During a game last year, Josh Manson of the Anaheim Ducks made a “throat slash” gesture at an opposing player. He was fined by the NHL for this incident. However, was this gesture a real threat directed at his opponent? Is making a throat slashing motion or other hand gesture enough to be considered a criminal threat under California Penal Code Section 422?
According to a recent California Supreme Court decision, the answer is no.
California Does Not Consider Gestures to Be Threats (PC 422)
Recently, the California Supreme Court decided the case of People v. Gonzalez. In the case, Mario Gonzalez was charged with making criminal threats for his act of simulating the firing of a gun. Gonzalez used his thumb and index finger to mock shooting a firearm at an off-duty officer and his companions, who were sitting in a restaurant.
The trial judge dismissed the criminal threats charge against Gonzalez and held that his alleged conduct did not amount to a violation of the criminal threats law. However on appeal, the Court of Appeal sided with the district attorney and reversed the dismissal. The decision was appealed again and the California Supreme Court reversed the ruling. The court found that the gestures do not violate California Penal Code Section 422, which prohibits the making of criminal threats of harm or death.
In its text, the law specifically refers to threats “made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device” and does not refer to nonverbal threats made by use of the hands or facial expressions. The court explained that the law regarding criminal threats has been amended on multiple occasions, and that the legislature could have included language to ban nonverbal threats, but has chosen not to do so.
Punishment for Making Criminal Threats
Making a criminal threat is a serious crime in California. It can be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of your case.
When the offense is charged as a misdemeanor, the punishment is up to 364 days in county jail. When the offense is charged as a felony, the punishment is up to three years in state prison.
Contact the Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are facing charges of criminal threats, you should speak to an experienced attorney who understands PC 422 right away. At Wallin & Klarich, we have over 35 years of experience successfully defending people who have been charged with making criminal threats. We stay on top of the current status of the law so that we can apply every legal defense available to give you the best possible outcome in your case. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal threats attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free, no-obligation phone consultation. We will get through this together.