A domestic violence offense is not actually a separate crime, but a normal offense which happens to involve two or more persons who have “a personal relationship” as defined by statute. What distinguishes domestic violence cases from other types of charges is not the offense itself, but the way that the prosecutor will treat it and the many side-effects that can follow a domestic conviction.
North Carolina statutes state that an individual charged with an offense that has been labeled as Domestic Violence cannot be given a bond by anyone but a District Court Judge for the firs 48 hours after they are charged. This means that if a judge is available, you will be brought to court for a bond hearing, but if it is a weekend or court is not in session, you will be held until either 48 hours have passed or a judge becomes available.
If you are brought to District Court for a bond hearing, remember that the court is not there to try your case. Many defendants will want to tell the judge what happened or explain the situation. This is an enormous mistake, as what you say will only be used against you. The judge is only interested in reasons why you can be relied upon to come to court and will not have contact with the alleged victim until the case is resolved. If you are not sure what to say, remember that you have a right to remain silent, and you should use it!
In both Onslow and Duplin counties, the District Attorney has set aside resources for special treatment of domestic cases. Much greater time and attention is paid to the prosecution of these offenses, and as a result it can be more complicated to successfully dispose of one of these charges. It is common for the alleged victim to want to have the charges dropped. However, it is a misconception that, just because you had somebody charged with a crime, you can have the charges dismissed. In any criminal case, once a warrant has been issued by a magistrate, only the District Attorney may drop the charges. In many normal cases if the victim asks for the case to be dropped, the D.A. will agree. But in domestic cases it is typical for the State to proceed with prosecution even if the victim does not want to!
Getting convicted of a domestic violence offense can have unexpected negative consequences. The court will often order a defendant to attend an “abuser treatment program” and place them on probation to monitor their behavior. A domestic violence conviction is also more likely to result in a jail sentence than a comparable non-domestic case. And beyond the sentence imposed by the court, a domestic conviction will trigger provisions of federal law that will restrict your freedom and will cost you the right to possess any firearms. To individuals who serve in the military, this will be particularly damaging because there is no exception to this for military service.
For all these reasons, if you have been charged with a domestic violence offense, it is important to consult an attorney before you take any action on your own. An experienced lawyer will speak on your behalf to the prosecutor and can negotiate for you to reach a fair resolution to the case. Even if there is evidence against you, and although the prosecutor will say that they will not dismiss the charges, if the victim wants the case dismissed it may still be possible to have the charges dropped. If you have found yourself charged with a crime of domestic violence, don’t wait to call us and set up a consultation so we can work to protect your rights and resolve the situation.
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