Making a terrorist threat, sometimes known as making a criminal threat is both a federal and state crime. It is a very serious offense with serious penalties. Though state and federal laws on terrorist threats differ widely, they include several common elements.

First, a threat must be made. A person generally makes a terrorist threat verbally or in writing, but this in not a requirement; it does not have to be explicit nor expressed in writing or verbally. The threat must also specifically threaten death, serious injury, or serious property damage. It doesn’t matter if the person making the threat fails to specify a method, place of attack, or timing of the attack. However, it must be reasonable in order to qualify as a terrorist threat. A reasonable person must be able to conclude that the threat is plausible. Lastly, the threat generally has to cause someone to experience fear or terror. In some states, making someone feel afraid may constitute as fear or terror.

Defendants convicted of making terrorist threats face a range of possible penalties. In California, making a criminal threat may result in a misdemeanor charge, felony charge or both, depending on the nature of the circumstances.

CA PENAL CODE SECTION 422 (a) defines criminal threat as:

“Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, 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, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.”

If you are charged with a misdemeanor and convicted for making a terrorist threat in California, you may be required to serve up to one year in county jail, pay fines and restitution, and complete a probation period. If you are charged with a felony for making a terrorist threat, you may be mandated to serve at least one year in prison or more, pay fines ranging anywhere between $200 to $250,000, pay restitution to the victim(s), and complete a probation period.

It is very important for the person charged with this crime to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as early as possible about their case. An experienced criminal defense attorney understands the complexities of the laws that govern criminal and terrorist threats and can help you pursue the best possible result in your case. Call our office now and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. We can help. The initial consultation is free.