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What is Considered a Deadly Weapon for a DVPO?

North Carolina Statute § 50B-3.1 states that if an emergency or ex parte protective order is issued, and the abuse involves a deadly weapon or threat of a deadly weapon, the abuser must surrender their firearms, ammunition, and firearm permits. Knowing what qualifies as a deadly weapon is important, but making that determination is not always easy. In general terms, a deadly weapon is any object that could cause death or severe harm. Items like guns, knives, baseball bats, and hammers would fall into this category, but what about other everyday items or household objects?

State of Minnesota v. Bradley

A decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court involving the meaning and classification of dangerous weapons was recently filed in March 2024. The Supreme Court heard the case of State of Minnesota v. Bradley, in which Bradley challenged a lower court’s decision to convict him of second-degree assault and felony domestic assault. Bradley hit his girlfriend over the head with a broom handle, and he argued that a broom handle is not a dangerous weapon.

The Supreme Court determined that the jury had enough evidence to conclude that Bradley’s assault with the broom handle qualified as the use of a deadly weapon, stating that an item is likely to lead to death or produce great bodily harm if it is used in a way where those outcomes are reasonably expected or probable. By using the broom handle to hit his girlfriend over the head, Bradley should have known that the item could produce death or great bodily harm.

Domestic Violence and Assault Charges

The State of Minnesota case also involved another element – whether or not two convictions were appropriate for one act of assault. Minnesota laws state that someone may be convicted of the crime they are charged with or a crime of a lesser degree, but not both. Bradley argued that domestic assault was a lesser-degree crime than second-degree assault, and so he should not have been convicted of both. However, the Supreme Court disagreed with this argument and affirmed the lower court’s ruling that he was guilty of both felony domestic assault and second-degree assault.

North Carolina courts often use what is called the Blockburger test to determine if one act can have multiple convictions or punishments. To perform the Blockburger test, courts must evaluate whether each criminal offense contains a unique element that the other offense does not. A defendant may be found guilty and convicted of a more serious crime and a less serious crime if the charges pass this test.

Assault and domestic violence are serious crimes in North Carolina. However, protective orders are not always accompanied by criminal charges, and a protective order is not a criminal matter in and of itself. Reach out to an experienced family law attorney with your questions about domestic violence protective orders.