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Even an idle threat can lead to criminal charges in California

Growing up can be a challenge. Between school and day-to-day life, children are constantly bombarded with difficult situations and seemingly impossible choices that require them to weigh the pros and cons in order to reach the best resolution. But making the best choice oftentimes requires considerable knowledge and life experiences, something a child or teenager may not have just yet.

As some of our more frequent readers know, this is a point we've made before in past posts, always focusing on the fact that there are some choices that children make that can lead to criminal charges. Take for example writing a hostile Facebook message on another person's wall or calling in a bomb threat to a school. Though these may seem like innocuous things -- after all, they're only words -- California law sees them very differently, meaning they may lead to criminal charges and legal action.

As is outlined by Section 422 of the California Penal Code, criminal charges may be filed against an individual who "willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person." Even if the person does not intend on following through with the actions made in the threat, the law still considers an aggressive statement to be a harmful act and therefore a crime. If the person to which the threat is directed feels threatened or intimidated by it or suspects that it could be carried out, then criminal charges may be filed against the person making the threat.

This may be a difficult lesson for children and teens to learn, especially if parents are not able to articulate the serious consequences that could arise out of even an idle threat. A child or teen's understanding of freedom of speech can further complicate this lesson, meaning they may not realize they have broken the law until after a criminal charge has been filed.

Because a juvenile may face different penalties than an adult in a situation such as this, it may be necessary to obtain a good lawyer who can help explain how the juvenile criminal justice system will handle the case and what penalties the child or teen could face in the event of a conviction. With a lawyer's help, the best defense can be put forward, oftentimes leading to a better outcome than if no legal representation was sought at all.

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