Criminal Threat Conviction Based on Statement to a Psychologist
Can You Be Convicted of a Crime Based on Things You Say to Your Psychologist?
In Felix, the defendant was convicted of making a criminal threat based on his statement to a psychologist during a therapy session that if he were to see his former girlfriend with somebody else, he would shoot her. The psychologist called the former girlfriend, and immediately after the call, the former girlfriend expressed fear that the defendant was going to kill her. (Felix, supra, 92 Cal.App.4th at pp. 909, 912-913.)
The Felix court acknowledged the requirement of proving that the defendant intended the threat be conveyed to the victim and concluded from the totality of the circumstances the evidence was insufficient to permit a reasonable inference the defendant intended his threat would instill fear in the victim. (Felix, at p. 913 "there was no such evidence that the defendant knew the psychologist would disclose his statements to the former girlfriend or that he wanted them to be revealed . . . and there is nothing in the record showing that the psychologist told the defendant that he would contact her.".) "Because the prosecution did not adequately prove the factual setting involving the defendant's remarks, it did not show whether his words were the product of therapy, ranting soliloquies, or a crime. (Felix, at p. 915.)
Penal Code section 422 states, in relevant part, "any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, which, on its face and under the circumstances in which it is made, is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family's safety, shall be punished . . . ." "The statute 'was not enacted to punish emotional outbursts, as it targets only those who try to instill fear in others.' (People v. Felix (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 905, 913 (Felix).)
In other words, Penal Code section 422 does not punish such things as 'mere angry utterances or ranting soliloquies, however violent.' (People v. Teal (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 277, 281.)" (In re Ryan D. (2002) 100 Cal.App.4th 854, 861 (Ryan D.).)