What Makes a Crime Domestic Violence?

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In North Carolina there are certain charges that are by their very nature, crimes of domestic violence. This is most commonly seen in the charge of violating a domestic violence protective order. These crimes however are not the only crimes of domestic violence. Being charged with a crime of domestic violence changes many of the rules, policies, and punishments found in many other cases. The long-term effects of being convicted of a crime of domestic violence are also very different from the average case.

In order to be charged as a crime of domestic violence, often called ‘being marked as a domestic’, the state must prove that one of several special relationship types exists. These relationships are:

- Current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim,

- A person with whom the victim shares a child in common,

- A person who is cohabitating with, or

- A person who has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian,

- A person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.

If one of these relationships exists, regardless of whether the statute for the crime charged uses or requires such a relationship, the case can be marked as a domestic violence case.

Why is it important to know whether or not your case is a domestic violence case? First, because certain crimes that normally would be offenses for which an officer could issue a citation, require the officer to arrest a defendant if charged as a crime of domestic violence. An example that is most commonly seen is trespassing, where if not a crime of domestic violence then a citation is usually issued, however, if the trespassing is done in violation of a DVPO, thus making it a crime of domestic violence, the officer must arrest the defendant. Second, if charged with a crime of domestic violence, you may fall under what is known as the 48-hour rule. The 48-hour rule, sometimes called a domestic hold, requires that unlike many other charges, a judge must be the one to set the conditions of release, eliminating the possibility of having a magistrate set such conditions soon after booking is completed. A magistrate judge can only set conditions of release after 48-hours has passed since the person has been arrested.

Punishment and long-term consequences are another key area where crimes of domestic violence differ from non-domestic charges. If found guilty and sentenced to probation, North Carolina law makes the completion of a domestic violence treatment program a regular condition of probation, thus making it mandatory. Another post conviction effect of a crime of domestic violence is the loss of firearms rights. North Carolina law says that if the crime charged has as an element of intentional or reckless use of force and the crime was committed against one of the above-mentioned special relationships, the defendant loses his ability to purchase or possess firearms. Finally, if convicted of a felony, and the state has proven a crime of domestic violence, then the court may find an aggravating factor for sentencing, which could make the defendant eligible for aggravated range punishments.

If you have been charged with a crime of domestic violence or you have questions about domestic violence crimes, contact a criminal defense attorney at Jetton & Meredith. Our experienced attorneys can help defendants