You violate Penal Code 422 PC California's criminal threats law anytime you threaten to kill or physically harm another person when (1) your threat is specific and unequivocal, (2) you communicate that threat to the intended recipient verbally, in writing, via an electronic device or through a third person, and (3) the intended recipient reasonably fears your threat.
And because domestic violence often involves highly-charged, emotional outbursts, people who are involved in domestic disputes are frequently charged not only with acts of violence but with violating Penal Code 422 PC California's criminal threats law as well.
In the heat of the moment, couples (or better yet, ex-couples) will threaten things they don't mean. Unfortunately, that doesn't matter when it comes to criminal threats. It's the alleged victim's reaction that controls this crime…not your intent. Even if you have no intention of carrying out your threat, you could still be convicted of this offense if the alleged victim reasonably fears that you can and will execute the threat. This also means that someone can falsely accuse you of making criminal threats…a very serious charge…with absolutely no proof.
So as difficult as it may be, if you know that you tend to have a temper with your significant other…or ex-significant other…be mindful of your words. They can get you in every bit as much…and oftentimes more…trouble than even using physical force. (Read our article about California domestic violence plea bargains.)