Domestic violence is becoming more and more prevalent on the news and in popular culture. But there’s a lot more to domestic violence cases than the alleged act of violence. Something that frequently comes into play in these types of cases is a protective order.
What is a protective order?
Recently in Wilmington, David Eason – the boyfriend of Jenelle Evans, a reality TV star from MTV’s Teen Mom – was arrested for violating a protective order. His protective order stated that he wasn’t allowed to have contact with his ex or their son.
He supposedly ran into his son with his ex’s mother in a grocery store and gave him a hug. Due to the no contact provision in his protective order, the police arrested him and took him to jail.
Crazy? Ridiculous? Maybe. But that is how the law works in this particular instance.
And it only tells you a tiny bit about protective orders. In order to understand how they work in domestic violence cases, you have to be familiar with the domestic violence laws here in North Carolina.
According to the law, domestic violence is when a person commits one or more of the following acts against someone who has or has had a personal relationship with the offender or against that person’s minor child:
- Attempting to cause bodily injury or intentionally causing bodily injury
- Placing the victim or a family member of the victim in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment that inflicts substantial emotional distress
- Committing a sex-related crime such as first or second degree rape or sexual offense, sexual offense with a child, sexual battery, statutory rape, sexual offense of someone 13-15 years old, or intercourse and sexual offenses with certain victims
If any of these acts were committed against a stranger or against someone with whom the offender does not have a personal relationship, then they would not be domestic violence cases. The personal relationship is the key to these types of cases.
Under North Carolina law, a personal relationship can be between two people who are:
- Currently or formerly married
- Persons of the opposite sex who live together or have lived together
- Related as parent and child or grandparent and grandchild
- Parents who have a child together
- Current or former roommates or household members
- Persons of the opposite sex who are dating or used to date
Now that we know the laws and what constitutes a domestic violence charge, let’s look at how protective orders come into play.
What is a Protective Order?
If someone has been the victim of domestic violence or fears being the victim of domestic violence, he or she may petition the court for a protective order. If that person feels they need immediate protection, they can file for an emergency protective order called an ex parte protective order. These types of orders are good for up to 10 days and can be issued without having to notify the defendant beforehand. If it’s not an ex parte order, however, the court will schedule a hearing that includes the petitioner and the defendant.
At the hearing, the petitioner has to prove that the defendant has committed acts of domestic violence against them or their child. If the court agrees that the defendant did commit acts of domestic violence, a protective order will be issued. Depending on the situation, that protective order can:
- Ban the defendant from committing further acts of violence
- Prohibit contact with the victim, including telephone harassment or visiting their workplace
- Prohibit threats, abuse, or following the victim
- Grant possession of the home to one party while excluding the other
- Require the defendant to leave the home
- Award temporary child custody and visitation
- Prohibit abusing a victim’s pet
- Ban buying a firearm or using a firearm
- Mandate the defendant to go to and complete a domestic violence treatment program
Additionally, if there are any other terms the court feels are necessary to protect a victim or a child, they can add those terms as well.
A protective order is valid up to one year after it has been issued, but the order can be renewed for two more years.
Violating a Protective Order
A protective order can be extremely limiting and restrictive, but if it’s not followed, a defendant can be arrested and charged with a Class A1 misdemeanor.
Without any prior convictions, a class A1 misdemeanor is punishable by one to 60 days in jail. And the penalties go up if the violator has prior convictions, commits a felony, possesses a deadly weapon, or enters a safe haven.
Our state takes violating protective orders especially seriously. That’s why if you have been accused of domestic violence or violating a protective order, it’s imperative that you consult with an experienced domestic violence attorney who will be able to look at your case and help you get your charges reduced, dismissed, or dropped.
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.