What Actions Constitute Terrorism in North Carolina?

Terrorism, bombing and related crimes are all incredibly serious and result in very harsh penalties for those convicted. The common definition of terrorism is hotly debated, but in a legal criminal framework, its definition is more limited to relevant statutes and laws. In North Carolina, acts of terrorism generally involve “bombs”. While we’re all familiar with what bombs are, it might be challenging to give them a precise definition. Under North Carolina law, a bomb is an “explosive or incendiary device or material.” A broader dictionary definition for bomb is:

A container filled with explosive, incendiary material, smoke, gas, or other destructive substance, designed to explode on impact or when detonated by a time mechanism, remote-control device, or lit fuse.

The way a crime of terror can involve bombs is not always that straight forward. The nature of the bomb or weapon and the threat it posed in the event are all important parts of these crimes. Even more noteworthy, threats to use bombs, whether they are real or false, constitute very serious crimes too.

If you are facing any terrorism, bomb, or related criminal charge, you will need the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can review all aspects of the case and build a reasonably and effective defense.

box full of explosives, which could be used for terrorism

Malicious Damage by Use of Explosives or Incendiaries

In North Carolina, the first type of terrorism involves causing “malicious” damage due to explosives. To be guilty of this crime, one must willfully and maliciously damage real or personal property by use of an explosive or incendiary device.

“Malice” is a unique state of mind that we do not see in the law too often, though its most notable place is in first-degree murder. Malice is an even stronger state of mind than intent, requiring hatred and ill will, and a condition of the mind that shows a lack of cause or justification of any kind to hurt or harm. The penalty for this crime is always a felony, but the type is based on the kind of property damaged and whether somebody occupied the property, as follows:

  • Class G Felony: Damaging real or personal property that was unoccupied.
  • Class E Felony: Damaging a building of worship or government building that was unoccupied.
  • Class D Felony: Damaging any occupied real or personal property.

False Bomb Reports and Threats

False bomb reports and threats are one of the things you can say that are not protected by the Constitutional Right to Freedom of Speech. A person is guilty of this crime when they:

  • make a report, knowing or having reason to know it is false,
  • that there is a device designed to damage or destroy the property,
  • that is located in or is sufficiently close to cause such damage by explosion, blasting, or burning.

This crime is punished as a class H felony if it is done in relation to a public building, private building, or any vehicle, aircraft, vessel, or boat.

Perpetrating a Hoax by Use of a False Bomb

In addition to the above, there is a crime specific to creating, or using a device that has the appearance of a bomb or similar device, but is not, with the intention to cause others to believe there is a bomb threat. The punishment for this crime is also a class H felony.

Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD's)

Of all the crimes of terrorism and bombings, those involving weapons of mass destruction are the most serious, potentially being of the highest level of crime possible (a class A felony). While most of the time we think of “weapon of mass destruction” we would think of nuclear bombs, there are other lesser types of weapons that are still punished severely, but not quite as much as devastating chemical or nuclear weapons. All WMD crimes can be charged for somebody who does any of the following involving these weapons:

  • manufactures
  • assembles
  • possesses
  • stores
  • transports
  • sells or offers to sell
  • purchases or offers to purchase
  • delivers or gives to another

Machine Guns, Sawed-Off Shotguns, and Non-Chemical WMD's

A person is guilty of this offense if they are a provider or recipient of such benefits and knowingly do any of the above listed acts in relation to a machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, and other weapons of mass death and destruction that would not constitute a chemical or nuclear weapon.

The punishment for this crime is a class F felony.

Nuclear, Biological and Chemical WMD's

When it comes to nuclear, biological, and chemical WMD’s, the punishment is far more severe, as the initial and ongoing damage from these weapons can be very severe. Any person who knowingly does any of the above listed acts (e.g. manufactures, assembles, etc.) one of these weapons is going to be guilty of a class B1 felony. In the event that such unlawful and willful use of one of these weapons cases injury to another person, the punishment will be as severe as possible: a class A felony.

False Reports Concerning WMD's

North Carolina classifies false reports and hoaxes in relation to WMD’s as a separate and greater crime from other types of bomb threats. The punishment for a false report or perpetrating a false WMD hoax is a class D felony.

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