Getting accused of a domestic violence offense is no laughing matter. These kinds of charges can affect your career, relationships, lifestyle, and freedom. For this reason, domestic violence charges absolutely need to be taken seriously – even if you know that you are innocent.
The term “domestic violence” covers a wide range of offenses that can be physical, emotional, financial, or sexual in nature. Domestic violence can also include certain types of emotional abuse and harassment that can happen through different modes of communication such as written, telephone, e-mail, voicemail, or text.
It’s important to know what specifically constitutes a domestic violence offense. And in North Carolina, there are both civil and criminal laws to consider.
North Carolina Domestic Violence Defined
Domestic violence is defined by North Carolina law as when someone has a personal relationship with another person and commits any of these acts against that person or their child:
- Attempting to or intentionally causing bodily harm to someone
- Placing someone or a member of someone’s family or household in fear of serious bodily harm
- Committing rape or any sexual offense
- Placing someone in fear of continued harassment that is so serious it causes emotional distress
- Tormenting, terrorizing, or terrifying behavior towards someone
The term “personal relationship” can have a number of meanings depending on your circumstances. For legal purposes, a personal relationship is defined as two people who are:
- Currently or previously married
- Persons who live together or who have lived together
- Related as parent and child or as grandparent and grandchild
- Parents of the same child
- Current or former household members
- Persons who are dating or were in a dating relationship
Civil Domestic Violence Laws
If any domestic violence acts are believed to have been committed, a victim is able to get a domestic violence protective order (DVPO). A DVPO is a civil court order that offers protection to victims of domestic violence.
There are two types of domestic violence protective orders:
- Ex parte temporary protective orders are designed to provide victims with immediate protection from the offender. If the threat is serious enough, a judge can issue an ex parte order the same day a complaint is filed or within 72 hours. An ex parte order will only protect a victim until the actual court hearing takes place, which is usually within 10 days.
- Final domestic protective orders can last up to 1 year. They are issued after a full court hearing takes place where the offender has a chance to defend him or herself. The order can possibly be extended if the victim asks for the extension before the original order expires.
Protective orders can include provisions that could prevent you from living in your home, temporarily take away child custody or visitation, or force you to pay child support or attorney fees.
If you violate a domestic violence protective order, you will be charged with a Class A1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 60 days in jail if you have no prior convictions.
If you have two prior convictions for violating a protective order, or if you violate the order while possessing a deadly weapon, you will be charged with a Class H felony, which is punishable by 5 to 6 months in jail.
Criminal Domestic Violence Laws in Our State
In North Carolina, there are no specific domestic violence charges. Rather, you will face the general misdemeanor or felony charge for your crime, and if the incident involves aspects of domestic violence, you can face additional penalties associated with those kinds of acts.
In addition to your criminal sentence, if a judge determines that you have or previously had a personal relationship with the victim, your criminal record will indicate that you committed a domestic violence crime.
In these cases, the judge also has the ability to enforce special probation terms for the defendant such as:
- Undergoing medical or psychiatric evaluation and treatment and staying in a specified facility if necessary for that treatment
- Attending or living in a facility that offers rehabilitation, counseling, treatment, training, or residence for someone on probation
- Completing a Drug Treatment Court Program
- Abstaining from alcohol and consenting to alcohol monitoring
- Requiring the defendant to stay at home except for specific purposes such as attending work or school
If you’re convicted of a domestic violence crime, it will go on your permanent record and follow you wherever you go. You need a knowledgeable domestic violence criminal defense attorney to help you minimize the damage and avoid a domestic violence conviction.
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.