A restraining order in North Carolina is a legal document that helps protect you from an abusive individual, whether they are someone you are close to or a stalker. If someone has threatened, harassed, or physically hurt you, filing a restraining order may help keep you and any children safe.
Restraining orders are not foolproof protection, but they can provide peace of mind and help law enforcement track any violations. This blog post will cover the basics of what you need to know about restraining orders in North Carolina.
What is a Restraining Order in NC? What Does It Do?
A restraining order in North Carolina can come in different forms, including
- Domestic Violence Protective Order also called a 50B or DVPO, protects you and any children from violence in a personal relationship
- Civil No-Contact Order (50C): Protects you from others threatening continued harassment such as stalking or sexual assault. This order is for when you don’t have a personal relationship with the person hurting you.
- Permanent Civil No-Contact Order Against a Sex Offender (50D): Protects you from a convicted criminal who commits a sex offense against you.
Let’s look at when you may use each type of restraining order and how they work.
Domestic Violence Protective Order 50B (DVPO)
An order specifically against someone you have a personal relationship with is called a Domestic Violence Protective Order, also called a 50B or DVPO.
If you need immediate protection before the DVPO court hearing, which is generally 10 days after you file, you can also get an emergency protective restraining order!
An emergency order is called an “ex parte” order. An ex parte temporary protective order is in effect until your hearing. At the hearing, if the judge finds domestic violence, they can enact a DVPO court order for up to one year, depending on your situation.
What is a Personal Relationship Under NC Law?
A personal relationship is a legal term that includes:
- Current or former spouses
- Household members or a family member
- Someone you’re romantically involved with (doesn’t have to be opposite sex)
- Someone you are in a dating relationship with or dated in the past
- Someone you have a child with
Who Can File for a Domestic Violence Protective Order DVPO?
You can file a DVPO, if a person you’re in a personal relationship with
- Attempts to cause bodily injury to you or a member of your household (including a minor child)
- Intentionally causes bodily injury to you or a member of your household
- Places you or a member of your family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury
- Commits continued harassment that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress to you or a member of your household
- Commits any rape or sexual offense to you or a member of your household
If you live in North Carolina, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, you can go through the court process to file for a DVPO. Once you file for the order and receive the DVPO, your domestic abuser can face immediate arrest if they violate the ex parte or DVPO orders.
How Can a DVPO Protect Me and Others?
As a battered or abused individual facing domestic violence, you may obtain a DVPO. North Carolina law allows life-affirming legal protections for you and your household that may include:
- Giving you possession of the home and excluding the abusive partner
- Awarding you temporary child custody
- Ordering eviction of the abusive partner from your residence
- Assistance for you to return home
- Ordering abusive partner to pay temporary child support for minor children (if required by law)
- Giving you possession of the combined personal property
- Giving you physical temporary custody of a pet or minor child
- Awarding you attorney fees
- Ordering additional requirements necessary to protect you and others
- Prohibiting the abusive person from purchasing a firearm
- Ordering sheriff to deliver protective order to kids’ school principals
- Ordering the abusive partner to attend and complete an abuser treatment program approved by the Domestic Violence Commission
If I Get the Emergency DVPO Ex Parte Temporary Protective Order, What Happens?
An emergency (ex parte) DVPO may require an abusive person to:
- Leave your home (regardless of who pays rent or mortgage)
- Stay away from their own children
- Give up possession of a motor vehicle
- Surrender their “firearms, ammunition, and gun permits” to the sheriff (2)
If the defendant violates the firearms portion of the order, officers can arrest them and bring charges for various felonies.
If you are in immediate danger from a domestic violence abuser, speak with an experienced DVPO attorney to file an ex-parte order. This will help ensure your safety and the safety of any minor children involved.
Domestic violence protective orders can be the first step in the process, helping you find your way into a safe space again!
What Is a Civil No Contact Order (50C)? What Can It Do For Me?
If you do not have a “personal relationship” with the person who hurt you, but they stalked you or engaged in nonconsensual sexual conduct, you can file a 50C restraining order.
Stalking refers to any harassing behavior or following someone to cause fear or substantial emotional distress. Nonconsensual sexual contact is any intentional sexual behavior done without consent.
A Civil No-Contact order can prevent the person who harmed you from doing many things, including the following acts:
- Assaulting, molesting, visiting, or interfering with you
- Contacting you in letters, email or texts, telephone, or on social media
- Injuring or abusing you
- Stalking or harassing you (including harassing phone calls)
- Going places you frequent, such as your workplace, residence, school, etc.
- Compromising your safety
- Interfering with you in different ways
If an abuser violates protective orders, they can face jail for misdemeanor or felony charges.
Permanent Civil No-Contact Order Against a Sex Offender (50D)
This restraining order protects you from a convicted criminal who commits a sex offense against you.
A 50D restraining order is a lifetime civil order that requires an offender to have no contact with the victim, their household, or minor children. The sex offender will also have to register as such for the rest of their life.
What Happens If Someone Violates a Restraining Order in NC?
If someone violates a restraining order in North Carolina, they can face criminal charges. Restraining orders are enforceable by law enforcement, and an abuser can face immediate arrest if they violate the terms of a protective order.
Their charges may depend on which part of the restraining order they violated.
For example, suppose an abusive person knowingly violates a valid protective order without committing another crime. In that case, they are guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor and can spend up to 150 days in prison.
However, suppose they already have convictions for two previous misdemeanor DVPO offenses and receive a conviction for a third DVPO violation misdemeanor. In that case, they are guilty of a Class H felony with penalties including up to 39 months in prison. G.S. 50B-4.1(f)
They will face charges for a Class H felony if they (attempt to) possess, purchase, or receive a:
- Machine gun
- Permits to purchase or carry concealed firearms G.S. 14-269.8
If they knowingly violate a restraining order by failing to stay away from a place, or a person, while possessing a deadly weapon, they can face Class H felony charges. G.S. 50B-4.1(g)
If the person who filed a restraining order lives at a safe house for victims of domestic violence, an abusive person can face Class H felony charges for stepping foot on the property. It doesn’t matter if the person who filed the DVPO is on the property at the time or not. G.S. 50B-4.1(g1)
A Class H felony can bring someone up to 39 months in prison, along with court fees, probation, and attorney fees.
The Process of Filing for a Restraining Order in NC
You can file a domestic violence protective order at your county Clerk of Court. The Clerk’s office will have forms you can fill out to file for a restraining order. The form will ask you for basic information about yourself, the abuser, and any children involved.
You’ll also have to describe the abuse or stalking in as much detail as possible and list witnesses who can attest to what happened. In North Carolina, you can file for a restraining order without an attorney, but it’s always a good idea to consult with one before going to court.
If you have an attorney, they can help you complete the necessary paperwork and represent you in court. If you don’t have an attorney, the civil court may give you some basic information about the process, but court officials cannot give you legal advice.
Once you file the paperwork, a judge will review it to decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order. If they choose to issue an order, they will set a date for a hearing. You and the abuser will have to appear in court on that date.
At the hearing, the judge will hear both sides of the story and decide whether to issue a permanent restraining order. If the judge issues a permanent restraining order, it will be in effect for one year.
After that, you can renew the order for another year if you need to. You’ll have to file paperwork and go through the same process as you did for the original order.
We Can Help
At Cape Fear Law, our experienced attorneys can help you face violent or harassing situations by using our judicial system. As your domestic violence legal team, we tirelessly represent your rights in hearings to protect you and any children involved. Restraining orders provide an essential layer of protection against abusers, and we use the court system to protect you!
If you or a loved one are dealing with domestic violence, or other harassment or abuse, we can help. Let us represent you at your court dates and help you present your case to the judge.
Contact us today and find out how we can help you start the process of finding your freedom to live safely again.