Is Domestic Violence a Felony in North Carolina?

Allegations of domestic violence are serious in North Carolina. If you are charged with domestic violence, the severity of the charge depends on the specific circumstances of the incident. Domestic violence charges apply when violence is committed against a person with whom the defendant shares a personal relationship or connection, such as a spouse, household member, or family member. The law recognizes the heightened risks and potential harm associated with violence within domestic settings, resulting in more severe penalties for these offenses.

Which Family Relationships Are Considered Domestic Violence Relationships?

Domestic violence is a term that encompasses a broad range of harmful behaviors committed by one person against another with whom they share a personal relationship. It includes acts of violence, whether sexual, physical, or psychological, as well as harassment and intimidation. In North Carolina, domestic violence laws recognize the importance of protecting individuals within certain relationships from such abusive conduct.

The state of North Carolina defines specific relationships that fall under the scope of domestic violence charges. These relationships include spouses or romantic partners, current and former, and co-parents who share children. Additionally, family members such as parents or siblings and even individuals who live together as roommates can be subject to domestic violence charges.

Including these relationships in domestic violence, laws acknowledge that individuals within these connections may be particularly vulnerable to harm due to their interactions' close and personal nature. By recognizing domestic violence as a distinct category of offenses, North Carolina aims to provide enhanced protection and support for victims in these relationships.

It is important to note that domestic violence laws extend beyond physical violence. They encompass various forms of abuse, including sexual assault, emotional manipulation, verbal threats, stalking, and other coercive behaviors that seek to control or intimidate the victim. The law addresses the complex dynamics in domestic violence cases by addressing various harmful actions.

When is Domestic Violence Considered a Felony?

Several types of domestic violence can be charged as felonies in North Carolina. Felony assault and battery occur when a person commits bodily harm or makes a credible threat of bodily injury against another person. Most assault charges are misdemeanors. However, if one or more of the following circumstances occur, the prosecutor can choose to bring felony charges against the defendant:

  • Assault in which a life-threatening injury or serious bodily injury causes chronic Health complications will be charged as a Class F felony
  • Intent to kill using a deadly weapon, such as a gun, knife, or blunt object, is considered a Class C felony
  • Assault by strangulation is regarded as a class F felony
Felony Sexual Assault

Felony domestic violence charges can also include cases of sexual assault within personal relationships. Contrary to popular belief, sexual assault is not limited to instances involving strangers or acquaintances. Many incidents of sexual violence occur within domestic relationships, such as between spouses, romantic partners, roommates, co-parents, or family members.

When sexual assault occurs within a domestic context, it is considered a form of domestic violence, and the legal consequences can be severe. Depending on the circumstances, individuals accused of sexual assault may face felony charges, which carry significant penalties if convicted.

In North Carolina, different degrees of sexual assault are categorized as felonies, with varying degrees of severity. First-degree forcible rape or sexual offense, which involves penetrative sexual acts other than vaginal intercourse and includes the infliction of injury or the threat of harm to the victim, is classified as a Class B1 felony. This charge carries substantial penalties upon conviction.

Second-degree forcible rape or sexual offense refers to cases where the victim is drugged or incapacitated during the assault. This is considered a Class C felony and can result in severe legal consequences for the defendant.

It is important to note that felony sexual assault charges within a domestic violence context often involve complex legal considerations, including examining evidence, witness testimonies, and assessing the victim's physical and psychological well-being. Given the sensitive nature of these cases, it is crucial for individuals facing such charges or those who have been victimized to seek the assistance of experienced legal professionals specializing in domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

Domestic Stalking and Harassment

Stalking is a form of harassment involving a behavior pattern intended to instill fear and cause distress to the victim. The purpose of stalking is to make the victim feel unsafe or threatened, not only for their well-being but also for the safety of their family members, friends, coworkers, or anyone closely associated with them. The actions of a stalker can have severe psychological and emotional effects on the victim.

Harassment, which is often a component of stalking, encompasses various forms of unwanted communication or actions that aim to torment, intimidate, or threaten the victim. Some examples of harassing behavior include damaging or vandalizing the victim's property, persistently following them, or continuously contacting them through phone calls, text messages, or other means of communication.

In many jurisdictions, stalking or harassment charges are typically classified as misdemeanors, which carry less severe penalties than felony offenses. However, certain circumstances can elevate the charges to a felony level. For instance, if the stalking involves a violation of a protective order issued by the court to protect the victim or if the defendant has previous convictions for stalking, the prosecutor may choose to pursue felony charges.

Felony charges for stalking can result in more significant legal consequences for the defendant. The penalties can include more extended periods of incarceration, substantial fines, mandatory counseling or therapy, and the imposition of restraining orders or other protective measures to ensure the victim's safety.

It is important to note that cases involving stalking or harassment require careful examination of evidence, witness testimonies, and legal procedures. Each case is unique, and the specific details and circumstances can significantly impact the legal strategy and potential outcomes. Therefore, it is crucial for individuals facing stalking or harassment charges and victims experiencing such behavior to seek the assistance of experienced criminal defense attorneys or victim advocates.

What Should You Do if You Have Been Accused of Domestic Violence?

If you have been involved in an alleged domestic violence incident, it is essential to understand your rights and protect yourself legally. One crucial aspect to remember is that anything you say in the presence of law enforcement officers can be used against you in court. Therefore, it is essential to exercise caution and refrain from making any statements without the guidance of legal counsel.

When law enforcement is questioning you, you should wait until you have obtained legal representation before providing detailed answers. While it is appropriate to provide basic identifying information, it is in your best interest to only discuss the specifics of the incident or offer explanations once you have consulted with an attorney.

Legal representation is essential as it ensures that your rights are protected and that you have someone advocating for your interests throughout the legal process. An experienced attorney specializing in domestic violence cases can help navigate the complexities of the legal system, guide how to respond to law enforcement, and develop a strategic defense strategy tailored to your situation.

Discuss Your Case With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If you face accusations of domestic violence, whether at the misdemeanor or felony level, you could be subjected to severe penalties. Being convicted of domestic violence can lead to imprisonment, fines, and a permanent criminal record, which can impede your employment, housing, and educational opportunities and affect your personal life. You should contact an aggressive personal injury attorney for the best possible outcome. The lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, have extensive experience defending North Carolina residents charged with domestic violence. Don't wait. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, today to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about your legal rights and options.