Recently, a student was detained after it was discovered he had made written and verbal threats to shoot students at La Mesa Jr. High School in Canyon Country. The investigation began when a written threat to shoot up the school was found scrawled on a bathroom wall. Over the course of the investigation, detectives learned that a student had also made a verbal threat to do the same. Currently, investigators are trying to determine if the student who made the written threat also made the verbal threat.
At press time, no charges have been filed. However, in cases like this where charges are filed, it’s often under PC 422.
Under California Penal Code 422 PC, California’s “Criminal Threats” Law, it is illegal to willfully threaten to commit a crime that will result in great bodily injury or death to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying out the threat.
In order for a threat to qualify for a criminal threats charge, the threat must be made in such a way that the person being threatened believes that the threat is real, and is put into a state of fear because they feel they are in imminent danger.
Some examples of behaviors that may yield a criminal threats charge include, but are not limited to:
Threatening to shoot someone while holding a gun
Texting someone with whom you have an issue (an ex, old boss, one-time friend, etc.) and saying to the person, “Watch your back” (or something similar)
California Penal Code 422 PC is a “wobbler” which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s prior criminal history. Generally, the misdemeanor penalties include up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Felony penalties include up to three years in California state prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Finally, if the defendant makes threats on more than one occasion, or against more than one person, or pursuant to different objectives, the individual may face the above penalties for each threat that was communicated.