Harassing Phone Calls – North Carolina

If you’ve been accused of making Harassing Phone Calls in Cary, Raleigh, or Apex, NC or any other part of the state of North Carolina, here is some information about the charge:

North Carolina makes it a crime for any person:

  1. To use in telephonic communications any words or language of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious or indecent character, nature or connotation;
  • To use in telephonic communications any words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to that person’s child, sibling, spouse, or dependent or physical injury to the property of any person, or for the purpose of extorting money or other things of value from any person;
  • To telephone another repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing or embarrassing any person at the called number;
  • To make a telephone call and fail to hang up or disengage the connection with the intent to disrupt the service of another;
  • To telephone another and to knowingly make any false statement concerning death, injury, illness, disfigurement, indecent conduct or criminal conduct of the person telephoned or of any member of his family or household with the intent to abuse, annoy, threaten, terrify, harass, or embarrass;
  • To knowingly permit any telephone under his control to be used for any purpose prohibited by this section.See NCGS 14-196.Note that the United States Supreme Court has struck down the ban on “indecent” language in the statute as unconstitutional. However, the constitutionality of subsection (3) has been upheld in State v. Camp, 59 NCApp 38 (1982).
    Note also that the victim of harassing phone calls may be an organization. In State v. Camp, 59 NCApp 38 (1982), the victim was a sheriff’s office whom the defendant was calling.
    A victim (or a defendant, seeking to defend himself) may use a recording of the phone call to prove it was or was not harassing. North Carolina is a one-party state, meaning that so long as one party to the call is aware that the phone call is being recorded and the call is being made to another party in North Carolina, the recording is legal. Other states are two-party states, which require that both parties be informed that the call is being recorded. If a caller calls from a one-party state to a two-party state, federal law generally requires both parties to be informed of the tape.
    Note finally that calls made by a computer modem or fax machine may also constitute harassing phone calls under NCGS 14-196(b).
    Harassing Phone Calls is punishable as a Class 2 Misdemeanor in North Carolina.
    Key cases:

    • State v. Camp, 59 NCApp 38 (1982) (upholding constitutionality, and holding that the victim can be an organization or agency, such as a sheriff’s office receiving phone calls)
    • State v. Coleman, 270 NC 357 (1967) (recorded calls can be introduced as evidence of harassment)
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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.