Domestic violence is taken really seriously in the criminal justice system in North Carolina. People often mistakenly believe they have been charged with domestic violence. Domestic violence is actually not a specific crime but rather a category or umbrella that defines certain crimes or situations.
In order for a crime to be considered domestic violence a personal relationship must exist. In North Carolina, a personal relationship is defined under N.C.G.S 50B-1 as two people who are:
- current or former spouses,
- persons of the opposite sex who live together or have lived together,
- related as parent and child (including persons acting as a parent to a minor child) or as grandparents and grandchildren,
- parents of the same child,
- current or former household members, or
- persons of the opposite sex who are in or were in a dating relationship
As shown above, for a person charged with simple assault and the victim is a spouse the crime would be considered a crime of domestic violence. On the other hand, if a person is charged with simple assault and the victim is a complete stranger it would not be considered a crime of domestic violence.
Most people think of domestic violence as a criminal matter. In North Carolina, there are a number of criminal charges that may be brought as a result of domestic violence, including a wide range of misdemeanors such as simple assault, assault on a female, communicating threats, and harassment, and a number of potential felonies for more serious offenses. Criminal charges can result in an arrest of the accused and a court date at which the matter may go to trial to determine guilt.
In addition to, or instead of, bringing criminal charges, one may also seek a civil protective order based on domestic violence allegations. A civil domestic violence protective order (sometimes referred to as a DVPO, 50B action, or a restraining order), if granted, will typically result in the accused being ordered to stay away from the alleged victim, usually for a period of 1 year. There is a range of additional conditions that a judge may enter as a result of a protective order being entered.
Many times, both civil and criminal actions are brought. The accused should strongly consider seeking legal counsel on both actions. Both actions will require a court date, but the civil protective order court date will very likely come before the criminal court date, and anything said by the accused in regard to the civil action can be used against him/her in regard to criminal activity. It is very important to understand how each of these actions will impact the other.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- Can I be charged with the crime of domestic violence?
- NO. Domestic violence is not an actual crime. It is a category or umbrella that defines certain crimes that involve people with personal relationships.
- Can I be charged criminally and civilly with domestic violence?
- YES. Often times people who have been charged with a crime of domestic violence are often served a civil 50B restraining order.
WHAT DO I DO IF I AM FACED WITH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
First, you should immediately contact a lawyer prior to speaking to anyone (including law enforcement). Second, understand that these situations are taken very seriously and even if the alleged victim does NOT want to move forward the case can still proceed. Often times the alleged victim does not want to prosecute the accused but the State of North Carolina still prosecutes the case. Last, preserve all the evidence that could assist in your defense including but not limited to, videos, text messages, witnesses, etc.