The 5 Elements Of A Criminal Threat

The 5 Elements Of A Criminal Threat

by Dec 10, 2019

As an adult, if you make threats of physical violence to another adult or minor, you can be charged with a crime. While that may seem unfair because people often make threats when they are angry or upset, the law requires that certain elements be present in your threats before you can be charged. If you are accused of making a criminal threat, the charges can be brought against you as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Elements Of A Criminal Threat

Five elements need to be present in any threat of violence you make against another person to be charged with a crime:

  1. You willfully threatened another person with the intent of seriously injuring or killing that person
  2. The threat was made verbally, in writing or through electronic communication
  3. You meant for your statement to be understood as a threat, regardless of if you were able to or intended to carry the threat out
  4. You had the present ability to carry out the threat
  5. A reasonable person would have feared for his or her own safety or the safety of his or her immediate family if you made the threat to him or her

For example, let’s you go to a bar, get drunk, and have an altercation with another customer during which you threaten to “kick their ass.” Depending on how intimidated the other person feels, they may consider your threat rude, but ultimately harmless.

If, however, you make the same threat while brandishing a weapon (knife, gun, bottle, etc.), it could be considered a criminal threat and get you arrested. That scenario would likely meet all the criteria listed above and could potentially result in a conviction.

Ready To Speak To An Attorney?

Call us now at (707) 540-2356

Misdemeanor vs Felony Criminal Threat Charges

Criminal threat is a wobbler crime, which means it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. It will be up to the prosecutor to decide which type of charges to bring. The specific circumstances of your case and any prior criminal history you have will all be factors in determining the severity of the charges brought against you.

If you are convicted of misdemeanor criminal threat, the punishment is a sentence of up to a year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. A felony criminal threat conviction is punishable by up to three years in state prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Defending Yourself Against Criminal Threat Charges

If you have been accused of making a criminal threat against someone else, you should immediately speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Even if you feel that the accusations are completely ridiculous and that whatever you said and/or did was taken completely out of context, you should still retain a lawyer.

Never assume that you can get the charges dropped by “explaining the situation” to the police. Even worse, do not try and contact the person or people accusing you of making a criminal threat to try and talk them out of it or somehow “defuse” the situation. It’s very likely you’ll only make the whole situation worse, and you may accidentally provide additional information or evidence that the police can use against you.

For a free consultation about your case, please contact our office today.


At Quinnan Law, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 540-2356.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

9 + 13 =