North Carolina Domestic Violence Laws

The basics of North Carolina's domestic violence laws, crimes, and penalties.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated June 11, 2024

A person who commits domestic violence in North Carolina can face arrest, jail time, restraining orders, and firearms restrictions.

What Is Domestic Violence in North Carolina?

North Carolina law defines domestic violence as acts or threats of harm committed against someone in a current or former "personal relationship."

Domestic Violence Definitions

North Carolina defines "personal relationships" as two people who are:

  • current or former spouses, household members, dating partners, or co-residents
  • parents of the same child, or
  • related as parent and child (including persons acting as a parent to a minor child) or as grandparents and grandchildren.

Acts of domestic violence include:

  • bodily harm and attempted bodily harm
  • sex offenses (such as rape and sexual battery), and
  • threats of imminent bodily harm or continued harassment that cause substantial emotional distress.

Anyone who's a victim of domestic violence can seek a protection order in North Carolina.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs)

A victim files a request for a DVPO in civil court. If the judge determines domestic violence took place, it must issue the DVPO. Protection orders prohibit the abuser from harming, threatening, or contacting the victim. The order can also direct the abusing party to move out of a shared residence and surrender firearms. A violation of this court order can result in criminal penalties.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 50B-1, 50B-3, 50B-3.1, 50B-4.1 (2024).)

Is Domestic Violence a Crime in North Carolina?

North Carolina has several crimes that apply in domestic violence cases, including the crime of misdemeanor domestic violence. Some crimes carry enhanced penalties or special sentencing provisions if the defendant has or had a personal relationship with the victim. The law also imposes criminal penalties for violations of DVPOs.

When any crime fits the definition of domestic violence, the law provides the judge with the opportunity to impose special conditions when sentencing the defendant. Also, if the judge determines that a personal relationship exists or existed, the criminal record will show that the defendant committed a crime involving domestic violence.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1382.1 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Domestic Violence Crimes in North Carolina?

Below are examples of criminal charges and penalties common in domestic violence crimes.

Misdemeanor Domestic Violence

A person commits a class A1 misdemeanor by using or attempting to use physical force or threatening a deadly weapon against a:

  • current or former spouse, parent, or guardian (or someone similarly situated, including co-habitants)
  • co-parent, or
  • current or recently former dating partner.

Class A1 misdemeanors carry up to 150 days of jail time and a fine.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-32.5 (2024).)

Domestic Assault and Battery

North Carolina law has several general assault crimes that range from misdemeanors to serious felonies depending on the harm inflicted, the risk of harm involved, or the use of a deadly weapon.

Certain assault crimes incorporate penalties typical in domestic assaults, such as strangulation and assault committed in the presence of a child.

Strangulation. Assault by strangulation carries class H felony penalties if it results in physical injuries. The maximum penalty for a class H felony is three years of prison time.

Assault in the presence of a child. Domestic assault that involves serious injuries or a deadly weapon committed in the presence of a child carries mandatory supervised probation for a first conviction. Subsequent convictions result in mandatory jail sentences of not less than 30 days.

Felony assaults. While not specific to domestic assaults, assaults involving deadly weapons with intent to kill or inflict serious harm carry class C, D, and E felony charges. Maximum prison sentences for these felonies range from 7 to 19 years (with class C being the most serious).

Check out this article to learn more about North Carolina's general assault crimes and penalties.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-32, 14-32.4, 14-33 (2024).)

Stalking and Trespass on Domestic Violence Shelter

Stalking in North Carolina carries class A1 misdemeanor penalties. However, this offense increases to a class H felony if the defendant violated a protection order by stalking the victim. Repeat stalking convictions are class F felonies, punishable by a maximum 5-year prison term.

Trespassing on a domestic violence shelter with a deadly weapon is a class G felony offense. Class G felonies carry up to 4 years of prison time.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-134.3, 14-277.34 (2024).)

Violation of a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO)

Violating a DVPO starts as a class A1 misdemeanor. Penalties increase for repeat violations and violations involving deadly weapons, felony offenses, or shelters.

For instance, a third conviction for a DVPO violation carries class H felony penalties. The same penalty applies if a person violates a stay-away provision (1) while possessing a deadly weapon or (2) by entering a shelter where the protected person is staying (even if not present at the time of the offense). If the defendant violates the DVPO by committing a felony, the sentence for the underlying felony increases by one class.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-4.1 (2024).)

Arrest, Bail, and Firearm Restrictions in North Carolina Domestic Violence Cases

North Carolina law also imposes certain arrest and pretrial release policies and firearm restrictions in domestic violence cases.

Arrest and Bail Provisions in Domestic Violence Cases

Police must arrest a defendant who they believe violated a DVPO stay-away term or prohibition against threatening, abusing, or harassing the protected person. They may arrest a defendant who's suspected of committing a misdemeanor domestic violence offense without a warrant.

Suspects in domestic violence cases must typically go in front of a judge before being released from jail. The judge will review the case to decide if the defendant presents a risk of harm or intimidation to the alleged victim and, if so, order the suspect to stay away from, and not harm or harass, the victim. Violating this no-contact order can result in arrest, detention, and additional criminal charges.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 15A-401, 15A-534.1 (2024).)

Firearm Restrictions in Dometic Violence Cases

When issuing DVPOs, judges may prohibit an abuser from possessing firearms and order the surrender of any firearms to authorities. To impose these conditions, the judge must find that the defendant has used or threatened the use of a deadly weapon, threatened serious harm or death, or inflicted serious harm. Violating the order by possessing a firearm carries class H felony penalties.

Both federal and state laws prohibit firearm possession by convicted felons. A violation carries state penalties for a class G felony. Federal law also prohibits firearm possession in certain cases involving a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.

(N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-269.8, 14-415.1, 50B-3.1 (2024); 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2024).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you face domestic violence charges or were served a domestic violence protection order, contact a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you understand what's at stake, protect your rights, and defend your case.

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