Carteret County Domestic Violence Lawyer
How Does Domestic Violence Work in NC?
Domestic violence is one of the most emotionally-charged crimes that a defendant can find themselves facing. Pursuant to §50B-1, domestic violence is an offense that is defined by the commission of the following acts against someone with whom the defendant has a “personal relationship” with (we’ll further define “personal relationship” below as well).
An individual may be charged with domestic violence if they have committed any of the following acts against someone they know personally:
- Attempting to cause serious bodily injury.
- Placing the alleged victim in fear of imminent injury.
- Harassing the victim to the point of stalking.
- Committing an act that is defined as rape or other sexual offense.
Now, domestic violence differs from other violent crimes in that it may only be committed by an individual who shares a “personal relationship” with an aggrieved party. The term “personal relationship” is also defined within the North Carolina statutes, and it is not as specific of a term as one would think. Anything from an ex-spouse, to a former roommate, to people who have a child together and even those who are casually dating may be defined as being in a personal relationship – therefore causing the act to fall both under the first criminal act and the umbrella term of domestic violence.
These state explicitly defines a “personal relationship” as a relationship where the defendant and the aggrieved party qualify under the following terms:
- “(1) Are current or former spouses;
- (2) Are persons of opposite sex who live together or have lived together;
- (3) Are related as parents and children, including others acting in loco parentis to a minor child, or as grandparents and grandchildren. For purposes of this subdivision, an aggrieved party may not obtain an order of protection against a child or grandchild under the age of 16;
- (4) Have a child in common;
- (5) Are current or former household members;
- (6) Are persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship. For purposes of this subdivision, a dating relationship is one wherein the parties are romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context is not a dating relationship.”
Is Domestic Violence Considered a Civil Case or a Criminal Case?
Domestic violence cases may be considered both civil and criminal cases. Since committing domestic violence may also mean that an individual also committed a crime (for example, assault), then that individual may face criminal charges, as well as a civil suit. In addition, an individual may be accused of domestic violence, and the alleged victim may pursue a civil case against a defendant, which may result in restitution on top of traditional criminal sentencing.
As such, a defendant may be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, and they may have to pay restitutions to the aggrieved party.
If you’re facing a domestic violence charge here in the state of North Carolina, then you are facing a charge that local courts take seriously. If convicted of domestic violence, you could lose custody of your children, you could be forced to pay fees and financial support, and you may be forced to leave your place of residence, among other punishments.
Will My Domestic Violence Charge Be Considered a Misdemeanor or a Felony Offense?
Domestic violence charges may result in misdemeanor or felony sentencing, depending on the type of crime committed, the record of the defendant, and the judgment of the court. You can learn more about misdemeanors and felonies and their sentencing under North Carolina law.
Which Domestic Violence Crimes May Result in Misdemeanor Charges?
A defendant may face misdemeanor sentencing if they are judged guilty of any of the following domestic violence actions (among other domestic violence crimes):
- Communicating Threats (verbally, written, by phone, or by other means)
- Assault (including assault with a deadly weapon, assault in the presence of a child, assault by pointing a gun, etc.)
- Harassment (including harassing phone calls)
- Pointing a Gun
- Damaging Personal Property
- Violating an Existing Protective Order
- Sexual Battery
Which Domestic Violence Crimes May Result in Felony Charges?
A defendant may face felony sentencing if they are judged guilty of any of the following domestic violence crimes (among other domestic violence crimes):
- Sexual Offenses
- Multiple Offenses
What Sentencing and Penalties May I Face If I Am Judged Guilty of Domestic Violence?
Those who are convicted of a domestic violence crime may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, and they may owe restitution to the aggrieved party. Misdemeanor domestic violence sentences can vary, depending on the severity of the crime at hand. A defendant may face up to 150 days of jail time, fines, required community service time, and required anger management courses.
If a defendant is convicted of a more serious, felony offense, then the defendant may face up to a Class B felony for a domestic violence crime, such as rape (they may even face more serious sentencing if they have a criminal record). Depending on the Class of the felony, a defendant may face between three months of prison time to a lifetime prison term without the chance for parole. In addition, a defendant may face fines, required community service time, and required anger management courses.
Sentencing in North Carolina can vary greatly, depending on the domestic violence infraction at hand, as well as the criminal record of the defendant, and the judgment of the court.
On top of these criminal sentences, a defendant may face a protective order, they may lose whole or partial custody of their child or children, and they may face other restitution requirements (including paying the aggrieved party, paying for attorney fees, paying child support fees, paying for lost wages, etc.).
What is a Protective Order (or Restraining Order)?
If you are accused of a domestic violence offense, the court may issue a protective order (or restraining order, as it is commonly called), wherein you will have some restrictions which may bar you from visiting the aggrieved party, and it may bar you from visiting your child or children, among other restrictions. Under § 50B-3, the state notes that any of the following protective orders may be issued by the court to the defendant and aggrieved party:
“[The court may:] (1) Direct a party to refrain from such acts.
(2) Grant to a party possession of the residence or household of the parties and exclude the other party from the residence or household.
(3) Require a party to provide a spouse and his or her children suitable alternate housing.
(4) Award temporary custody of minor children and establish temporary visitation rights pursuant to G.S. 50B-2 if the order is granted ex parte, and pursuant to subsection (a1) of this section if the order is granted after notice or service of process.
(5) Order the eviction of a party from the residence or household and assistance to the victim in returning to it.
(6) Order either party to make payments for the support of a minor child as required by law.
(7) Order either party to make payments for the support of a spouse as required by law.
(8) Provide for possession of personal property of the parties, including the care, custody, and control of any animal owned, possessed, kept, or held as a pet by either party or minor child residing in the household.
(9) Order a party to refrain from doing any or all of the following:
- a. Threatening, abusing, or following the other party.
- b. Harassing the other party, including by telephone, visiting the home or workplace, or other means.
- b1. Cruelly treating or abusing an animal owned, possessed, kept, or held as a pet by either party or minor child residing in the household.
- c. Otherwise interfering with the other party.
(10) Award attorney’s fees to either party.
(11) Prohibit a party from purchasing a firearm for a time fixed in the order.
(12) Order any party the court finds is responsible for acts of domestic violence to attend and complete an abuser treatment program if the program is approved by the Domestic Violence Commission.
(13) Include any additional prohibitions or requirements the court deems necessary to protect any party or any minor child.”
The courts may issue a protective order if you are convicted of a domestic violence offense. In addition, you may be issued an emergency protective order, even before a trial, if a judge thinks that the allegedly aggrieved party is in imminent danger.
What is an “Ex-Parte” or Emergency Protective Order?
An “ex parte” or emergency protective order may be issued by a judge if an allegedly aggrieved individual may be in danger. A judge may issue this special order to protect the allegedly aggrieved individual from a potential defendant, right away. Emergency orders may be in effect for up to 10 days at a time, and they may be renewed so long as a judge determines that an allegedly aggrieved individual is still in danger.
Unlike emergency protective orders, traditional protective orders (or restraining orders, as they’re often called), may be issued after a defendant has been deemed guilty, and these orders may only last for up to a year.
What Happens If I Violate a Protective Order?
Violating a protective order is a crime, and it may result in a misdemeanor or felony charge. Most protective order violations result in a Class A misdemeanor, and they may result in up to 60 days of jail time, as well as fines and other penalties.
If a defendant violates a protective order while carrying a deadly weapon, the violation will be considered a felony offense, and it will be sentenced accordingly. In addition, if a defendant violates a protective order multiple times, they will also face a felony charge. These felony offenders often face Class H felony charges, which may result in up to six years of prison time, as well as fines and other penalties.
Contact Your Local, NC Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Today!
If you have been accused of committing domestic violence, it is important that you realize the uphill battle that you will be facing. In many cases, a domestic violence charge can be made out of spite, jealousy or even in the attempt of the alleged victim to gain the upper hand in a pre-existing family lawsuit. The difficulty arises when one realizes that even if they wish to drop the charges, the alleged victim will often not be able to — and by that time, it will be up to the prosecutor in determining whether or not they would like to pursue formal charges.
At Cummings & Kennedy, we do our best to provide you with the support that you need to have your case turned over. However, we also realize that innocence is often not enough to protect your legal rights. You need to be confident that you have the representation of an experienced Carteret County criminal defense lawyer on your side who will help you to fight tooth and nail to defend your legal rights.
We have over two decades of legal experience and have been proven as true advocates for the rights of the accused — call us today to learn more about our team of domestic violence lawyers and the services we can help you with! We offer free initial consultations, and we provide domestic violence defense services for individuals here in Carteret County, North Carolina.
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