If you are a victim of abuse or stalking in North Carolina, you can seek protection from the court. A restraining order, or protective order, requires your abuser or stalker to stay away from you for a specified period of time. If she violates the order, she faces harsh penalties, such as imprisonment or a fine.
What Is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order is a type of protective order that prohibits another person from abusing or stalking you. In North Carolina, there are two different types of restraining orders, a domestic violence protective order and a civil no-contact order.
Domestic Violence Protective Order
A restraining order for victims of domestic violence is known as a protective order, or a 50B order, because it is authorized by North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 50B. A protective order is usually granted for one year and may be renewed for an additional year. Violating this type of order is a Class A1 misdemeanor in North Carolina, which means it is the most serious type of misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of 150 days in jail and a discretionary fine.
In North Carolina, domestic violence occurs when a person with whom you have or have had a personal relationship does any of these acts to you or your minor child:
- Attempts to cause bodily injury or intentionally causes bodily injury.
- Places you or a member of your family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
- Carries out continued harassment that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress.
- Commits any rape or sexual offense.
A domestic violence protective order can order the abuser to do or not do various things and gives you certain rights, depending on the facts of the case. For example, it can:
- Order the abuser not to assault, threaten, abuse, follow, harass or interfere with you and your children in person, at work, on the telephone or by other means.
- Allow you to live in the home where you and the abuser have lived together and order the abuser to move out and not return, regardless of who owns the home or is named on the lease.
- Order the abuser to provide suitable alternative housing for you.
- Tell the police to remove the abuser from the home and help you to return to the home.
- Give you possession of personal property, including a car, furniture and other household goods.
- Order the abuser to stay away from any place you request including your school, your children's school, your work place, your friends' homes or any place where you are seeking shelter.
- Order the abuser not to harm your pet.
- Give you possession of your pet.
- Give you temporary custody of a minor child, order the abuser to pay temporary child support and establish temporary visitation if the abuser is the parent of the child.
- Order your spouse to pay temporary spousal support.
- Order the abuser to hand over any firearms and prohibit the abuser from purchasing a firearm.
- Order the abuser to attend an abuser's treatment program.
- Order the abuser to pay your attorney's fees.
Civil No-Contact Order
The other type of restraining order is a civil no-contact order, which may be granted under Chapter 50C or Chapter 50D of the North Carolina General Statutes. A 50C order provides protection from nonconsensual sexual conduct or stalking by a stranger, neighbor, acquaintance, coworker or any other person who is not a family member, while a 50D order provides protection for victims of registered sex offenders.
In North Carolina, intentional touching, fondling or sexual acts for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal that you did not consent to are considered to be nonconsensual sexual conduct. Stalking is when someone repeatedly follows or harasses you with the intent to place you in reasonable fear for your safety or your immediate family's safety or to cause you emotional distress.
A civil no-contact order can order the respondent:
- Not to visit, assault, molest or interfere with you in any way.
- Not to contact you by telephone, written communication or electronic means, such as email or social media websites.
- Not to abuse or injure you.
- To stop stalking or harassing you, including at your workplace.
- To stay away from your residence, school, work or other specified places at times when you are present.
A no-contact order can also order anything else that the court thinks is necessary and appropriate to protect you, including ordering the respondent to pay your legal fees.
Civil No-Contact Order for Victims of Registered Sex Offender
If you are the victim of a sex offense that occurred in North Carolina or of a substantially similar crime in another state, you may be eligible for a 50D civil no-contact order if the abuser was convicted of the offense, and the criminal offense requires registration on the sex offender registry. You may also be able to file for a 50D civil no-contact order on behalf of a minor child or an incompetent adult who is a victim of registerable sex offense.
Most of the crimes that require registration on the sex offender registry are sexually violent crimes, such as forcible rape of an adult or child, sexual battery, statutory rape and sexual exploitation of a minor. Other crimes are not necessarily violent, but are sexual in nature, such as felony peeping. Some nonsexual offenses against a minor also require registration, like kidnapping, felonious restraint and abducting a child.
You may be eligible for a 50D order even if the abuser was convicted in another state or in federal court, as long as the offense is significantly similar to the registrable offenses in North Carolina or if the offense requires registration on the sex offender registry in the state where the abuser was convicted.
To get a 50D order, you must prove that the abuser was convicted of committing a sex offense against you, that you did not seek a permanent no-contact order in the criminal court, that there are reasonable grounds for you to fear that the abuser will contact you in the future and that the abuser received notice of the case and either answered the complaint and received notice of the hearing or did not respond to the complaint.
A 50D protective order can order the abuser not to:
- Threaten, visit, assault, molest or otherwise interfere with you.
- Follow you, including at your workplace.
- Harass you.
- Abuse or injure you.
- Contact you by telephone, written communication or electronic means.
- Enter or remain present at your residence, school, place of employment or other specified places at times when you are present.
The order can include anything else the judge deems to be necessary and appropriate, based on the facts of the case.
Why You Would File a Restraining Order
You would file for a domestic violence protective order if you have experienced domestic violence at the hands of a person with whom you have or have had a personal relationship, such as a family member, a spouse or domestic partner, a current or former household member, a person you are dating or have dated, or a person you have children with.
You would file for a civil no-contact order if you are the victim of nonconsensual sexual conduct, which includes intentional touching, fondling or a sexual act for the purposes of sexual arousal, or stalking, which is defined as being repeatedly followed or harassed with the intention of causing fear or distress.
Although domestic violence occurs in same-sex relationships just as it does in opposite sex relationships, currently North Carolina law does not allow for same-sex dating partners who have never been household members and who are not or have not been married to each other to file for a domestic violence protective order. If you are a victim of domestic violence in a same-sex dating relationship and don’t qualify for this type of order, you may be able to file for a civil no-contact order.
How to Get a Restraining Order in NC
You can file for a domestic violence protective order or a civil no-contact order in the civil clerk’s office in the county where you live, the county where the act of unlawful conduct took place or the county where the abuser lives. Ask the clerk's office at the court what you are required to do and what the court process involves. It is free to file for both types of restraining orders.
You must complete a complaint form, naming yourself as the plaintiff and the person you are seeking protection from as the defendant. Make sure you provide a detailed description of why you are seeking a restraining order, including examples of the abuse or stalking you have experienced with specific dates, times and places.
A summons is also required, which is served on the defendant by a sheriff. This requires the defendant's name and address and a physical description of him. In some counties, the clerk takes the forms to the sheriff's department; in others, the plaintiff must do this.
If you believe you need emergency protection, ask for an ex parte order, a temporary order that takes effect right away without giving the respondent a chance to present evidence or testimony. An ex parte order may be issued the same day you file your complaint if the judge believes there is a serious and immediate danger to you or your minor child. If it is not issued that day, the court must hear the request within 72 hours or by the end of the next day on which the court is in session, whichever comes first. Typically, an ex parte order lasts until the full court hearing takes place, usually within 10 days of the temporary order or within seven days from the date of service upon the respondent, whichever is later. The order is not effective until the respondent is served with notice of the order.
After you have filed your complaint and summons, you will get a date and time for the full hearing, where both parties have the opportunity to provide evidence and present witnesses, and the respondent can respond to the allegations of unlawful conduct included in the petition. The judge considers all this information before deciding whether the unlawful conduct actually took place. If the judge decides that an unlawful act did take place, he will grant a final protective order.
When Does a No-Contact Order Expire?
A final civil no-contact order lasts for one year, but you can file to renew it before it expires. You do not have to prove that there has been a new incident of unlawful conduct to renew your order, but the judge must find that there is good cause for renewal. However, a civil no-contact order, or 50D order, for victims of registered sex offenders is a life-long court order that provides protection from an abuser who was convicted of a crime that resulted in registration on the sex offender registry.