Armed to the Terror… Off-Road?

Some of my recent posts have addressed weapon offenses at demonstrations and other public events, and I also wrote recently about the issue of dicta in a court opinion being treated as binding precedent. Those two topics converged in an interesting way during a training seminar yesterday for magistrates.

We were discussing one of the most well-known offenses in this area, Going Armed to Terror of the People, when this question came up:  is it really limited to offenses that occur “on a public highway,” or can it apply in other public places like parks, bus stations, and government buildings? If not, why not? Especially since other breach of the peace offenses like affray or disorderly conduct apply more broadly to any “public place?”

Charging practices seem to differ on this point around the state, and there is some room for debate depending on how far back we go in the case law, so I thought it warranted a closer look.

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Private Property Can Be a “Public Place” under the Indecent Exposure Statute

Several recent news reports have involved people removing their clothes in their own homes or on their own property, but in view of neighbors or passers-by. For example, Charlotte’s “naked neighbor” controversy is discussed here, while Rowan County’s back yard bandit case is discussed here. Are people who expose their genitals to public view while on their own property in a “public place” as required by the indecent exposure statute, G.S. 14-190.9? Yes, ruled the court of appeals this week.

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