North Carolina courts have defined a deadly weapon as “one which, under the circumstances of its use, is likely to cause death or great bodily harm.” Furthermore. “[t]he deadly character of the weapon depends sometimes more upon the manner of its use and the condition of the person assaulted than upon the intrinsic character of the weapon itself.
Some weapons are so inherently dangerous that they are considered per se deadly weapons. Some examples of a per se deadly weapon are a rifle or a pistol. If a per se deadly weapon is used in an assault, then the assault is automatically an assault with a deadly weapon. However, if the weapon used is not a per se deadly weapon, then the prosecutors must prove that the weapon used is a deadly weapon.
Many other items can be found to be deadly weapons based upon the manner in which they are used. Sometimes a court will find a weapon deadly as a matter of law based on the manner of use. Examples of these types of weapons are a car driven at a high speed directly at a person, a pickaxe, certain kinds of knives and a very large rock thrown deliberately at a car approaching a speed of 55-60 mph. If a weapon is found deadly as a matter of law, this issue is determined by the judge and not submitted to the jury.
Other weapons are submitted to the jury to determine their deadliness. Examples of weapons that might be found to be deadly but are not per se deadly weapons are a 2×4 board, a person’s body, a dulled pocketknife, a car, and a chair. When a jury determines whether a weapon is deadly, it should consider the nature of the weapon, the manner in which it is used, and the size and strength of the defendant compared to that of the victim.