Monday, August 01, 2005

People v. Chaney (Cal. Ct. App. - July 21, 2005)

Defendant calls a detective, says some words, and is convicted of making a criminal threat. This crime requires, among other things, that the state prove (1) that the defendant wilfully made a threat to commit a crime that would result in death or great bodily injury, (2) that the threat was unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific, and (3) that the caused the person threatened to be in reasonable sustained fear for the safety of himself or his family.

Maybe my reaction is idiosyncratic. But what happens here, in my view, is that the defendant is threatening to get on the detective's case -- and probably sue him or report him for misconduct -- and that the detective tries mightily and repeatedly to get defendant to actually utter some real threats, but defendant doesn't take the bait. And that, in addition, the detective was never, ever in the requisite genuine fear; rather, he was just looking to get a conviction. So there was never any actual crime.

My reaction, however, isn't the one articulated by the Court of Appeal, which affirms defendant's conviction. So one lesson to be learned is not to make crazy enough to make threatening calls of any nature to the police. It's simply not a good idea. Because not only will the police try to do whatever it takes to put you away, but the judiciary isn't going to be much help to you either.

Read the opinion and see what you think.