When setting conditions of pretrial release in domestic violence cases, magistrates and judges often order a defendant not to contact the victim. Those directives clearly apply to a defendant once he is released from jail subject to those conditions. But what about a defendant who remains in jail? Is he also subject to a no contact condition included on a release order? The court of appeals addressed that issue yesterday in State v. Mitchell.
This question in the title of this post came up in a recent class. The specific context involved a domestic violence defendant who was in jail waiting for a judge to set conditions of release pursuant to the 48 hour rule established in G.S. 15A-534.1. But a similar issue arises whenever a magistrate sets conditions of release for a defendant who is unable to make bond and so remains in pretrial detention. An example of a common condition is that the defendant not contact the alleged victim.
In getting ready for the North Carolina magistrates’ fall conference and a session that I’m teaching on issuing process in domestic violence cases, I began thinking about the ways that North Carolina criminal law addresses domestic violence. The North Carolina General Assembly has made numerous changes and additions in this area of criminal law, collected below. If I omitted some part of North Carolina criminal law involving domestic violence cases, please let me know.
This session, the General Assembly passed S.L. 2017-94, which creates a rebuttable presumption that certain domestic violence homicides are premeditated and deliberate and therefore constitute first-degree murder. WRAL explains here that the measure is known as Britny’s Law “in memory of Britny Jordan Puryear, a 22-year-old who was shot and killed by her live-in boyfriend, Logan McLean, in their Fuquay-Varina home on Nov. 6, 2014, after a four-year abusive relationship.” The bill raises many questions, which this post attempts to answer.
Domestic violence protective orders (DVPOs) are available to “persons of the opposite sex who are . . . or have been in a dating relationship,” and who are able to establish that the person that they are or were dating committed an act of domestic violence against them. Persons of the same sex who are or were in a dating relationship don’t have the same opportunity. Is that constitutional? The Supreme Court of South Carolina just addressed a related question, and its opinion suggests that the answer is no.
The United States Supreme Court recently decided a case about what counts as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” for purposes of the federal statute prohibiting individuals who have been convicted of such crimes from possessing firearms. I’ve had several questions about whether the ruling affects last year’s Fourth Circuit decision holding that North Carolina assaults generally don’t qualify as “misdemeanor crime[s] of domestic violence.” For the reasons set out below, I don’t think the Supreme Court case clearly overrules the Fourth Circuit’s decision.
It is a federal crime for a person who has been convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to possess a gun. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9). A “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” means a misdemeanor that “has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon,” and that is committed by a person with one of several specified relationships to the victim. 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33). Late last year, the Fourth Circuit ruled that North Carolina misdemeanor assault convictions generally don’t satisfy that definition.
In the 2015 legislative session, the General Assembly made two significant changes to the pretrial release statutes: (1) it effectively repealed a “bond doubling” provision for defendants rearrested while on pretrial release, and (2) it expanded the scope of the 48-hour rule for domestic violence cases to include dating couples.
A judge who issues an emergency or ex parte domestic violence protective order must order the defendant to surrender all firearms in his care, custody or control if the judge makes certain findings about the defendant’s prior conduct. Among the findings that trigger the weapons-surrender requirement is a finding that the defendant used or threatened to use a deadly weapon or has a pattern of prior conduct involving the use or threatened use of violence with a firearm. A defendant served with such an order must immediately surrender his firearms to the sheriff. If the weapons cannot be immediately surrendered, he must surrender them within 24 hours. But what if the defendant does not turn over any firearms? May the protective order authorize the sheriff to search the defendant, his home, and/or his vehicle for such weapons?
Here’s a question I get occasionally: What language should I use to charge aiding and abetting a violation of a domestic violence protective order (DVPO)? Here’s a similar one: If someone is arrested for aiding and abetting a violation of a DVPO, is the person subject to the 48-hour pretrial release law for domestic violence offenses? I know the scenario immediately.