Here’s a sad truth: domestic violence is extremely common.
It’s so common that it has become a hot topic for national discussion in recent years. Over 1.3 million women and over 800,000 men in the United States are physically assaulted by an intimate partner every year. In North Carolina alone last year, 131 people were killed by a loved one or blood relative. It is a huge problem, and one that local lawmakers and law enforcement officers are working hard to eliminate.
How are they doing this? There are a couple of ways. First, lawmakers have made penalties incredibly severe so they act as a deterrent. And second, they’ve not only given law enforcement officials the tools to go after people, but in many cases demanded that they do so.
Unfortunately, this kind of no-holds-barred attitude toward the problem can lead to overzealous policing where corners are cut and rights are violated. To defeat charges with your life and reputation intact, you need the strongest defense possible. That means understanding what our state considers domestic violence as well as the associated penalties.
How North Carolina Defines Domestic Violence and Determines Penalties
In North Carolina, there are no specific guidelines for domestic violence. The original charge, be it assault, battery, and so on is used to determine the judge’s initial sentencing. Most cases of domestic violence end up as misdemeanor charges, but more serious cases can result in felony charges and jail time.
Assault or battery is considered “domestic” violence when it is committed against the following:
- Current or former spouse
- Intimate Partner
- Blood relative or family member
- Child, by birth or adoption
In addition to general assault sentencing, a judge will look at the relationship between the defendant and the victim. A case of domestic violence often leads a judge to give additional, rehabilitation-geared sentencing. These are terms of probation, and can include:
- Receiving treatment for mental or psychiatric issues, including entering a facility if the judge deems it necessary
- Attending and completing a court program for drug treatment
- Entering a facility for rehabilitation and treatment (specific to people on probation)
- House arrest
- Wearing an alcohol monitor or undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse
Where Protective Orders Come In
If someone fears or has become the victim of domestic violence, he or she can petition the court to place a protective order on the defendant.
Protective orders, often known as “restraining orders,” can be issued in court. Emergency, or ex parte, protective orders can even be issued before the scheduled court date if the judge believes a victim is in immediate danger.
While traditional protective orders last up to one year, emergency protective orders are valid for 10 days at a time. It’s also possible that the court may not notify a defendant when this type of order is initially issued. Yes, you read that right. You can be under a protective order and not even know it.
Most orders concern visitation and the defendant’s right to be near a victim, but other provisions can be added to these protective orders. This can include anything from requiring the defendant to pay child support or giving up possession of shared property. The guidelines set by a protective order vary case by case.
So, what happens if you violate a protective order?
Maybe you want to apologize or contact someone you hurt. Maybe you want to make amends. If you have been issued a protective order, don’t do this.
Violating a protective order can result in a Class A1 misdemeanor charge – and that’s if you do not have any prior convictions. Class A1 misdemeanor convictions call for up to 60 days in jail.
If you are carrying a deadly weapon while violating your protection order or have been convicted for violating a protection order twice, you can be charged with a Class H felony. Class H felony convictions call for up to six years in prison.
Domestic violence covers a wide range of abuse, from physical to financial. If you have been accused of domestic violence or issued a protective order, it is important to understand your rights and craft a solid defense.
About the Author:
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.