC 1170(h)): No: PC 422(a) is not subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any incarceration ordered after a felony conviction, that is not part of a probation sentence, must be served in state prison (as opposed to a county jail), and the prison sentence may not be split or suspended.

Strike: Yes: PC 422(a) is a strike offense per California's Three Strikes law because this crime is a Serious offense (PC 1192.7). Strike offenses are subject to reduced good time credits upon subsequent criminal convictions.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: Yes: PC 422(a) is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility


Firearms: Felony PC 422(a) convictions prohibit defendant from owning or possessing firearms. Misdemeanor convictions prohibit the defendant from owning or possessing a firearm for 10 years. 

Bail: $50,000 (Felony); $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino)

Note: More penalties, direct or indirect, may apply. This info is created for that purpose only; accuracy not guaranteed. No attorney/client relationship is formed by use of this info. If arrested or charged with a crime contact a criminal defense lawyer without delay. 

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