October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and North Carolinians are raising awareness about these offenses that negatively affect thousands every year.
Recently, UNC Asheville and Helpmate partnered together in a vigil on the UNCA campus. Survivors shared stories and the Helpmate director talked about finding a path to hope. Names of homicide victims in domestic violence cases from the past year were read aloud in memory.
Since purple is the signifying color of domestic violence awareness, a Greensboro woman is using the color to spread awareness. She dyed her hair a bright purple shade, hoping to attract attention so she can share her story with strangers. Donna Combs endured domestic abuse as a child, then as a mother. She shares her story to help others find healing.
Most North Carolinians would benefit from a greater understanding of the laws against domestic violence and the penalties associated with domestic violence offenses. Here is an outline of how the laws work.
How North Carolina’s Domestic Violence Laws Work
Domestic violence can come in different forms: physical, sexual, financial, or emotional. Emotional abuse may occur through any type of communication, including verbal, written, or electronic (via telephone, voicemail, e-mail, fax, and so on).
Both civil law and criminal law protect victims of domestic violence. Cases may be filed against an individual with whom a personal relationship is shared for the following reasons:
- The offender caused fear from continued harassment such that it caused significant emotional distress
- The offender attempted or intentionally caused bodily injury
- The offender placed a family or household member in imminent fear of serious bodily injury
- The offender committed a sexual offense with the victim
- The offender terrified, terrorized, or tormented the victim
Criminal cases are prosecuted through the North Carolina statutes. A domestic violence case involves two people in a personal relationship, defined by the law under these conditions:
- Spouse, current or former
- Household member, current or former
- Opposite sex live-in partners, current or former
- A person in a dating relationship with you, current or former
- People related as either parent and child or grandparent and grandchild
- Parent of your child
- Children have protections against violence from parents, parent partners, and legal guardians
If the courts deem that a personal relationship is held between the offender and the victim, special probationary terms may be required, including the following:
- Medical or psychiatric treatment, including institutionalization
- Attendance or residence at a rehabilitation, training, counseling or treatment center
- Completion of a Drug Treatment Court Program
- Abstention from alcohol use and alcohol screening
- Limitation of travel other than for work or school
Additional Legal Protections That Domestic Violence Victims May Utilize
Victims of domestic violence also have other protections under the law. They may enter the Address Confidentiality Program to hide their address from perpetrators. They may also receive modifications to their custody or spousal support orders to prevent acts of violence between those involved in the cases.
Victims may apply for a Domestic Violence Protection Order, which protects victims from contact with abusers. An emergency protective order can be filed if the danger of serious bodily injury is believed to be imminent to either the victim or a minor child. An ex parte protective order may be filed without even notifying the defendant. Then the court may schedule a hearing where the defendant will be required to appear.
In this hearing, the court will listen to the testimonies of both parties. If the defendant is found to have committed an offense involving domestic violence, the court is required to issue a protective order. This order extends further protections, including the following:
- Alternate housing arrangements
- Temporary child custody and visitation rights
- Child support payments
- Change of personal property possession
- Prohibitions of contact of any kind between the defendant and the victim
- Prohibitions of contact with a household pet
- Limitations on the purchase of a firearm during a certain period
- Requirement of defendant’s entry into a treatment program
- Victim’s attorney’s fees transferred to defendant
- Any other necessary means for protection of victim or minor child
The new protective order is valid for up to one year, or it may be renewed for two more years after the original issuance.
Penalties for misdemeanor charges may result in up to 150 days in jail, along with community service, behavioral management classes, court fines, and restitution to victims. Felony charges may include prison time, steeper fines, and rehabilitation treatment.
If you have been charged with domestic violence or had a protection order taken out against you, it is vital that you speak with a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. They will work to protect your rights and those of your family members, and make sure that you receive the strongest defense possible.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett?is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of?Schlosser & Pritchett?and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense.? He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.