Disturbing Behavior, Harassment and Threats to Public Employees

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated in response to helpful feedback from a reader. 

A few weeks ago, my colleague Jill Moore asked me to participate in a recorded interview addressing whether certain disturbing or threatening behavior from citizens directed at public officials and employees could support criminal prosecution. Jill is an expert in public health law so the questions she posed related primarily to concerns raised by officials and employees who work in that field. More recently, another colleague advised that social services employees had similar questions. I thought it might be helpful to share here my thoughts on the questions they posed.

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What’s the Crime When School Bathroom Graffiti Mentions a Bomb?

Author’s note:  The opinion discussed below was withdrawn and replaced by In re D.W.L.B, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Sept. 17, 2019). The new opinion concludes, for the same reasons provided in the earlier opinion, that the petition failed to allege that the juvenile made a false report concerning mass violence. The new opinion omits the portion of the earlier opinion holding that the petition properly alleged a violation of graffiti vandalism, explaining that even though the petition alleged facts that could constitute the crime of graffiti vandalism, the petition did not put the juvenile on notice that he needed to defend against a graffiti vandalism charge.

An elementary school student writes “BOMB INCOMING” on the wall of the boys’ bathroom at school. The student does not, in fact, know of any plans to bomb the school and has made no such plans himself. Has the student committed a crime or an act of juvenile delinquency? If so what crime or crimes has he committed?

Populate the poll below with your answer or answers and keep reading for mine.

What crime or crimes has he committed?

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Cyberstalking and the 48 Hour Rule

G.S. 14-196.3 prohibits “cyberstalking,” which the statute generally defines to mean using electronic communications to threaten, extort, make an abusive or embarrassing false statement about, or repeatedly harass another person. As Jessie noted in this prior post, cyberstalking has become a frequently charged offense. It can be committed by text message, email, Facebook, and other … Read more