Family Law, Domestic Violence, and Restraining Orders
The law surrounding domestic violence in North Carolina is deceptively complex. In this episode, North Carolina Attorney Bill Powers answers the questions that matter to you when you when you or a loved one is involved in a domestic violence matter.
Modified Transcript of “Family Law, Domestic Violence, and Restraining Orders” for the Hearing Impaired
Speaker 1: You're listening to Law Talk with Bill Powers, your resource for answers to your most pressing legal questions. Attorney Bill Powers sits down with some of today's leading legal minds to discuss anything from legal issues and legislation to practice tips and policy. Now, here's your host, an NBTA board certified criminal law specialist, former president of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and renowned trial lawyer, Bill Powers.
Robert Ingalls: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Law Talk with Bill Powers. I am your guest host, Robert Ingalls for this episode and I am here once again today with Mr. Bill Powers. How are you today, Bill?
Bill Powers: I'm well.
Robert Ingalls: Alright. Today, we are going to be talking about family law, specifically domestic violence, 50B restraining orders, and the interaction that they have between criminal and civil court. So, tell us a little bit about this process, Bill.
Bill Powers: Well, it's deceptively complex, to be honest with you, and although many areas of laws have nuances or complexities or require an understanding of some very particular things, this one is almost a super area, meaning that as the case develops, the complexities develop and you have to get a handle on things very, very quickly.
There are a fair number of lawyers in the state of North Carolina, criminal defense lawyers, even lawyers in Charlotte, NC, that do criminal defense. They're criminal defense lawyers. They're Charlotte criminal defense lawyers or Monroe criminal defense lawyers. Then, there are also other lawyers who do family law issues, domestic violence attorneys, lawyers in the practice of law who help people with things like divorce and child support.
There aren't a lot of lawyers, in my experience in North Carolina, who do both or understand necessarily the interaction between criminal charges or allegations of a criminal charge for domestic violence or assault on a female or communicating threats or interference of 911 communication, coupled with a civil filing, a protective order under 50B, under the North Carolina domestic violence laws or the North Carolina civil laws. And they're both independently very complicated and it almost becomes a perfect storm for defense lawyers, and normally criminal defense lawyers are the ones that tend to handle the 50Bs. It's a perfect storm between civil law and criminal law in North Carolina.
Robert Ingalls: How does that criminal process work? What is that interaction?
Bill Powers: That's a great question, because these types of cases normally start with a criminal prosecution, meaning the victim of domestic violence goes and seeks a criminal charge or makes an allegation of criminal charges in Charlotte for an assault, assault and battery, assault on a female, communicating threats in North Carolina, something of that nature.
And as soon as they leave the magistrate's office or they've talked to the law enforcement officer, however that process started, and there are a lot of different ways, it doesn't really much matter how the charges got brought in North Carolina, it's the fact that there's a criminal charge.
Once that criminal charge is started, then there's normally a walk across the hallway or maybe to a different building that involves something like victim's assistance or filing for a protective order. In North Carolina family laws, we oftentimes refer to that as a 50B, if there's a relationship or if there are kids involved. Sometimes, it can be between stranger, a bar fight. It can be a 50C. Maybe probably less apt to be total strangers, but maybe someone you know as a coworker or something of that nature where you have 50C.
Robert Ingalls: Now, let me interject real quick. What is the difference between a 50B and a 50C?
Bill Powers: A 50B, and I'm going to speak in ... Because it's a really, really, really complex statute to read, but the simplest, most basic definition of the domestic violence laws in North Carolina, as for a 50B, it normally involves a relationship. Now, sometimes people confuse that meaning, "Well, I'm no longer dating that person." It could have been a past relationship. It could be a relationship where you have children. It could be two roommates who had no dating relationship, but they lived in the same household.
So, the statute is written in such a broad fashion to allow for the different iterations of how we live and interact with one another, so it's meant to be as broad as possible that to prevent or protect people involved in these interpersonal relationships. So, it applies to same-sex relationships just like it does people of different sexes. It applies to non-traditional relationships maybe with grandparents and their children. It's meant to cover basically any type of relationship that we have.
Now, 50C, the line of demarkation for me, the way I try to explain to clients, there isn't that same level of household type of relationship. There aren't kids involved. But, you may have a problem with somebody.
Robert Ingalls: So, would this be that situation like a bar fight?
Bill Powers: Well, it could be if there continued to be interactions. Again, it's written broadly to allow for a lot of different things. I tend to see it more often in coworker relationships or business contractual relationships where something has gone south and then they start going at each other and sending out embarrassing texts or emails, which some of these, embarrassment is a factor here, or they're going to their household, pounding on doors, saying, "I want my money."
So, I tend to think it more in everyday interactions, but there are instances where, for example, maybe you work as a server at a local restaurant and someone comes in and will not leave you alone, okay? Now, you've had no prior relationship with this person in the sense that you know, hey, that's Freddy and he comes in here, but I'm not interested in dating this person.