Terrorism Threat Defense Attorneys in Los Angeles
Most people think of “terrorist threats” as threatening to unleash a toxic substance in a public place, calling in a bomb threat, or similar actions. However, under California Penal Code Section 422, the term has a much broader meaning. The statute defines terrorist or criminal threats as willfully threatening to commit a crime that will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent of intimidating, frightening, or causing public panic. If this occurs, a criminal threat has been committed, even if there was no intention of actually carrying out the threatened actions.
Under the statute, criminal threats can be verbal, in writing, or via an electronic communication device, such as a cell phone or a computer. A threat made by any means qualifies as a criminal threat if the statement “…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….”
Under California’s broader statutory definition, a terrorist or criminal threat could be made against a single individual known to the person making the threat, or against an organization, ethnic, or other group. Examples of criminal threats under state law include:
- Calling in a bomb threat to a school or post office
- Stalking and leaving threatening phone messages for an ex-lover
- Threatening to hurt an ex-spouse’s new significant other
- Sending a threatening e-mail to an abortion clinic or a church
- Terrorizing neighbors based on race, nationality, or sexual preference
- Terrorizing a family for political or religious reasons
- Threatening to kill someone in public or in private
Terrorist threats are taken seriously under state law. To achieve a conviction for the terrorism charge, the prosecution must show that the alleged threat meets the following conditions:
- The defendant willfully threatened to kill or unlawfully inflict great bodily harm on another person.
- The defendant made this threat with the specific intent that it be taken as a threat.
- The threat made was so unequivocal (leaving no doubt), unconditional, immediate, and specific that it conveyed a gravity of purpose and the immediate prospect of execution.
- The threat caused sustained fear (fear lasting for a period of time beyond momentary, fleeting, or transitory) in the person who received it.
- The sustained fear experienced by the person who received the threat was reasonable.
The crime of criminal threat can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the seriousness of the threat, and the discretion of the prosecutor. The severity of penalties will vary accordingly.
- Misdemeanor criminal threat: The court may impose probation, with or without jail time, fines, community service, physical labor, counseling, restitution, and orders to stay away from the victim.
- Felony criminal threat: When a threat is charged as a felony, it can carry penalties of up to three years in state prison. A conviction also counts as a strike under the state’s Three Strikes Law, under which defendants face life in prison for a third felony conviction.
A conviction can have serious, lifelong consequences. Our experienced Los Angeles violent crime defense attorneys can provide aggressive advocacy for you. We will immediately challenge the charges, conduct an extensive investigation, interview law enforcement and witnesses, and present evidence against the individuals making the accusation. We will raise every applicable defense, including insufficient evidence, mistaken identity, and your basic right to freedom of speech. Call Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460 for effective and dedicated representation.
Recent Case Results
- Complete Dismissal of Molestation Charges
Attorney Mark Werksman’s 29 year old client was falsely accused of molesting two neighborhood children and was subsequently charged with felony child molestation, with a significant prison sentence hanging over his head should he be convicted. Instead, at the preliminary hearing Werksman was able to convince the court to grant his client a complete dismissal of any charges.
- Decision Set Aside
Client, a college student in a faulty Title IX case, was awarded $130,000 in attorney fees.
- Probation with No Jail Time for Drug Money Laundering Charge
Wilmington man accused in New York federal court of laundering drug money through the sale of laptop computers. Mark was able to get the case transferred to federal court in Los Angeles, where he convinced the United States Attorney to reduce the charges. His client was sentenced to probation with no jail time on a misdemeanor conviction.