So you’ve been hit with a protection order. Even if the order is temporary, having a protection order placed on you can make you feel like you are walking on thin ice.
You know the basic rules of the protection order. You cannot come within a certain distance of, or contact, the person who filed the protection order against you.
The judge may have also told you about some of the consequences if you violate the protection order. Most violations are a misdemeanor, but under certain conditions, things can spiral out of control and it’s very possible to wind up with a felony charge.
If you’ve heard stories of friends or neighbors who have violated protection orders and were sentenced to time behind bars, your protection order may feel just as threatening.
For the sake of your criminal record, you want to stay within the terms of your protection order and avoid getting arrested for a violation. But how exactly can you make sure that metaphorical ice under your feet doesn’t crack so that you fall through?
Things You Need to Know about Your Protection Order
The Terms: Yes, there are some (hopefully) obvious terms in a protection order: don’t commit a crime, don’t go within a certain distance of someone, don’t contact them, and so on. However, not all protection or restraining orders are the same, and not all terms have to be explicitly laid out in court.
A protection order in North Carolina may also include:
- Losing possession of your residence/being evicted
- Losing custody or full custody of your children
- Paying for child support or spousal support
- Loss of the right to own or purchase a firearm
- Completing a substance abuse program
- Anything that a judge deems necessary to protect a victim
Review the terms of your protection order with your lawyer so you are not arrested for something you didn’t even know you were restricted from doing. Sadly, this is something that happens all the time.
The Penalties: Even if you are tempted to check in on the person who asked for the protection order, the penalties for violating it may make you think twice.
In North Carolina, protection order violations start as a Class A1 misdemeanor, and penalties include up to 60 days in prison. After two convictions, the charges are elevated to a Class H felony. Getting too close to the victim while you have a deadly weapon is also a Class H felony, and may land you in prison for six months – even if you have no prior convictions.
If you commit a crime while you are under a protection order, you will face felony charges and a higher sentence than if you weren’t under a protection order.
Cut Off All Possible Ties with the Person: Don’t let a “butt dial” put you behind bars. If a no-contact order is a part of the protection order, any attempt to reach out may be considered a violation. Block and delete the person on your social media account. Erase their phone number and any history of you calling them. If the order is temporary, you can always get this information back.
Change Your Routes: Old habits die hard, but in order to increase your chances at staying away from the victim, find a new way to get to work or a new morning routine. Avoid the coffee shops or stores where the victim likes to shop. By no means should you drive through the neighborhood where the victim lives. Even if you live in a smaller town, you will have to find new places to shop, eat, watch movies, and so on.
Carry Your Protection Order With You: Every protection order is different. If a law enforcement officer mistakes the terms of your protection order for someone else’s, or vice versa, you may wind up in handcuffs. If you are questioned by the police about whether you are staying within the terms of your protection order, having a copy on your person will give instant proof that you are within your rights.
Prepare a Strong Defense: If you are arrested or charged with violating a protection order, you still have a chance to have the charges dropped and avoid a conviction. Do not give up if you have been arrested. There are ways to show that you did not have intentions to visit the victim, and that your mistake will not result in harm or ever happen again.
You may be back in court a year after your protection order is put in place, but if you have stayed within the terms of the order, the order could be lifted. The best way to have a protection order lifted is to follow it. If you are afraid that you may be served a protection order, or have been served and are accused of violating the order, consult with a North Carolina criminal lawyer.
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.