State v. Guice, 2022-NCCOA-682, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Oct. 18, 2022)

In this Buncombe County case, defendant appealed his conviction for communicating threats, arguing that his words did not constitute a true threat and the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss and request for a jury instruction on true threats. The Court of Appeals found no error by the trial court.

In May of 2020, a resident at an Asheville apartment complex called security because she heard a disturbance in the neighboring apartment. When security arrived to investigate, defendant opened the apartment door and was aggressively hostile to the security officer, getting into the officer’s face and threatening to beat him. At trial, the security officer testified that he believed defendant was going to carry out the threat due to his body language and anger during the interaction. Defendant was subsequently convicted by a jury of the communicating threats charge.

The Court of Appeals first considered whether the charging document contained sufficient facts to allege a “true threat” unprotected by the First Amendment, explaining that there are “objective and subjective” elements to the true threat analysis. Slip Op. at 6. Because the charging document tracked the text of G.S. § 14-277.1 and contained “willfully threaten,” the court found the subjective element present and sufficient to support the offense charged. Id. at 8. The court then turned to the motion to dismiss, finding that the testimony in the record was sufficient to support the conclusion that defendant had the specific intent to make a threat against the security guard. The court last turned to the requested jury instruction, and applied a similar analysis from the charging document. The court concluded that the jury instruction contained all elements of the offense, noting “[t]he subjective component, or specific intent, of true threats is covered by defining the phrase of willfully threaten as ‘intentionally or knowingly’ ‘expressi[ng] . . . an intent or a determination to physically injure another person.’” Id. at 12.