If you have been charged with a crime of domestic violence, you may be asking yourself, “What will happen in court?”
Almost everyone understands Domestic Violence charges in North Carolina can result in significant penalties, including jail time, supervised probation, anger management classes, substance abuse assessment and treatment, community service, and fines.
At the same time, it’s not unusual to have questions or be uneasy about the process. Clients often have questions such as:
- Do I have to go to court?
- Do I need a lawyer?
- What happens if I am convicted?
- How does the process work?
- Will I need to testify?
Given that, we think it’s smart to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Charlotte to get immediate answers to your questions and begin preparing your defense.
In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of domestic violence charges and what you can expect during the criminal process in Mecklenburg County.
If a loved one is in the custody in the Mecklenburg County Jail, a criminal defense attorney at our firm is ordinarily available for legal consultations concerning domestic violence offenses.
Call NOW: 704-342-4357
What types of criminal charges are considered domestic violence in North Carolina?
Often accompanied by a domestic violence protective order (a type of restraining order that is explained in previous blogs), domestic violence charges come in a variety of formats and expose defendants to the potential for significant punishment and a criminal record if convicted.
A lot depends on the seriousness of the offense and the fact pattern.
Obviously, allegations can involve a felony or a misdemeanor criminal offense or a combination of felony and misdemeanor charges, depending on the nature and circumstances of what took place.
In fact, resulting serious bodily injury may be a determinative factor between a felony and a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in criminal court.
Frankly, domestic violence offenses can be a complicated area of law.
That’s one reason we encourage people to immediately call our criminal defense lawyers to schedule a confidential legal consultation.
After conducting a “conflicts check” and confirming the firm is available for legal representation, we can send additional information about formally establishing an attorney client relationship.
We can also explain the differences between felony domestic violence charges and a domestic violence offense that results in a misdemeanor criminal summons or warrant for arrest.
To be clear, all DV charges are serious.
We think it’s important to understand that a conviction for a felony in North Carolina ordinarily subjects the defendant (the person accused of a crime) to substantially enhanced punishments and a possible permanent criminal record.
N.C.G.S. § 15A-534.1 governs domestic violence criminal charges. The statute lists charges such as:
- Assault (as well as Assault on a Female)
- Stalking, which can be either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of the offense, prior conviction(s) of stalking, or whether there is a Court Order in place per N.C.G.S. 14-277.3A
- The misdemeanor offense of Stalking is classified as an A1 Misdmeanor, carrying a possible maximum period of incarceration of 150 days in jail.
- Communicating a Threat
- Misuse of Emergency Communications (Misuse of 911)
- Committing a felony provided in one of the Articles of Chapter 14 of the North Carolina General Statutes, such as Felony Assault by Strangulation, Felony Assault Inflicting Serious Injury, Felony Assault with the Intent to Kill
- Injury to Personal Property (Damage to Personal Property)
- Injury or Damage to Real Property
In domestic violence cases, felony charges and the use of physical force (domestic battery) resulting in serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon or some other type of aggravated assault, and the threat of imminent serious bodily injury are actively prosecuted domestic abuse charges in Mecklenburg County.
It is important to note that in order for the above offenses to be considered “domestic violence,” the victim or “state’s witness” must be a current or former spouse, a person with whom the Defendant lives or has lived as if married, or a person with whom the defendant is or has been in a dating relationship as defined under N.C.G.S. 50B-1(b)(6).
Can someone post Bail for Domestic Violence charges?
That’s a really great question that unfortunately requires a somewhat complicated, if not convoluted answer.
One can post bond on DV charges in North Carolina in certain circumstances. But, that assumes a bond can be or already has been set.
A lot depends on when the person is arrested and whether a District Court Judge is available to address the conditions and terms of release, including setting bail as may be appropriate.
When charged with a crime that has been categorized as a domestic violence offense, a Defendant will often be subject to arrest. In many instances, the bond is set by a District Court judge.
There are relevant exceptions to that general protocol.
When an arrest for DV charges takes place during the weekend, that may result in a protracted period of confinement (ordinarily up to 48 hours) in the Mecklenburg County Jail.
There are also instances when a Criminal Summons may be issued instead of a Warrant for Arrest.
A criminal summons does not result in formal arrest, booking, fingerprints, and a mugshot.
The general rule is that a Magistrate at the Mecklenburg County Jail cannot set terms and conditions of release on Domestic Violence charges until after the expiration of a 48-hour hold period.
If taken into custody from Sunday through Thursday, there may be the opportunity to be heard at the next scheduled session of District Court in Charlotte NC.
Under the North Carolina DV laws, terms and conditions of release for a crime of domestic violence, which include bail/bond, are to be set by a District Court Judge subject to certain procedural safeguards and exceptions.
It does not matter if the charges involve a felony domestic violence issue or a misdemeanor domestic abuse allegation.
That is different from many other types of criminal charges, such as DUI charges, drug charges, and even robbery charges, where a Magistrate Judge may set a bond and terms of release.
The Defendant’s criminal record may be considered.
Each case and fact pattern is unique.
Consult with legal counsel to determine the applicability of the NC Domestic Violence Laws relative to setting bond and conditions of release.
See 15A-534.1 which covers Crimes of Domestic Violence, pretrial release, and bail.
Commonly called the “48-hour rule,” the statute governing domestic violence charges states a strong preference to have a bond set by a district court judge as opposed to a magistrate.
A person may have their bond set by a magistrate if more than 48 hours have passed and no determination has been made to pretrial release pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 15A-534.1.
Practically speaking, a Defendant is rarely subjected to 48 hours in jail with no bond in Charlotte / Mecklenburg County unless they are arrested on a Friday, a day of the weekend, or if the court makes a determination that the Defendant poses a threat pursuant to N.C.G.S. 15A-534.1(a)(1).
How do you get someone out of jail?
In addition to setting bond, the judge also has the authority to impose additional conditions for pre-trial release, such as:
- The defendant stay away from the home, business, school of the alleged victim or where the alleged victim works
- The defendant not assault, beat, molest, or wound the alleged victim
- The defendant not commit further acts of Domestic Violence
- The defendant not remove, damage, or injure specifically identified property
- The defendant may be able to visit his or her child or children at places and times allowed under the terms of a pre-existing order Child Custody Order entered by a judge – That’s up to the Judge setting bond. A pre-existing custody order does NOT supersede the terms and conditions of release
- The defendant not consume alcohol (or illegal drugs or non-prescribed medication)
- The Judge may also Order EHA – Electronic House Arrest / Electronic Monitoring
In practice, judges take into consideration past criminal history, the residence of the respective individuals, and the narrative or events leading to the criminal charge as provided by the district attorney.
For example, common issues in court involve things like:
- Does the Defendant have a prior felony conviction or criminal record of a misdemeanor crime?
- Is a deadly weapon involved?
- Do the allegations involve an aggravated assault or assault inflicting serious bodily injury?
- Is a minor child involved or are there accusations of child abuse?
- Do the allegations involve sexual abuse or sexual battery?
- Is there a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) in place?
- Is the accused on Supervised Probation?
- Are there additional pending charges involving the prosecuting witness or other, unrelated criminal charges?
A victim or state’s witness may attend court and provide a recitation of what led to the criminal charge as well as other relevant information related to the case.
What kind of punishments are possible for DV charges?
The charges referenced in N.C.G.S. § 15A-534.1 range from a class 2 misdemeanor to upper-level felonies.
In other words, depending on the severity of the charge and past criminal history, the punishment could differ dramatically (i.e. probationary sentence or a jail sentence).
Should a defendant be found to be in a personal relationship with the victim and be convicted of assault, communicating a threat, or another act in N.C.G.S. § 50B-1(a), the judge would likely specify that finding in the final judgment.
Should a defendant be sentenced to probation, one of the most common characteristics of a domestic violence sentence is that the court usually orders that the Defendant attend and complete an abuser treatment program. N.C.G.S. § 15A-1343(b)(12).
This provision does not preclude the Court from ordering compliance with any other treatment plan such as substance abuse, anger management, etc.
In addition, a conviction may carry other collateral consequences related to firearms, immigration, child custody, employment, and much more.
Charlotte Domestic Violence Lawyers – Powers Law Firm PA
The Powers Law Firm PA, as able, regularly responds to after-hour inquiries, weekend, holiday, and emergency calls from friends and family regarding domestic violence charges.
You may also reach the attorneys at our law office by email at:
You may also call Bill Powers
Check out our Charlotte Divorce Lawyers website if your matter involves a Family Law legal issue: Charlotte-Divorce-Lawyers.com