If you live in a domestic violence situation, it is essential to know that you are not alone. There are laws to protect you from violent acts and help you find the resources you need. In this FAQ, we will answer all of your questions about domestic violence in North Carolina. We will provide information about the different types of domestic violence, the resources available to victims, and the laws that protect them. We hope that this information will help you get the support you need!
Domestic Violence North Carolina
You may feel alone and scared if you are in a domestic violence situation. The good news is that laws are in place to help protect you and provide resources.
Domestic abuse happens when you face abuse at the hands of someone with a personal relationship with you, including:
- Former or current spouse
- Household member
- Your parent
- Your child
North Carolina law has a legal definition of domestic violence that includes acts of:
- Attempting to cause bodily injury
- Intentionally causing bodily injury
- Placing you or your child in fear of imminent serious bodily injury
- Sexual offenses such as rape or sexual assault, or battery
- Continued harassment and stalking if it’s causing you substantial emotional distress
When you see domestic violence legally defined, it can help you see that you need protective orders. You are a victim of a crime, and it’s crucial to take steps to protect yourself from the abusive person.
What is a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO)?
A DVPO is a type of civil restraining order. It is also called a “DVPO” or “50B” and is not a form of criminal charges. A 50B protective order files a suit asking the law and officers of the law to help protect you and any children. It places limitations on what the abuser can and cannot legally do.
How Do I File A DVPO?
If it is at night or on the weekend, you can file a DVPO at your local magistrate’s office. If it is during the week, you do it through the Clerk of Court offices.
A DVPO explains the reasons you need protection. You’ll write out the acts of violence, threats of violence, harassment, and stalking and when they occurred. Part of writing out what happened is also explaining how the abuse hurts you or any children emotionally, physically, socially, or professionally.
After you file the DVPO, the judge or magistrate will ask you to describe the circumstances and what has happened. If the judge or magistrate decides you need an emergency order, they will issue one immediately. This ex parte DVPO order is immediately effective and is valid until your hearing.
What Happens at the DVPO Hearing?
Police officers can only enforce the DVPO once the abuser receives their copy. Once they receive the DVPO, the hearing occurs within 10 days.
At the hearing, it’s crucial to have a strategy and an attorney who can assist you in adequately explaining the situation to the judge. The hearing decides whether you receive a longer DVPO, valid for up to one year.
With legal assistance, you have a shot at proving your allegations against the defendant.
Can I Renew My Order After a Year Passes?
You can renew the DVPO for up to 2 more years by filing a motion with the court before your current DVPO expires. And you can ask the court to continue the order repeatedly as needed.
How Do I Keep My Children Safe?
As mandated by law, the judge must consider child custody arrangements if you request it. However, most judges recommend resolving those matters in a separate court proceeding for optimal results.
While the judge may issue a custody order as part of the domestic violence protective order, this provision is only temporary and doesn’t last longer than one year. Consequently, you must file an individual petition as soon as possible to obtain custody. Talk with your attorney about the process to get started!
What About Child Support, Alimony, and Property Division?
Through the protective order, a judge determines how to handle financial matters on a restricted basis. These can include temporary possession of a residence and vehicles.
Oftentimes, courts find it more prudent to address financial issues in a separate legal proceeding. To secure more permanent measures for child support, alimony and property division, it is likely that you will need to file a separate complaint.
Why Should I File Criminal Charges?
A victim of abuse and that victim’s family may have difficulty seeing that a crime has been committed. They would run fast if anyone else assaulted them with a deadly weapon. If someone on the street slapped them to the ground, it would be evident that a crime had happened, and they would seek out law enforcement help.
However, when it’s a spouse or other beloved family member abusing you, it’s harder to see that the act of violence is a crime. It’s essential to know that it is not a betrayal of the abuser to seek out safety for yourself and any children.
Pressing criminal charges can keep you and your loved ones safe. The criminal court system can mete out penalties to match the crimes committed by defendants.
What Kinds of Penalties Will An Abuser Face?
Misdemeanor convictions in NC generally result in less than one year of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.
Simple assault is a common misdemeanor charge in North Carolina. Many abusive individuals receive this charge when they attempt to harm someone or intentionally cause injury physically.
Another common misdemeanor offense is an assault on a female. A man over 18 can get this charge if they attempt to physically harm a woman, even if they don’t succeed or cause injury.
While most misdemeanors do not bring a maximum prison sentence, others are more serious. An A1 misdemeanor conviction carries the longest jail sentence for a misdemeanor at up to 150 days of prison. A1 charges include if the defendant commits an assault or assault and battery, or uses a deadly weapon to cause serious physical injury to a:
- Female (if you’re a man)
- Children under the age of 12 years
- Person you have a personal relationship with, where a child under 18 could see or hear
A Class H felony can bring 4-25 months in prison and include:
- Stalking when a court order prohibits it
- Enters property for a safe house or haven for victims of domestic violence
- Violates DVPO provisions regarding firearms
- Assault inflicting serious bodily injury
- Discharge a firearm within an enclosure to incite fear
What Happens If I Press Charges?
Law enforcement will arrest the defendant for domestic violence-related criminal charges. They may spend up to 48 hours in jail waiting for a bond hearing. The judge may allow or deny the bond. If the abuser (defendant) pays the bond, they are released until the trial.
However, as a condition of release, the abusive person can’t have any contact with you. They will most likely hire a defense attorney to fight for their rights. However, if convicted, they will receive a sentence based on the crime.
Who Can Help Me Stay Safe When An Abuser Gets Released on Bond?
If you’re considering leaving a domestic violence situation, it’s best to seek help first. See your domestic violence attorney to get a DVPO and work on your strategy for hearings and court dates.
To stay safe and out of reach of domestic violence, contact the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence or find help across the state at NC Council for Women’s Domestic Violence Programs Directory.
We Can Help
At Cape Fear Law, we focus on domestic violence issues to keep you safe. Our domestic violence attorneys will guide you through the process of filing charges and seeking a domestic violence protective order.
We understand that domestic violence is an incredibly personal issue, and we are committed to providing representation with dignity and respect. Contact us today for a free consultation. We can help you protect yourself and your family from domestic violence in North Carolina.