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  • former deputy public defender

    As a former Deputy Public Defender in Riverside County, Mr. Donath has always been on the defense side of the law. 

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    Top 100 Trial Attorneys in California 2012-2014, 2008 Trial Attorney of the Year by the Riverside County Public Defender's Office, and dozens of other awards and accolades.

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Riverside Criminal Threats Attorney

Why You Need A Riverside Criminal Threat Defense Lawyer

Regardless of your intent to follow through with a threat, making a threat to injure or kill another person or group of people is illegal in the state of California. Posting it on a Facebook page, sending it in the mail, or saying it to someone in person are all criminal acts. A murder defense attorney would have to prove that verbal or written communication was not intended as a threat to harm another and that the individual feared for his or her safety, otherwise you could face a misdemeanor or a felony charge.

Those convicted of a criminal threat charge could face a strike under California’s three strikes rule as well as prison time without ever causing any physical harm. To illustrate the seriousness of such intimidations, here are some examples of what might be construed as a criminal threat:

  • Telling your son’s or daughter’s significant other that you will kill him or her if you ever see him or her again.
  • Sending a bomb threat message to a school.
  • Verbally threatening to kill someone in traffic with or without the presence of a firearm.
  • Sharing your plot to commit murder with someone.

If you said something off the cuff, however, and it was not intended as a threat, you may not be held liable for that statement as an immediate or dangerous threat. What makes these cases so complex is the potential for ambiguity. Intent, understanding, words, and timing all play a role in whether a comment or action is, in fact, a criminal threat.

Riverside Criminal Threats Attorney

Defenses to Criminal Threats Charges

A criminal threats charge is serious. It could count as a “strike” under the California Three Strikes Law – potentially resulting in jail time. Due to the subjective nature of this crime, it is an unfortunate fact that many innocent people face charges for this offense. It is our mission as dedicated defense attorneys to prove our clients’ innocence, or at least reduce the penalties for a guilty verdict with strong, strategic defense plans. The following are a few possible defenses to a criminal threats charge in Riverside:

  • Freedom of speech. One of the elements that makes a criminal threat charge difficult to convict is that the crime has only to do with speech. The U.S. Constitution protects every citizen’s right to free speech. You may be able to prove that the alleged “threat” was more just venting frustration or anger, without meaning to threaten the victim. Since you have the right to express your anger, you may escape conviction.
  • The threat was a joke, or wasn’t serious. Another common defense strategy is that while you did say the alleged threat, you did so in jest. In other words, it was a joke or just you “blowing off steam,” and you never intended to actually carry through with the threat. If the prosecution can’t prove your intention to commit the act threatened, you did not make a “criminal threat.”
  • The threat was too vague or conditional. If the alleged threat is something like “You’ll be sorry,” the prosecution will have a hard time proving that it was a criminal threat. Since you never threatened to take specific criminal action, such as assault or homicide, the odds are high that the prosecutor won’t be able to prove that what you said rises to the level of a criminal threat. A conditional threat (e.g., “If you take my kids away, I’ll kill you.”) can also fall outside the level of a crime, since it does not put the other person at direct criminal risk.
  • You never made the threat. This general defense challenges the prosecution to prove you ever threatened the plaintiff to begin with. It is the prosecutor’s burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Using the defense that you never made the threat could be enough if the prosecution doesn’t have evidence that you did. This is a common strategy if the alleged threat was verbal, unwritten, and had no witnesses.
  • The electronic evidence isn’t authentic. Nowadays many criminal threat charges deal with electronic evidence, such as a Facebook message, group chat, or text. It can be difficult for prosecutors to authenticate electronic messages in court, or to show that the defendant was in fact the person who transmitted the message. The inability to authenticate the threat would make it impermissible in court.
  • The victim was not in fear for his or her safety. For the courts to convict someone of criminal threats, the prosecution must show that you made the threat and that the threat put the alleged victim in genuine fear of imminent harm to him/herself or to family members or pets. It is a good defense if you can show that the victim was never really in fear, even if he/she was angry or upset.

The odds may be on your side in a criminal threats charge, as these cases are notoriously difficult for the prosecutor to prove. However, the best way to optimize your odds of a successful defense is by hiring the right attorney. Our Riverside defense attorneys have years of experience representing criminal threat defendants. We can strategize the best possible defense for your specific case, giving you the highest odds of exoneration. Contact us today to discuss your defense options.

At the Law Offices of Graham Donath, APC, our criminal threats attorneys in Riverside start every criminal threat case by sitting down with our clients and gaining a clear understanding of the events that transpired. We examine any record of the interaction as well as circumstantial evidence that may affect the outcome of the case. Often, our criminal threats lawyers discover the perceived threat was:

  • A benign statement said in sarcasm or off the cuff that is vague and could not reasonably result in fear of harm or death.
  • Unrecorded in any medium, and therefore completely unsubstantiated.
  • Protected by the first amendment.

It is also possible that the threat never occurred or was never was intended to be viewed as a threat. For a criminal threat claim to hold up in court, the prosecution has to prove that the fear caused by the aggressor was apparent, reasonable, and lasted for a significant amount of time. Telling someone to watch his or her back is not a criminal threat unless there is sufficient context to prove otherwise. The plausibility of a threat is also taken into consideration. For instance, if someone threatens a drone strike on another’s home, that claim is likely non-actionable.


Finding a Criminal Threats Attorney in Riverside

A criminal threat charge is not a light matter defendant can shrug off. The charge comes with a real threat of jail or prison time and significant fines. While they are difficult for the prosecution to prove, many threat cases involve written or recorded interactions that can be difficult to evaluate in the proper context. Without an experienced criminal threats attorney, an unfounded criminal threat case may result in harsh penalties.

Our Riverside criminal threats lawyers at the Law Offices of Graham Donath, APC, may be able to have the charges against you dropped or reduced successfully. There are a number of defense strategies we can use to keep you from facing sentencing for a crime that never existed. Let us help you protect your life and future from unsubstantiated claims of criminal threat. Get started by calling our Riverside criminal threats attorneys any time for more information.