In North Carolina, victims of domestic violence are protected by both civil and criminal laws. Our state’s Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) laws are in Chapter 50B of the General Statutes. A person seeking relief under Chapter 50B may file a civil action in district court alleging acts of domestic violence and seeking entry of a protective order. If the court enters a DVPO, a violation can have criminal consequences. This post reviews the criminal offenses involving violations of DVPOs.
Misdemeanor DVPO Violation
G.S. 50B-4.1 is the primary criminal provision and establishes several offenses. It provides, as a basic violation, that a person who knowingly violates a valid protective order is guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor. The elements “knowledge” and “valid protective order” have been the subject of litigation over the years. See State v. Tucker ___ N.C. App. ___, 848 S.E.2d 265 (2020); State v. Byrd, 363 N.C. 214 (2009). However, a deep dive of the meaning of these elements is beyond the scope of this blog.
Felony DVPO Violations
In addition to the basic misdemeanor DVPO violation, G.S. 50B-4.1 creates four felony offenses that involve DVPO violations.
Committing felony while DVPO prohibits act. One offense is the commission of a felony in violation of a DVPO. A person is guilty of this offense if he or she commits a felony at a time when the person knows the behavior is prohibited by a valid protective order. The offense is a felony one class higher than the felony the person committed. G.S. 50B-4.1(d). For example, if a person is convicted of attempted second-degree kidnapping in violation of a valid DVPO, the punishment for the attempted kidnapping is enhanced from a Class F felony to a Class D felony. This enhancement provision does not apply to convictions of a Class A or B1 felony or other felony DVPO violations described below.
Third offense. A person is guilty of a Class H felony if he or she knowingly violates a valid protective order after having been previously convicted of two misdemeanor offenses under Chapter 50B. G.S. 50B-4.1(f).
Violation of stay-away condition with deadly weapon. A person is guilty of this offense if he or she knowingly violates a valid protective order by failing to stay away from a place, or a person, as directed under the terms of the order, while in possession of a deadly weapon. G.S. 50B-4.1(g). The offense is a Class H felony.
Entry of safe house where protected person resides. The final felony offense under G.S. 50B-4.1 is the entry into a safe house where the protected person resides. A person guilty of this offense is subject to a valid protective order and enters property operated as a safe house or haven for victims of domestic violence, where a person protected under the order is residing. G.S. 50B-4.1(g1). A person violates G.S. 50B-4.1(g1) regardless of whether the person protected under the order is present on the property. The offense is a Class H felony.
G.S. 14-269.8 makes it a Class H felony for any person to possess, purchase, or receive or attempt to possess, purchase, or receive a firearm, machine gun, ammunition, or permits to purchase or carry concealed firearms while a DVPO is in effect.
Under the Cyberstalking statute G.S. 14-196.3(b)(5), it is a Class 2 misdemeanor to knowingly install, place, or use an electronic tracking device without consent, or cause an electronic tracking device to be installed, placed, or used without consent, to track the location of any person while subject to a DVPO.
If you have questions about any of these offenses, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.