Relationships can be difficult. They require consistent upkeep and open communication between the two parties involved. However, they can also be a source of frustration and are full of emotions. Unfortunately, there are times when these emotions can get the better of a person, causing physical violence to occur. Whether between adults or between an adult and a child, domestic violence can be a scary situation. It can erupt seemingly out of nowhere, or it can show signs of building over time.
If a person knowingly and openly commits an act of domestic violence, they should be held accountable for their actions. However, every circumstance is different and requires its own investigation. The repercussions of a domestic violence accusation or conviction can be life-altering, particularly if the circumstances of the case are unfounded or false.
At Doug Edwards Law, we know the risks you face and how important it is that you are represented by someone with knowledge and experience. Domestic violence cases can be confusing and intricate, and they often come with the added challenge of protective orders and understanding the laws that accompany them. Your case will bring up many questions, but we have the answers.
North Carolina law defines domestic violence as violent acts committed by one individual against another with whom they share a personal relationship. Victims in such incidents can file protective orders (restraining orders) against the accused.
The law defines personal relationships in several ways, including:
When a person in a relationship as described above commits an act of domestic violence, they are committing violence in any number of the following ways:
The circumstances of the crimes will determine what charges a person will face. Although these definitions are in place, there are no specific offenses labeled “domestic violence” in North Carolina law. Therefore, prosecutors will convert domestic violence offenses into other crimes such as assault, harassment, or battery. These crimes can be prosecuted at both the misdemeanor and felony levels. It is also important to note that domestic violence does not need to include physical contact. Threats and harassment can also be considered forms of domestic violence.
In addition to these criminal charges, victims have the right to seek a protective order (restraining order) in civil court. These seek to protect the victim from further violence by forcing the victim and the accused to avoid one another, in addition to other conditions ordered by the court.
Charges of domestic violence can be filed with or without the presence of police. If police are called to an incident, they are required to make an arrest if there is probable cause. However, if they are not called, the victim may file a charge with the court.
Victims of domestic violence often fear that it will continue or worsen, and they may seek protection from the law. While many protective orders are issued after a court process, domestic violence victims can file for emergency orders. In most protective order cases, the petitioner and the defendant will be summoned to court, and a hearing will be held to determine the circumstances of the order. However, if an emergency order is filed, the court may adjudicate the order without notifying the defendant.
If the case involves domestic violence, a court must issue a protective order that could include many of the following conditions:
Protective orders are valid for a period of one year and may be petitioned to be extended for an additional two years.
Any violation of a protective order is not only a Class A1 misdemeanor but could also include charges for other crimes committed during the violation. Without prior convictions, the misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail.
If a felony is committed while there is a protective order in place or during the violation of the protective order, the accused could face charges that are punishable as one class higher than the law states for the individual felony. However, if there are two or more prior convictions of protective order violations, or if the defendant violates the order while in possession of a deadly weapon, the violation is punished as a Class H felony. This carries a sentence of 5 to 6 months in prison if there have been no prior convictions.
In addition, a Class H felony can be charged if the subject of the protective order enters any property that is operating as a safe haven for the victim. To be charged, it must be proven that the violation was against direct orders to avoid the victim’s home or other location. There must also be a prohibition in place against threatening, abusing, or harassing the victim. In these cases, no arrest warrant is needed.
Each domestic violence case is unique. The charges that could be applied are based on the crime that was committed. North Carolina does not have a specific domestic violence law. Factors that could play a role in the penalty you could face include the current charge, prior convictions, substance abuse, and other aggravating factors.
Many domestic violence offenses are classified as misdemeanors. These crimes are considered Class A1 and are punishable with up to 150 days of prison time. These types of crimes include assault, battery, or the use of a deadly weapon to cause injury to a female (if the defendant is a male) or a child under the age of 12. This also applies if the offense was committed in the presence of a child under the age of 18.
Felony domestic violence can result in criminal charges and penalties. The manner of the violence could determine the charge, which could include various sexual assaults, battery, discharging a firearm, bodily harm or deformation, and many others. These charges range from Class H to Class B felonies and include potential prison time from 4 months to 40 years or more.
In addition to the potential prison penalties, criminal convictions carry long-term consequences. These could impact future employment, housing, and relationships.
Dismissing criminal domestic violence charges can be a difficult process, but it is not impossible. Starting with a full review of your case, our attorneys can examine the process from arrest to courtroom to ensure that your rights have not been violated by law enforcement. Additionally, reviewing the collection of evidence, including any on-scene items or lab technician processes, could reveal instances of mishandled or overlooked evidence. In some instances, there may be evidence that can conclusively prove that the crime has not been committed.
If these avenues do not prove successful, a skilled criminal defense lawyer will seek to negotiate with the prosecutor by highlighting the deficiencies in the evidence.
When dismissal is not possible, a negotiation for the reduction of charges is an available option.
Charges for domestic violence come with severe consequences that not only include prison time but also difficulty in employment, housing, and even family relationships. If you are facing criminal charges, and they are related to incidents classified as domestic violence, you deserve the help of an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. There is little doubt you will have extensive questions about the impacts of the charges and the potential penalties you face. At Doug Edwards Law, our attorneys are ready to answer your questions. We can review the facts of your case and help you understand the best options available to you. Contact our offices today and get the help that you deserve.