Five (5) Things to Know About North Carolina Domestic Violence Law

If you’ve been involved in incident involving domestic violence in North Carolina you will want to consult with a Raleigh criminal lawyer who can help you navigate the criminal system and also any other ramifications the criminal problem may cause in your personal life. A lawyer should be sensitive not only to the criminal problems associated with domestic violence, but sensitive to the impact a domestic violence conviction can have on your personal and family life.

That’s because domestic violence is treated differently in North Carolina (and most states) from other kinds of criminal acts.

1) What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence in North Carolina involves cases in which the defendant is charged with assault, stalking, communicating threats, domestic criminal trespass, a violation of a Chapter 50B order, or various felonies upon a “spouse or former spouse or a person with whom the defendant lives or has lived as if married.”

2) How will the police treat a call involving a domestic violence matter?

Generally, a call involving a report of domestic violence will be followed by an arrest. In the olden days, police might respond to a call involving domestic violence, and simply tell both the husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend to take a break. Or the woman, who had been hit by her partner, would tell the police that it was “no big deal” and the police would leave the scene, only to be called back later in the evening when, usually, the husband or boyfriend had beat the heck out of the woman.

Beginning in the 1980s, aided particularly by women’s advocacy organizations, police departments around the country began to reform procedures. Today, many police departments operate under a “shall arrest” policy, which means that even if both the man and woman insist that everything is ok, someone will be arrested.

Sometimes the person who called the police will be arrested if the police believe that the person who called them instigated the fight.

3) How will the person arrested be handled in a Domestic Violence situation?

North Carolina has a special statute governing the pre-trial release of individuals accused of these crimes. First, the defendant will be held in custody for up to 48 hours or until seeing a District Court judge, whichever is sooner. This is different from the way defendants are treated where they may have committed a minor crime that does not involve domestic violence. In those cases, there is no mandatory detention. But in DV situations, there is a mandatory detention until a District Court judge can hear the case, or 48 hours passes.

4) Will any special conditions be placed on a person released from custody in a Domestic Violence situation?

If a person is arrested on a DV charge and the charge is minor and the person has no prior criminal record, the person may be eligible for pre-trial release. This means that the person must check in once a week with a member of the pre-trial release program. Otherwise, the person is free to go about his or her business. Or the person can post a bond, either himself or herself or through a bondsman.

In addition, the judge will impose a “no contact” order which requires the person to have no contact with the alleged victim. This will sometimes complicate a situation where the couple lives together, or where there are children involved who must be moved from household to household.

A “no contact” order can be lifted if either the alleged victim shows up at the First Appearance hearing where the District Judge and tells the District Judge that the victim does not want a “no contact” order imposed.

5) What can a lawyer do to help a defendant who has been charged with a Domestic Violence crime?

An Apex, Cary, or Raleigh criminal lawyer can help a defendant navigate the criminal process, and also work with the defendant to try to minimize the impact on the defendant’s life and on the domestic situation. For instance, in some cases the couple is in the process of getting divorced. A criminal lawyer can help to keep the criminal situation from interfering with an otherwise amicable divorce.  Most importantly, an Apex, Raleigh or Cary criminal lawyer can help minimize the effect a domestic violence conviction can have on an individuals life, employment, and criminal record.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.