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“It was Just a Joke”—Was it a Criminal Threat?

“I’ll get you for that.”
“Maybe you’ll have an accident on the way home.”
“How would you like it if I. . . .?”
“I’m gonna come to the house and beat the **** outta you!”

Was it a “joke” or a criminal threat? There are times when interactions with others lead to words that probably should not have been uttered, but are. From financial disputes to domestic situations, many people say things they don’t really mean.

You may have been just letting off steam, but that doesn’t mean the recipient understood that. Whether you make the statement in person, on the phone, by email or text, or post them on social media, the other person may not find it as amusing.

Strong statements that include threats of violence during heated conversations may lead the other person to believe that you’ll carry through on those threats. At that point, the statement crosses the line into criminal behavior.

What North Carolina Law Says

"It was Just a Joke"- When Threats are Consider CriminalNorth Carolina General Statute 14-277.1 states that communicating any threat is a Class 1 misdemeanor. This includes:

• Threatening the individual, their child, or other family members, or the threat of property damage
• The threat is communicated to the other verbally, in writing, or by any other means
• The person issuing the threat does so as to make the other person believe that it is genuine
• The recipient of the threat believes the threat to be genuine and will be carried out
The courts do not require actual proof or witnessing any threatening movement, such as making a fist or swinging at someone.

Punishment for communicating threats includes 120 days in jail and a fine at the discretion of the judge. Oddly, simple assault is a Class 2 misdemeanor. This means that the courts have a stronger punishment for someone who threatens to strike someone than the person who actually does hit someone.

What About False Accusations?

Unfortunately, it’s fairly easy to accuse someone of communicating a criminal threat, even without evidence or proof. This happens sometimes in divorce cases that are not amicable. One party may accuse the other of communicating a threat in an attempt to “get the upper hand.” But it’s more likely that the false accusation will eventually backfire once it gets to court. If you are the party falsely accused of communicating threats of violence, it’s vital to seek immediate legal representation to defend you against the charges.

NOTE: The information in this blog should not be considered to be a substitute for the advice and counsel of a North Carolina criminal defense lawyer. If you have been charged with any crime, you should immediately speak with a criminal defense lawyer to learn about your options and how to go forward.

Criminal Defense Attorney For Communicating Threats And Other Charges In Raleigh

Because it’s so easy for someone to accuse a person of communicating a criminal threat or threats, you need to act quickly before a court date—and before anything else happens.

Dewey P. Brinkley is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Raleigh, NC with a proven track record of defending clients against criminal charges. If you’ve been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, contact him immediately to begin building your defense.

Call Dewey P. Brinkley today for a free initial consultation to discuss your case at (919) 832-0307. You can also email us at dewey@deweypbrinkleylaw.com, or use our online contact form.