North Carolina law defines domestic violence as one of several violent acts when committed between people sharing a personal relationship. North Carolina law also provides a system where a victim of domestic violence can file an application for a court-issued protective order.
A personal relationship is defined as two people who are:
(N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-1)
A person commits domestic violence by committing one or more of the following acts against a person with whom the offender shares or shared a personal relationship, or against the minor child of such a person:
North Carolina's criminal statutes generally apply to defendants regardless of whether they share a personal relationship with the victim. When the crime does fit the definition of domestic violence, however, the law provides the judge with the opportunity to impose special conditions when sentencing the defendant.
If the judge determines that a personal relationship exists or existed, the determination is noted in the official record of the case so that future inquiries into the defendant's criminal record will show that the defendant committed a crime involving domestic violence. Additionally, the judge may impose special terms of probation, including any of the following conditions that:
(N.C. Gen. Stat. § § 15A-1343(b1), 15A-1382.1)
A person who fears being the victim of domestic violence, or who has already been the victim of domestic violence, may petition the court for a protective order to prevent future acts of domestic violence.
A person can file a petition for an emergency protective order if that person believes that there is a danger of receiving serious and immediate injury, or if the person believes that a minor child may become the victim of such an injury. The court may schedule a hearing that includes the defendant, and the judge can grant an ex parte protective order prior to the hearing if the allegations demonstrate the petitioner or a minor child are in danger of domestic violence. Ex parte means that the court issues the emergency protective order without notifying the defendant before issuing the order.
After conducting a hearing with both the petitioner and defendant, the court must issue a protective order if it finds that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence. The order may include provisions that:
A protective order can remain valid for up to one year from the time the court issues it, but a party may ask the court to renew the order for an additional two years.
(N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3)
If the defendant commits a felony while subject to a protective order that prohibits such activity, the felony is punished as a felony one class higher than otherwise set by the law, unless the felony is a Class A or B1 felony or the defendant has two or more prior convictions for violating a protective order or unless the defendant possesses a deadly weapon while violating a provision to stay away from a person or place. If the defendant has two prior convictions for violating or a protective order, or if the defendant violates a stay away provision while possessing a deadly weapon, the new violation is punished as a Class H felony, which carries a presumptive sentence range of five to six months in prison for persons with no prior criminal convictions.
A person subject to a protective order who enters property operated as a safe haven for domestic violence victims is guilty of a Class H felony.
An officer must arrest the defendant if the officer has reason to believe that the defendant violated a protective order term pertaining to exclusion from the victim's home or a term prohibiting the defendant from threatening, abusing, or harassing the victim. Under such circumstances, the law does not require the officer to obtain an arrest warrant before making the arrest, which is the normal procedure.
(N.C. Gen. Stat. § § 15A-1340.17, 15A-1340.23, 50B-4.1)
If you are charged with committing a crime involving domestic violence, or if you are accused of committing domestic violence in a petition for a protective order, you should speak with an attorney immediately. A skilled attorney is essential to successfully defending against allegations that can result in criminal penalties, a restrictive protective order, or both. An attorney will provide invaluable guidance throughout the process while protecting your rights.