If you’re facing charges related to domestic violence in North Carolina, it’s essential to know what you’re up against. Domestic violence is a broad term that covers a wide range of criminal offenses, from misdemeanor domestic battery to felony aggravated assault. But is domestic violence a felony?

Let’s look at the charges associated with domestic violence and whether any of them are considered felonies. If officers arrest you for domestic violence, it’s crucial to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Who Files Domestic Violence Charges?

In North Carolina, domestic violence is not a specific crime. Instead, it describes a range of crimes committed against people with whom you have a personal relationship.

A dating relationship, former spouses, a child or current spouse, a parent of your child, family members, or a household member all count as personal relationships. Committing any abuse against a family member or person you’re in a personal relationship with is a crime.

Who Files a Restraining Order?

Let’s start by looking at how you may enter the judicial system for abusive behavior.

Anyone in a “personal relationship” with you can apply to the court for a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO). Someone in a personal relationship with you can file a DVPO if you harass them or cause significant emotional distress.

Generally, when facing domestic violence charges, you’ll spend up to 48 hours in jail waiting for a judge to rule on your bond. After that, you’ll need to prepare for your domestic abuse hearing.

You may feel understandably upset if an individual makes false allegations against you. Even if you committed a crime, you may not understand why someone would file a restraining order against you.

Either way, you’ll need an attorney to help you gather evidence for your domestic violence case, such as witness statements or proof of self-defense. You’ll then need to vigorously defend your behavior at the hearing to avoid the court seeing you as a credible threat.

Your restraining order can last up to one year and may keep you from owning a deadly weapon, seeing household members, or being in places where your family may also be. The court can also force you to leave your home, pay spousal and child support, and give up your vehicle.

Domestic Violence Offenses

If the alleged victim can produce evidence, such as texts of your threats or pictures of bruises, legal criminal penalties may follow, including felony charges.

North Carolina criminal law does not take spousal or child abuse charges lightly. And a felony criminal conviction can put you behind bars for 40 or more years.

Crimes related to domestic violence often bring a maximum sentence along with probation and community service. Without excellent criminal defense attorneys to help you, you don’t stand a chance in the system.

Is Domestic Violence a Felony?

Many domestic violence cases produce misdemeanor charges. However, depending on the type of crime committed, you can face a felony offense charge.

For example, violating a protective order’s provisions regarding firearms is a felony. And if you have a prior conviction, the prison sentence length recommendations go up.

Similarly, assault by strangulation is always charged as a felony in North Carolina. This is because strangulation can cause great bodily harm and require medical treatment.

Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Offenses

Misdemeanor convictions in NC generally result in less than one year of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.

A common Class 2 misdemeanor is to call someone and “use words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to that person’s child, sibling, spouse, or dependent.” (1)

Simple assault is also a common misdemeanor charge in North Carolina. You can receive this charge if you attempt to physically harm someone or intentionally cause injury.

Another common misdemeanor offense is assault on a female. You can get this charge if you attempt to physically harm a woman, even if you don’t succeed or cause injury.

While most misdemeanors do not bring a maximum prison sentence, others are more serious. An A1 misdemeanor conviction carries the longest jail sentence for a misdemeanor at up to 150 days of prison.

You can face an A1 misdemeanor charge if you commit an assault or assault and battery or use a deadly weapon to cause serious physical injury to a:

  • Female, if you’re a man
  • Children under the age of 12 years
  • Person you have a personal relationship with, where a child under 18 could see or hear

Corporal punishment in North Carolina is legal, but corporal injury is not. If you use physical force to punish a child, a court may not agree with your behavior and consider your actions a crime, especially if the child suffers bruises.

Other A1 Class Misdemeanors

  • Stalking
  • Sexual battery
  • Knowingly violating a valid protective order (restraining order, DVPO)
  • Assaulting by pointing a gun

If you’re facing misdemeanor criminal charges, bringing in a criminal defense lawyer can help you make a plea agreement or find reduced sentencing.

Felony Domestic Violence Offenses

H Class Felony (4 -25 months)

  • Commits the offense of stalking when there is a court order prohibiting it.
  • Enters property operated as a safe house or haven for victims of domestic violence, where someone protected under a DVPO or ex parte order lives
  • Violates protective order provisions regarding firearms
  • Knowingly violates a valid protective order after having been previously convicted of two prior offenses of violating a protective order
  • Assault inflicting serious bodily injury
  • Strangulation
  • Habitual misdemeanor assault
  • Discharge a firearm within an enclosure to incite fear

E Class Felony (15-63 months)

  • Sexual activity by a substitute parent or custodian
  • Discharging certain barreled weapons or a firearm into an occupied structure
  • Discharging a firearm from within an enclosure
  • Malicious throwing of corrosive acid or alkali
  • Maliciously assaulting in a secret manner
  • Felonious assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflicting serious injury

D Class Felony (38-160 months)

  • Discharging certain barreled weapons or a firearm into an occupied vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or other conveyance that is in operation

C Class Felony (44-182 months in prison)

  • Second-degree forcible rape
  • Statutory rape of a person who is 15 years of age or younger.
  • Statutory sexual offense with a person who is 15 years of age or younger
  • Second-degree forcible sexual offense
  • Discharging certain barreled weapons or a firearm into occupied property causing serious bodily harm
  • Mutilation, maiming, and castration

B1 Class Felony (144-483 months in prison)

  • First-degree forcible rape
  • First-degree statutory rape
  • Statutory rape of a person younger than 15 years of age
  • First-degree forcible sexual offense
  • First-degree statutory sexual offense

For sexual violence or sexual assault felonies, you can face up to 40 years in prison!

Criminal Consequences of Domestic Abuse

Criminal records carry many consequences, not the least of which are prison sentences and a criminal record. With either a misdemeanor or a felony, employers, creditors, and others do not look favorably on you. You can also lose a professional license.

Most felonies committed against someone under an active DVPO make you effectively guilty of a felony one class higher than the felony you’re facing. And as a person convicted of domestic violence crimes, state law ensures a stiff penalty.

Penalties for a Domestic Violence Offense

If convicted of a domestic violence felony, many factors play into your sentence length and potential penalties, including:

  • Your criminal offense charges
  • Prior convictions and criminal history
  • Mitigating factors (favorable factors)
  • Aggravating factors (factors that look worse in the eyes of the law)

You can spend up to five years in prison for shooting a gun in your home. However, your attorney’s defense strategy is the most critical factor in whether you face a maximum jail sentence or receive a fair plea bargain.

North Carolina’s penal code can feel harsh when you face a felony charge. You don’t want to face penalties without an attorney on your side.

Our Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help

At Cape Fear Lawe, our criminal defense attorneys work with individuals accused of domestic assault and other offenses to reduce the likelihood of a felony conviction.

Felony convictions in North Carolina are no joke, so we take your case seriously. We tirelessly negotiate with the district attorney to reduce charges and always look for any rights violations.

Contact us today and find out how we can help you move forward in your case!