California Penal Code § 71 PC makes it a crime to threaten to inflict bodily injury or property damage upon public officers, public employees, or school officials or employees. Violating PC 71 can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor carrying incarceration and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
71. (a) Every person who, with intent to cause, attempts to cause, or causes, any officer or employee of any public or private educational institution or any public officer or employee to do, or refrain from doing, any act in the performance of his duties, by means of a threat, directly communicated to such person, to inflict an unlawful injury upon any person or property, and it reasonably appears to the recipient of the threat that such threat could be carried out, is guilty of a public offense punishable as follows:
(1) Upon a first conviction, such person is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
(2) If the person has been previously convicted of a violation of this section, such previous conviction shall be charged in the accusatory pleading, and if that previous conviction is found to be true by the jury, upon a jury trial, or by the court, upon a court trial, or is admitted by the defendant, he or she is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.
(b) As used in this section, “directly communicated” includes, but is not limited to, a communication to the recipient of the threat by telephone, telegraph, or letter.
California Penal Code 71 PC makes it a criminal offense to threaten school- or public officers or employees if the following five conditions are true:
- The defendant threatens to inflict bodily injury or property damage;
- The threat is made to any public officer or employee or to any officer or employee of a public or private educational institution;
- The threat is directly communicated to the officer or employee (such as by telephone or letter);
- The defendant has the intent to cause, attempts to cause, or causes the officer or employee to do – or refrain from doing – any aspect of their job; and
- The officer or employee reasonably believes that the defendant can carry out the threat.
Example: Mark is angry that his son’s school principal wants to hold his son back a year. Enraged, Mark emails him that he intends to burn his house down for holding back his son. Attached to the email is a photo of lighter fluid.
Here, Mark could probably be convicted of violating PC 71 because he threatened a school employee with arson if the employee holds back his son, and the employee could reasonably believe Mark was able to carry out the threat.
A first-time conviction of threatening school employees is a wobbler. As a misdemeanor, this crime carries:
- up to 1 year in county jail; and/or
- up to $10,000 in fines.
As a felony, violating PC 71 carries a county jail term of:
- 16 months,
- 2 years, or
- 3 years.
Plus, the judge can impose a $10,000 fine.
Note that subsequent convictions are always felonies carrying a county jail term of:
- 16 months,
- 2 years, or
- 3 years.
In addition, the defendant faces a $10,000 fine.1
- California Penal Code 71 PC – Threatening school or public officers or employees. See, for example: People v. Harris (Cal., 2008), 43 Cal. 4th 1269, 78 Cal. Rptr. 3d 295, 185 P.3d 727; In re Marcus T. (Cal. App. 2d Dist. May 24, 2001), 89 Cal. App. 4th 468, 107 Cal. Rptr. 2d 451.
- PC 21310.