Is Domestic Violence a Felony in NC?

Domestic Violence in North Carolina: Is Domestic Violence a Felony?

Facing charges after a domestic violence incident?

Domestic violence in North Carolina law is not taken lightly. If you’re facing a conviction for sexual violence, assault, stalking, or even harassment against a domestic partner or family member, there could be some heavy penalties.

Some domestic violence crimes are considered misdemeanors, while others are considered felonies. This means that you could be facing not only jail time and fines but also other future consequences of having a violent criminal record. This includes your ability to gain employment, find housing, own a firearm, and have custody of your children.

When you’re facing criminal charges of any kind, you need legal help from an experienced domestic violence attorney to ensure you get the best possible outcome for your case.

What is Considered Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence crimes in North Carolina do not have a separate category of penalties or laws from other violent crimes.

However, domestic offenses often come along with some additional factors, including:

  • Previous history of violent offenses
  • Domestic violence protective orders (a.k.a. “restraining order”)
  • Temporary child custody orders

A violent crime is considered domestic violence when it is an act of violence committed against an individual with whom the offender has a personal relationship.

What is Considered a Personal Relationship?

For a crime to be considered domestic violence, the parties involved need to have an established personal relationship, which usually falls into one of the following categories:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Co-parents
  • Romantic partners
  • Household members
  • Those who currently live together or have lived together in the past
  • Other personal relationships like family members or blood relatives such as parents, guardians, children, grandparents, or grandchildren

Examples of Domestic Violence Offenses and Convictions

Simple assault

Simple assault in North Carolina refers to any act that involves attempting, threatening, or causing bodily injury or harm to another person. An assault charge is a class A2 misdemeanor and carries a possible penalty of $1,000 in fines and 30 days in jail for a first-time offense.

Assault on a Female

When a male commits simple assault against a female in North Carolina, the charge elevates to a class A1 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 150 days in jail.

Sexual Assault

Strangers don’t necessarily commit every sexual offense, and sex crimes in domestic violence are common. The penalties for sexual assault in North Carolina vary between misdemeanors and felonies depending on the nature of the sexual offense.

Stalking or Harassment

Another common act of domestic violence is stalking or harassment of any kind. These are considered violent acts since they aim to perpetually frighten, threaten, torment, or otherwise intimidate the person being victimized, causing emotional distress. Stalking or harassment charges are Class A1 misdemeanors and carry penalties of up to 120 days in jail.

When Can Domestic Violence Crimes Become Felonies?

When a defendant commits violent crimes—including crimes of domestic violence—the charges can be escalated from a misdemeanor to felony charges for several reasons.

Second or Subsequent Offenses

While some of the least serious domestic violence offenses are misdemeanors, offenders sometimes already have prior convictions on their criminal record. Repeated domestic violence offenses can lead to heavier consequences, including felony convictions.

Aggravated Assault

Simple assault becomes aggravated assault when the injuries caused to the alleged victim are serious, life-threatening, or result in chronic health issues. Aggravated assault is a class F felony in North Carolina, with a maximum penalty of 41 months in prison.

Assault With a Deadly Weapon

Assault with a deadly weapon is a serious charge, particularly if the offender seriously injured the alleged victim or if it can be proven that they intended to cause serious injury to or kill the alleged victim.

Assault by Strangulation

Another serious assault charge is assault by strangulation. If it can be proven that the offender caused physical injury through strangulation, they could be facing a Class H felony conviction. This infraction carries a maximum penalty of 25 months in prison.

Felony Sexual Assault

Many sexual assault charges are felonies, regardless of whether or not the act was committed between individuals in a domestic relationship.

For example, suppose the sexual assault that occurred in the domestic violence incident was a felony first-degree rape or second-degree rape. In that case, these charges carry Class B1 or Class C felony convictions, respectively.

Violating a Domestic Violence Protective Order

A first offense for violating a protective order in a domestic violence case is typically a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to five months in jail. However, repeat offenses and violations of protective orders involving deadly weapons could result in a Class H felony charge in North Carolina. A conviction could result in up to 39 months in prison.

Defenses for Domestic Violence Charges

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help with legal issues like domestic violence. A few different defense strategies could be used in domestic violence cases and may result in a lesser charge or a complete dismissal of your case.

Domestic violence defenses include:

  • Law enforcement agencies obtained evidence illegally
  • The act in question was committed in self-defense
  • The act in question was committed in defense of others
  • The victim consented to the act

Contact a Winston-Salem Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’re facing domestic violence charges in North Carolina, you could be facing a felony conviction that threatens your freedom and your future. Reach out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Winston-Salem to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

Author Bio

Derek M. Gray

Derek Gray is a Partner of McMinn, Logan & Gray, a North Carolina criminal defense law firm. With more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including DUIs, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, and other criminal charges.

Derek received his Juris Doctor from the North Carolina Central School of Law in 2007 and is a member of the North Carolina State Bar Association. With his experience as a former Assistant District Attorney, he has represented more than 1,000 criminal defense clients in North Carolina and received more than 100 5-star Google ratings.

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