It’s a common misconception that domestic violence increases over the holiday season. People assume that since tensions may rise when families reunite for the holidays, domestic violence incidents rise right along with it. But this isn’t the case at all.
Evidence suggests that domestic violence actually goes down over the holidays, in reality. However, with so many families getting together, law enforcement seems to be on the lookout for domestic violence situations more than ever. This can lead to arrests for domestic violence that may not be warranted.
If you’re facing domestic violence charges, then it’s important to understand what this means in North Carolina. A better understanding of the law and your rights within it can help you to navigate the charges you face with the help of an experienced attorney. Here’s what you need to know.
Domestic Violence Laws North Carolina
Under North Carolina law, domestic violence occurs when someone commits an act toward someone with whom they are in a personal relationship. The law defines a personal relationship as a relationship between:
- Anyone with whom you currently live or have lived
- A former spouse
- A current spouse
- Someone with whom you were in a dating relationship
- Parents of a child
- Former or current household members
- Anyone legally related as a parent and child or grandparents and grandchildren
The law further defines the acts that constitute domestic violence, which include:
- Intentionally causing or trying to cause bodily injury to another person
- Putting someone or their family or household in fear of bodily injury
- Harassment that causes emotional distress
- Committing sex crimes such as rape, sexual battery, or sex crimes against children
Domestic violence crimes can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. The types of crimes that are typically misdemeanors include assault, harassing phone calls, threats with a gun, or injuring a pregnant woman. Felonies include strangulation, sexual abuse, and rape, to name a few.
What Penalties Can You Receive for Domestic Violence in North Carolina?
When someone commits a crime that the court thinks fits the domestic violence statutes, then special conditions can be imposed when convicted. If the court determines that a crime is one of domestic violence, special probation terms can be imposed that require the defendant to:
- Undergo treatment for domestic violence
- Attend rehabilitation and counseling
- Successfully complete Drug Treatment Court, if that is part of the issue
- Abstain from using alcohol
- Subject themselves to alcohol monitoring
- Undergo house arrest – only being able to leave for school or work
Another issue that someone convicted of domestic violence crimes may have to deal with is a protective order. Victims of domestic violence can petition the court for a protective order, and, in emergency situations, you may not be made aware of a hearing regarding this order until it is already issued.
Protective orders include provisions that often require the person named as the abuser to refrain from contacting the victim in any way. It can also include provisions that:
- Give one party possession of the home, meaning you must vacate a shared residence
- Award temporary visitation and child custody
- Require child support payments to be made
- Give possession of personal property to one person
- Compel one party to pay for the other’s attorney’s fees
- Require the person named to complete domestic violence treatment
The court can impose terms they think are necessary to protect victims and children, so protective orders can be very different from case to case. Working with an attorney will help you to navigate your specific situation better.
Remember, protective orders are good for up to a year from issuance. However, the protected person can ask for their renewal for another two years after that, so an order can have a huge impact on your life if you are named in one.
What If You Are Falsely Accused?
Police may be more apt over the holidays to assume that family drama involves domestic violence. Heated arguments can also turn into situations where you are accused of domestic violence wrongly. If you find yourself in this position, then you need to work with an attorney to create a defense.
In North Carolina, anyone accusing you of domestic violence must prove to the court that any of the provisions under that law that define domestic violence were committed by you. While it can be difficult to defend against these allegations, it is possible.
Anyone accused of domestic violence will have a court hearing to evaluate the situation. This is your opportunity to present evidence to the judge on your own behalf, so it’s important to be prepared.
Domestic violence allegations can throw you for a loop, but it’s important to understand that you are entitled to a robust defense under the law.