Communicating Threats in North Carolina

Posted on - Raleigh Criminal Lawyer Advice

A person is guilty of “communicating threats” in North Carolina – Raleigh, Cary, Apex or any other part of Wake County, included – if the person

(1) He willfully threatens to physically injure the person or that person’s child, sibling, spouse, or dependent or willfully threatens to damage the property of another;
(2) The threat is communicated to the other person, orally, in writing, or by any other means;
(3) The threat is made in a manner and under circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to believe that the threat is likely to be carried out; and
(4) The person threatened believes that the threat will be carried out.

See NCGS 14-277.1

Note that the threat must be communicated to the other person, either by communicating it to the person directly, or communicating it through a brother, sister, wife, etc. For instance, if A says to B, “I’m going to punch you in the face,” then A has communicated a threat to B. If A says to B, “Tell C that I’m going to punch him in the face,” then A has communicated a threat to C. Similarly, if A says to B, “I’m going to punch your husband, C, in the face” then A has communicated a threat to C because of the close relationship between B and C.

If the threat is clearly a joke or an exaggeration, then there has not been a crime of communicating threats. Communicating threats can occur if the threat is “conditional.” For instance, if A says to B, “If you come any closer, I’m going to punch you in the face,” then A would have committed an offense, provided A had no legal reason to tell B not to come any closer.

Communicating Threats is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Key cases are:

  • State v. Mortimer, 142 NCApp 321 (2001) (screensaver on high school computer saying “End is Near” not sufficient to constitute a threat)
  • State v. Thompson, 157 NCApp 638 (2003) (defendant who told a third party that he was going to shoot the victim was convicted of communicating a threat to a victim who did not hear threat directly)
  • State v. Evans, 40 NCApp 730 (1979) (a defendant can be convicted of both communicating threats and assault by pointing a gun even though both events arose from the same event; no double jeopardy issue)
  • State v. Roberson, 37 NCApp 714 (1978) (defendant who told victim not to come “any closer” or else defendant would hit victim was found guilty of communicating threats because defendant had no justifiable reason to order victim not to come any closer)
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