If you make criminal threats to someone in California, there is a good chance that you will face criminal charges. But what if those threats were made behind a computer screen on social media? Can you face criminal charges for threats on Facebook? The answer is yes.
Making Criminal Threats (PC 422)
Under California Penal Code Section 422, it is a crime to willfully communicate a threat to another person that would result in great bodily injury or death. In order to convict you of making criminal threats, the prosecution must prove the following:
- You willfully threatened another person with the intent of seriously injuring or killing that person,
- The threat was made verbally, in writing, or through electronic communication,
- You meant for your statement to be understood as a threat, regardless if you were able to or intended to carry the threat out,
- On its face and under the circumstances, the threat must have been unambiguous and there was no doubt you intended to carry out the threat, AND
- The person you threatened reasonably feared for his or her own safety or the safety of his or her immediate family
Making criminal threats is a wobbler offense under PC 422, meaning it could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony based on the severity of the crime and your criminal record. A misdemeanor conviction carries up to 364 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, while a felony conviction is punishable by up to three years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Can a Facebook Comment Be Considered a Criminal Threat?
You will notice that one of the elements of this crime is that a threat was made “verbally, in writing, or through electronic communication.” California lawmakers specifically added the “electronic communication” language to this penal code in recent years to apply the law to social media posts and text messages.
This means that the communication does not have to be done verbally or in person. It can be done through “electronic” methods, including texts, emails, blog posts and social media.
Arrests of people due to their social media posts have already occurred since the law was updated. Earlier this year, a student at Chino High School was taken into custody after he threatened on Twitter to “recreate Columbine,” a reference to a well-known mass school shooting. The tweets were considered serious criminal threats because they caused students and faculty members immediately feared for their safety.
Contact Wallin & Klarich If You are Charged with Making Criminal Threats
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges for making threats online, it’s important to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney right away. At Wallin & Klarich, our criminal defense attorneys have over 35 years of experience successfully defending our clients against criminal threat convictions. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Los Angeles, West Covina, Torrance and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Call us now at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.