August 3, 2016 By Paul Wallin

Can You Be Charged with Criminal Threats for Online Activity? (PC 422)

The internet has made it easier than ever to interact with people across the world. Social media channels allow friends and strangers to exchange opinions about current events and shared interests. It’s also likely that someone may have said or done something online that made you angry. Your first instinct may have been to type out a threatening response.

This may have seemed like a harmless way to vent your anger since that person was nowhere nearby, but this online action could result in you being charged with making a criminal threat.

The Crime of Making Criminal Threats Online

Under California Penal Code Section 422, if you communicate a threat to another person that would result in them suffering great bodily injury or death, you could be charged with a crime for making a criminal threat. This includes electronic communication such as emails, blog posts, chat rooms and social media comments, not just in person.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are some of the most popular social media websites. People have the ability to use these sites to produce any kind of content, whether it is friendly or hateful. Commenting on someone’s Facebook post and saying you intend to kill that person is just as easy as saying you agree with them. So when does an online comment become a criminal threat?

When a Threat Becomes Criminal

For your threat to be considered a “criminal threat,” a prosecutor must prove that:

  • What you said online was meant to be interpreted as a threat
  • There was no doubt you meant to cause the immediate possibility of harm or death to the other person, and
  • The threat caused the other person to fear for their immediate safety or their family’s safety

For example, fears of school shootings have led authorities to arrest students for making threats of bringing guns to school and killing staff. Sweeping, threatening statements like that are likely to be considered criminal threats because they can instill fear in a large number of people.

Making a threatening post about a former employer after you were fired could raise more attention than telling a stranger you’re going to punch them. The more serious a threat feels to the person being threatened, the quicker that person may be to call the police.

Making a criminal threat can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of your case. A felony conviction carries a punishment of up to three years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines. That is why you need the help of an experienced attorney if you are facing criminal threat charges in California.

Call the Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today

If you are facing criminal threat charges in California, it is important to have a skilled criminal defense attorney fighting by your side. At Wallin & Klarich our defense attorneys have over 40 years of experience serving our clients and providing them with the best representation possible. Let us help you now.

With offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Ventura, Victorville and West Covina, you can find a dedicated Wallin & Klarich attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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