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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27425
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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my son is 15 years old can they attach a felony to him at this

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my son is 15 years old can they attach a felony to him at this age? he has no criminal record and this is his first offense. He did a terrorist threat to his teacher, he didn't realize the seriousness of what he was doing(not to make excuses for him) just being stupid and dum. Please help he goes to trial next week.

Hello Jacustomer,

Criminal Threat in California comes under 422 PC. I'm linking you to the statute here. Unfortunately, your son does not have to be in a position to act on the threat in order to be charged with or even possibly convicted of this crime. It is enough that he made a specific unequivocal threat to kill or harm with the intent to cause fear in the person for whom the threat was intended, and that it did cause that fear. The fact that he did not realize that what he said was a crime is, unfortunately, not a defense to the charge.

The statute is what California calls a "wobbler." Depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case, the DA can prosecute this matter as a misdemeanor or a felony. A felony conviction on this charge, even for a juvenile, would count as a strike for purposes of California's three strike rule.

All of this said, it is not possible for me to be able to tell precisely how his matter is going to be addressed. These crimes, particularly in the wake of the most recent school shootings, are taken seriously, but that does not mean that his particular offense warrants a felony. If his threat was on the vague side, if it was unreasonable for any person to be in fear having heard it, if it arguably wasn't a real threat at all, if there was only a gesture and the threat all in the mind of the beholder, any of these would all be potential defenses and make the case more likely to be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

If this matter has just happened, the case is nowhere near ready for trial and depending upon the facts there could even be a favorable disposition.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

We are going to trial on Wednesday next week, can you give me advice or tell me how I should proceed with this. I don't want him to have a felony on his record at such a young age although he needs to be disciplined for his actions. He has been in Juvy since the incident 12-13-12.

Hello JC,

You need to talk to your son's lawyer, but I can tell you that if this case is only 3 weeks old, it is unlikely that the case is actually on the calendar for trial. Although every criminal defendant has a right to a trial, the overwhelming number of cases never get that far because a plea agreement is worked out between the DA and the defense attorney.

Has your son been brought before the judge yet and arraigned on the charges? Has the defense attorney received discovery material? Has the state made him an offer to dispose of this matter without a trial? Has it been determined that the DA wants to proceed with this as a felony. Has your son's lawyer had the opportunity to negotiate a reduction to a misemeanor, and has that been denied him? If the answer to that last question is no, then the lawyer needs to see if he can avoid both a felony charge and a felony trial by advocating for a misdemeanor.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes to all question, last week the DA's boss was not there so the plea for a reduction to a misdemeanor w/ 6 month probation was denied TRIAL IS SET FOR WEDNESDAY. Compton courts do things rapidly. This is the 4th appearance.


Thanks for the clarification.

If the only reason that the negotiation for the misdemenor failed was that the DA supervisor was out and could not approve it, your son still has a chance to resolve this with a misdemeanor and probation. The DA did not deny it outright. My guess is there will be an offer on the court date.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Is there anything that I can do meaning can I speak to the judge or the DA's boss before Wednesday? What rights do I have and my son, mind you I'm not trying to excuse his behavior I just want to make sure he doesn't get railroaded.


Neither the judge nor a DA is likely to talk to you about this case. They are prosecuting him and it would not be proper. In my experience, they will politely tell you to talk to your son's lawyer. Besides, you would do your son no favors by making any kinds of statements to the "enemy" that they can investigate and use against your son if there is a trial on Wednesday.

You have said that he has a public defender. He or she will be able to tell you if a trial is likely to start on Wednesday and/or if he/she believes there will be a favorable deal offered before the trial. He may also give you a realistic idea of your son's chances should it come to a trial.

If your jurisdiction would allow you to see your son before his trial, the public defender would know how you could arrange for that.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes he has a PD she has been unreachable, I only get a chance to see her and talk with her on court days. She has been unsure as to what is going to happen, this is his first offense but d/t the school incidences and all I feel the judge is going to use him as an example, I just want to make sure that isn't going to happen. I have been seeing my son on his visiting days. I just don't know what to do????


I know you are concerned, but the judge does not have to saddle your son with a felony conviction in order to set an example. He is already in juvenile detention, and I"m sure he's already gotten the message about how inappropriate his actions were.

I can't be very reassuring unfortunately. I have not seen the court papers here or talked to your son and hte prosecutor. But if you had any reason to expect the worst case scenario for sure, your son's PD would have told you that. Instead, the door still seems open to negotiation, and that generally means all is not yet a done deal.

Most public defenders are not in private practice but work for defender organizations. that means they have supervisors. Call the PD's office and ask to speak to her supervisor. Let him or her know how concerned you are because you don't know what will happen and you are fearful for your son. Demand that the PD call you and address your concerns. At this point, with the case on the calendar on Wednesday, it's all you can do.

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