If you have ever seen signs saying "Stop! You are going the wrong way!" used to prevent cars from entering a freeway exit ramp, you understand the concept of restraining orders. Restraining orders are emergency stop signs posted by the court in the life of abusers. Restraining orders are termed protective orders in North Carolina laws. Like many states, North Carolina has two types of orders, those that protect victims in domestic abuse situations, and those that protect victims in other situations. Each type of restraining order in North Carolina has its own eligibility and procedural requirements.
Domestic Violence Protective Orders
By far the most common type of protective order is a domestic violence protective order, termed DVPO in North Carolina. These are designed to protect you from people you live with or have a relationship with. They can also be used to protect your children and your pets.
To qualify for this type of order, the person you are afraid of must be someone with whom you have or have had a close relationship. Because "close relationship" can mean different things to different people, the state laws in North Carolina define the term. You are considered to have a close personal relationship with someone for purposes of getting a North Carolina domestic violence protective order if the person is your spouse, your ex-spouse or someone you have a child with. He can also be someone with whom you cohabit or used to cohabit, but he also qualifies if he is someone you date or have dated, meaning someone you have been romantically involved with continuously over some period of time.
But romantic partners are not the only ones the courts will restrain with a DVPO. Anyone you are related to can qualify, including parents, grandparents, and children or grandchildren over 16 years old. Anybody who lives in your house or used to live there also is said to be, or have been, in a close relationship with you.
Type of Behavior Subject to a DVPO in North Carolina
What kind of behavior classifies as abuse? You can get a DVPO if a person with whom you have a personal relationship does any of a number of threatening or abusive things to you or a minor child. These include: trying to hurt you physically, whether or not the abuser succeeds, or making you or another member of the household afraid of being physically injured. All types of rape or sexual offense (as defined in the statutes) are included, as is any type of continuing harassment that causes substantial emotional distress.
This includes stalking behavior, defined by the North Carolina legislature as at least two acts of following the victim, monitoring her life, observing her, watching her or threatening her. This type of harassment can be accomplished by written or printed communication or telephone or fax communication. It can be accomplished by pager messages, answering machine or voicemail messages, or electronic mail messages or other computerized or electronic transmissions directed at a specific person. The key is that the harassment serves no legitimate purpose but is intended to torment, terrorize or terrify the victim.
Getting a DVPO
In North Carolina, you don't need to hire a restraining order lawyer to get a DVPO, and there are no fees involved. You can get a DVPO at the civil court during business hours. If you need an emergency DVPO when the court is closed, go to the magistrate's office.
When you arrive, tell the clerk or the magistrate that you need to file for a DVPO. If you need the emergency protection of an ex parte order – a temporary order put in place immediately without a hearing – tell the clerk this as well. The clerk or magistrate's office will give you the forms required or you can download them from the court website before you go in. Use the complaint to identify yourself and the abuser, then describe in the form recent incidents of violence specifically, with dates and details as much as possible. Tell what happened. If you were hit, slapped, threatened, shoved, raped or beaten, spell it out. Sign the form in front of the clerk of court or magistrate.
Ask for an ex parte order if you feel that you or your children are in serious and immediate danger. If the court gives you this order, it is good for 10 days, until your full court hearing. If you go to a magistrate, you may get an ex parte order that is only valid until the case is heard by a judge. In either case, you have to return to the court for a full court hearing within 10 days. The person you name as your abuser will get notice of this hearing, and both of you can show up and have a chance to explain your position to the judge. If you are the only person to show up, the court will likely issue you a DVPO that can last up to a year. It can be renewed for good cause for up to two years, and you can obtain more than one renewal. A person violating the terms of a DVPO can be arrested and prosecuted criminally.
Civil No-Contact Order
Although most North Carolina protective orders are issued in domestic violence situations, abuse is not limited to those who have close relationships. North Carolina law also provides for civil no-contact orders, called 50C orders. You'll want to seek a 50C order if you are the subject of unwanted sexual conduct or stalking by someone you know casually, like a neighbor or a co-worker or even a stranger.
What is unwanted sexual conduct in this context? It means any intentional sexual act like touching or fondling that you do not consent to. It includes direct skin-on-skin touching, but also touching sexual organs or breasts through clothing for the purpose of sexual gratification.
In order to apply for a civil no-contact order, you need to file a sworn complaint (called a "verified complaint") in North Carolina district court. If you are already in a court case against the person, you can just file a motion for a civil no-contact order in that civil action. Like with a DVPO, you can ask for and may get a temporary order. This will usually last until there is a full court hearing and everyone has a chance to present their side of the case. At that time, a permanent order can be issued for up to one year with renewal possible.
Lifelong Civil No-Contact Order
If you have been the victim of abuse and your abuser is a registered sex offender, you are eligible for a different type of civil no-contact order. It is called a 50D order and will restrain the abuser from contacting you for your entire life. The abuser must have been convicted of a crime that requires registration on the sex offender registry.
These crimes are usually sexual in nature. They include violent crimes like the rape of an adult or a child, statutory rape, sexual battery and also sexual exploitation of a minor. Some of the crimes requiring registration are not violent, but are still sexual, like felony peeping. Kidnapping or abducting a child may be non-sexual offenses, but they can result in the offender having to register as a sex offender, in some cases.