In North Carolina, a person can file a restraining order against someone for a couple of different reasons. Typically, this is done because the individual is believed to pose a physical threat, but restraining orders can also be filed on the grounds of harassment, stalking, financial harm, or child custody.
If you are facing a restraining order in North Carolina, it is important to understand the process, and also to be aware of defenses that you might be able to use to block or remove the order. The most important thing that you can do is to consult with an experienced North Carolina domestic violence attorney with experience in restraining order law. This will ensure that your rights are protected and give you the best chance at fighting back against the order. Domestic violence charges can be life-changing, so it is imperative to be proactive early in the process.
What Happens When a Restraining Order Is Filed?
If there is sufficient evidence that you may pose a threat to someone, a judge first grants a temporary restraining order that stays in effect for 10 days. The type of restraining order will depend upon your relationship with the petitioner and his/her complaints against you.
If you live with the plaintiff, you will receive notice to vacate the residence. You will be required to avoid all contact including physical contact, letters, emails, phone calls, text messaging, and social media. You are also prohibited from asking a third party to contact the plaintiff on your behalf.
During the period of the temporary restraining order you will be notified to appear at a hearing, where the necessity of a permanent restraining order will be evaluated.
What are the Consequences of Violating a Restraining Order?
Regardless of whether you feel that the petitioner’s filing of the order was appropriate or fair, it is absolutely vital that you respect the terms of a restraining order. This does not mean that you agree with it or that you are giving up your right to battle the order, but if you violate it in any way, you could be arrested and charged with a crime. Violating a temporary restraining order also makes it much more likely that a permanent restraining order will be issued.
This is far worse, because if you are found guilty of violating a restraining order, you could have a permanent criminal record that will show up on background checks, interfering with your ability to find employment, lease an apartment, apply for loans, and more. Further, if the restraining order was related to a larger family law case (for example, a child custody case), violating it will adversely affect the outcome of that case as well.
Respect the law. Respect the order. Let your lawyer do the fighting for you.
How Can I Defend against a Restraining Order in Court?
A restraining order can be life-changing, so it is important to be fully prepared to defend yourself against it. What do you do? You already know the first step you should take.
Consult an attorney
The most important thing you can do to protect your rights in a restraining order case is to consult an attorney familiar with North Carolina domestic violence laws who has a proven track record in restraining order cases. He or she will be able to look at the facts of your case and explain what options you have to fight back, as well as providing you with an unbiased opinion on your chances of successfully getting the order removed.
Appear at the hearing
It is important to appear at any hearings for the restraining order. Failure to appear can result in the judge issuing an order without considering your side of the story at all. Be sure that you and ideally your attorney are present all hearings and ready to argue why the order should not be granted.
With the help of your attorney, gather evidence demonstrating that you did not abuse or otherwise harm the petitioner. This may include letters, emails, texts, voicemails, social media, or other forms of recorded communications. Witnesses who can testify that you did not abuse the petitioner are also helpful.
It is imperative to be polite to the judge, courthouse staff, and the petitioner during the hearing. Remember that you are trying to discredit the petitioner’s allegations of abuse, and behave accordingly. Although the situation is inherently nerve-racking and frustrating, any outbursts or poor behavior can adversely affect the outcome of the case.
Present your case
Your lawyer will present the evidence in your favor, logically and rationally explaining what happened with the petitioner, and why a permanent restraining order would adversely affect you (and potentially your family).
You also need to avoid specific mistakes that could end up getting you into more trouble or make it more likely that the protection order will be granted. For example, do not attempt to contact the petitioner or any of his/her witnesses prior to the trial. Also, do not attempt to destroy any evidence that could hurt your case. These may seem like smart decisions at the time, but they really aren’t.
Finally, regardless of the outcome, you must comply with the court’s orders. Even if the restraining order remains and you feel like you didn’t get a fair shot, honor the court’s decision. Otherwise, you could end up violating the order, and any violations could result in criminal charges that will come back to haunt you.
Ready to start fighting back? Get in contact with our office today.
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.