In North Carolina, "Communicating Threats" is a Class 1 misdemeanor under General Statute section 14-277.1. There are many issues involved in these criminal charges, including intent, reasonable belief, and protected speech.
The Elements of a Communicating Threats charge
A person is guilty of communicating threats if without lawful authority:
1. They willfully threaten to physically injure a person or that person's child, sibling, spouse, or dependant, or willfully threaten to damage the property of another;
2. The threat is communicated to the other person, verbally, 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.
Even a "conditional threat" (such as "come at me and I'll kick your ass") is covered by the statute if the threatener has no right to impose the condition (in that example, arguably, the utterer is threatening to use lawful force in self-defense). A threat that is clearly a joke or an exaggeration is not criminal under this statute, and the government must establish that the receiver of the threat actually believed it.
Our firm has experience defending against allegations of unlawful communication of threats. If you would like to discuss your Wake County criminal case, give us a call or use the contact form in the sidebar to set up a free consultation.