Cary, NC asked in Criminal Law for North Carolina

Q: What is the Statute of limitation on communicating a threat

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1 Lawyer Answer
Philip J. Clarke III
Philip J. Clarke III
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Morehead City, NC
  • Licensed in North Carolina

A: Communicating a Threat is a class 1 misdemeanor. The statute of limitations for misdemeanors in North Carolina is two years with certain exceptions -- one being "malicious" misdemeanors. Because the elements of the crime of Communicating Threats do not include the state having to prove malice, I do not believe this offense is such an exception, and that the statute of limitations is two years. That is a simple answer to the question as asked. But it may be too simple to be useful to you.

Having been asked questions related to this subject before, I can't help wondering whether you may have a misunderstanding as to just how a statute of limitation might be applied to a criminal case, as many folks do. Just in case, let me run a few things by you:

The limitations period does not require that the case be tried or pleaded within two years. Neither does the inability of the state to serve a warrant on the defendant for two years mean that they are out of luck. A defendant once properly charged could disappear for twenty years and return to find that the statute did not run against the state during that time. The SOL applies to the time it takes to properly charge someone with a crime. For example: If an incident (a misdemeanor offense) was known to have occurred over two years ago, and no criminal charges had ever been filed, then it is likely the statute of limitations has run, and the state has lost their opportunity to charge a crime and avoid having it dismissed when/if the statute of limitations is raised as a defense. This could also work in a defendant's favor when the original charge was filed in an invalid way and was not corrected by the state before the SOL had run. I will not explain this one at this time. There are actions/situations that sometimes toll (extend) certain statutes of limitations. These can be added or deleted by statute.

With the criminal laws of North Carolina being mostly created by statutes (though we are also a common law state) one thing that must always be considered is: what was the law in effect at the time of the offense? Since our legislature is continually modifying the law, three or more different laws may apply to an offense depending on when within a three year period it is alleged to have been committed. The difference of a single day may change which statute applies. This particular problem is not likely to affect the simple answer here, because this particular offense has been around awhile in its same form... but I trust you get the idea. The gist is to say that the research of the law and understanding which laws apply to: 1) defining the offense and what must be proven for a conviction ; 2) providing the range of possible punishments if found guilty; 3) how probation might be governed; 4) what relief might later be available through expunction; and a number of other related issues that might make a great deal of difference in your case -- is a job for someone who spends much of their time doing this. It is difficult and often confusing even for attorneys, and takes serious effort to keep up with.

So as I remind you that I am not your lawyer, and that nothing I have said here is to be taken by the reader as legal advice, but should only be enjoyed for educational and entertainment purposes, let me also suggest that when you are facing a legal situation that may have a real affect on your life, you seek out the counsel of an experienced attorney.

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