Domestic Violence Charges

When we think of domestic violence, may we imagine somebody engaging in ongoing physical abuse against their spouse. While this may be the textbook case for domestic violence, the actual definition in North Carolina applies to a much broader list of scenarios. In simple terms, domestic violence is committing any act of violence, whether it be threats, physical violence, or sexual violence, against a person with whom you have or had a personal relationship with. A personal relationship includes:

  • Spouses
  • People who are current or former household members
  • Parents of children, or somebody acting as a parent to a minor child, such as grandparents to their grandchildren.
  • People who have had a child together.
  • People of the opposite sex who are in a “dating relationship”, meaning that they were romantically involved over time on a continuous basis.

If you are charged with a domestic violence offense, you will likely be ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim. A judge can also order you to stay away from your home if you share a residence with the alleged victim, even if you own the home. If you are convicted of a domestic violence crime, you may be ordered to complete a state-certified batterer’s intervention program, anger management classes, and/or parenting classes. The attorneys at Tarlton Polk are experienced in navigating domestic violence cases and can ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.

hand waving fist at a woman, where the perpetrator is committing domestic violence against their partner

Domestic Violence in North Carolina

Victims of domestic violence in North Carolina are protected under both civil and criminal laws. Domestic violence is not its own form of criminal charge but is a factor in related crimes and can result in far more serious consequences. Crimes that are involved in domestic violence cases include:

  • Assault Crimes: Any assault crime can constitute domestic violence, but assault on a female and assault in the presence of a minor are especially common domestic violence charges.
  • Threats and Stalking: communicating threats, stalking, harassing phone calls and trespassing can all constitute domestic violence, even if no physical contact was made.
  • Sex Crimes: any form of sexual violence, whether it be sexual battery or a forcible sex offense like rape, can be considered domestic violence.

While these related crimes carry extremely harsh penalties on their own, when they become an issue of domestic violence the consequences can become even more severe. Domestic violence proceedings move from civil court to the criminal justice system swiftly and carry extremely heavy consequences that can be lifelong. Domestic violence lawsuits have the benefit and protection of additional funding channels put in place to protect alleged victims, which makes fighting these charges even more difficult. In addition to the criminal penalties for the related crimes, domestic violence cases often result in being faced with protective orders to prevent contact with the alleged victim. Violation of these orders can carry serious penalties.

Protective Order Violations in North Carolina

Protective orders, often referred to as “restraining orders” , are legal orders issued by the state court that requires one person to stop harming another. There are a few types of protective orders in North Carolina, and domestic violence protective order are the most serious. These orders require that the perpetrator stay a certain distance away from the victim for a period of time. In North Carolina, they typically last a year and can be renewed for an additional year. Violating a protective domestic violence order is a crime, with potentially serious penalties depending on how the order was violated, and whether you had prior convictions for violating protective orders. What constitutes violating the order can be a wide variety of things and depends on what order the victim obtained and served to you. For example, it could include not going near the victim’s residence or place of work.

There are four distinct crimes for violating domestic violence protective orders as follows:

Misdemeanor Violation of a Domestic Violence Protective Order

Violating a domestic violence protective order is a misdemeanor when the defendant has no prior convictions and did not do so while carrying a weapon. A person is guilty of this offense when they knowingly violate a domestic violence protective order. A conviction is punished as a class A1 misdemeanor.

Repeat Violation of a Domestic Protective Order

A person is guilty of this offense when they knowingly violate a domestic violence protective order and had at least two prior convictions for violating protective orders. A conviction is punished as a class H felony.

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Violation of a Domestic Violence Protective Order with a Deadly Weapon

A person is guilty of this offense when they knowingly violate a domestic violence protective order by failing to stay away from the place or person, as directed by the order, while in the possession of a deadly weapon. A conviction is punished as a class H felony.

Entering Domestic Violence Safe House or Haven

A person is guilty of this offense when they knowingly violate a domestic violence protective order by entering property operated as a safe house or haven for victims of domestic violence, where a person protected under their order is residing. A conviction is punished as a class H felony.

Can You Face Federal Charges for Domestic Violence?

While most domestic violence cases are dealt with at the state level, there are federal crimes for domestic violence under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This act, for the most part, aimed to aid in preventing and assisting victim’s of domestic violence by creating more resources for reporting domestic crimes and enforcing domestic violence laws, while the actual cases would mostly be handled within the state the offense occurred. There are, however, a few instances where federal courts may take domestic violence cases, including:

  • When somebody crosses state lines to physically injure an “intimate partner”.
  • When somebody crosses state lines to stalk or harass an intimate partner, or does so within federal territory.
  • When somebody crosses state lines and violates a qualifying protective order.
  • When somebody committed domestic violence while having two or more prior convictions of domestic violence.

In addition to these crimes covered under VAWA, there are additional crimes under the Gun Control Act:

  • Possession of a firearm and/or ammunition while subject to a qualifying protective order.
  • Possession of a firearm and/or ammunition after conviction of a qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

In both cases, a “qualifying” protect order is not necessarily any domestic violence conviction, but one that involved an “intimate partner” and the use of physical or threatened use of force. An “intimate partner” can be a spouses, former spouses, people who had a child together, or people who live together or have lived together.  

Penalties for federal charges can be severe, where you can be held responsible for all losses the victim experienced, from medical or psychological care, transportation, temporary housing, child care expenses, loss of income, attorney feeds, costs incurred in obtaining a protection order and more. This is all in addition to whatever state or federal charges you face for the violent offense(s) in relation to domestic violence.

Domestic Assault by a Habitual Offender

If a person had been convicted of domestic assault, sexual abuse or any other serious violent felony against a spouse, intimate partner, or child in their care, on two or more prior occasions, they can face federal charges under 18 U.S.C § 117. This means that if you had been convicted twice in state court for domestic violence, and then face charges for it a third time, your case can be taken up in federal court for additional penalties.

The penalties for a conviction of this offense are imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine, or both, unless the offense resulted in substantial bodily injury to the victim, in which the imprisonment can be up to 10 years.

Defending Against Assault and Battery Charges

If you have been accused of domestic violence, you should contact an experience defense attorney immediately. The attorneys at Tarlton | Polk have handled many such cases, including cases tied to sex crimes, threats and assaults. Their experience as prosecutors also gives them the upper hand in understanding the kinds of tactics use to convict people of domestic violence.

There is no single defense that can work in all domestic violence cases, as they can constitute a variety of factors and be tied to many kinds of crimes. Some examples of defenses that could be used in domestic violence cases are:

  • The act was committed in defense of self or others
  • The accusations are dishonest or malicious
  • The violent act was done by accident, and not knowingly or intentionally
  • You committed the act, but did not have a “personal relationship” with the victim.

Depending on the case, any of the above may or may not work. For example, self defense can be used for various assault charges, but it is never a valid defense for sexual assault or threats. Sometimes the best approach is to try and get all charges dismissed, while in other cases it may be best to reduce the penalties or get part of the charges dropped.  

Request a Consultation with Tarlton | Polk Defense Attorneys

Our lawyers have successfully represented clients in domestic violence and related cases, so they know how to carefully structure a defense based on the facts of the case. Most importantly, we are exceptionally skilled at taking these cases to trial, as we know the tactics used in violent crime prosecution that often push the defendant into a plea-bargaining position before a trial begins. If you would like to learn more about how we an help, or request a consultation with us, then leave us a message or call us today.