Multiple Threats During A Single Incident Is Only One Crime

The defendant in this case was accused of making multiple criminal threats against the victim during one tirade.  At trial the jury convicted the defendant of more than one crime.  The appeals court reversed, here are the facts: During a 15 minute exchange with Rosales, Wilson twice threatened to kill Rosales and his family. Among other offenses, the prosecution charged Wilson with two counts of making criminal threats (Pen. Code 422): one for making Rosales fear for his family’s safety and the second for making Rosales fear for his own safety. The jury convicted Wilson of both counts.

He appealed his criminal convictions and the court agreed holding To convict a defendant of making criminal threats, the prosecution must prove that the defendant’s threats caused the victim “reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety . . . .” (Pen. Code, § 422, subd. (a).) After examining the statutory language, the appellate court concluded that “section 422 prohibits multiple convictions based on multiple threats toward a single victim during a single encounter.” The requirement that the victim be in “sustained fear” occurs over a period of time that is more than momentary or fleeting. As a result, multiple threatening communications to a single victim during a brief, uninterrupted encountered will not support multiple section 422 convictions. Additionally, there is no indication that the Legislature intended to create two separate crimes when, during a single encounter, a victim fears for both his own safety and his immediate family’s safety. Instead, the Legislature simply identified “different circumstances in which the single crime defined by the statute can be committed.” Court reversed. .(CCAP)


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