The offense of communicating threats is a serious one and actually receives a more severe punishment than does simple assault
. A simple assault is a Class 2 misdemeanor, while a violation of the communicating threats statute is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
There are several elements that must be proven to convict a person of communicating threats. The statute G.S. 14-277.1 requires that:
North Carolina courts have further interpreted the statute in several ways. First, direct communication is not required to violate the communicating threats statute. The statute not only includes threats communicated orally and in writing, but also “by any other means.” Therefore, Jim can violate the communicating threats statute by telling Bob that he is going to hurt Joe, if Bob then tells Joe of this threat.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals did note that although an indirect threat satisfies the communication element of statute, the indirect nature of a threat might relate to the other elements of the crime like a reasonable person believing that the threat is likely to be carried out.
Also, conditional threats can violate the statute, so long as there is a reasonable likelihood of the condition occurring and the condition does not negate an intention to carry out the threat. For example, if Jim tells Bob not to come any closer or else Jim will punch Bob, he violates the communicating threats statute, so long as Jim does not have any legal reason for telling Bob not to come any closer.
Finally, even if the person threatened believes that he can contain an attempt to carry out the threat, so long as the person threatened believes the threat will be carried out, the fourth element is satisfied. So if Jim threatens Bob from the backseat of Bob’s police car, and Bob believes that Jim will carry out the threat if given the opportunity, Jim’s threat can violate the statute even if there are other officers present who can contain Jim’s attempt to carry out the threat.