Many North Carolinians are familiar with a “50B.” However, most are unaware of its authorized relief and profound impacts in other areas of law.
The Statutory Structure
A “50B” is shorthand for the statutes authorizing relief from an act of domestic violence. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-1, et seq. An act of “domestic violence” includes a party: (1) attempting or causing bodily injury upon another party or that party’s child; (2) placing another party or a member of that party’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; (3) placing another party or a member of that party’s family or household in fear of continued harassment that inflicts substantial emotional distress; or (4) committing an act against another party or that party’s child as defined in criminal sex offense statutes. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-1(a). The complainant must have a “personal relationship” with the other party. Id. Generally, a “personal relationship” requires a dating or household relationship. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-1(b).
To obtain relief from an act of domestic violence, a party may file an action under Chapter 50B or a motion in an existing Chapter 50 action. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-2(a). A party may receive ex parte relief—meaning only that party presents its case to the court—if it “clearly appears” from “specific facts” that there is a danger of acts of domestic violence against the party or a minor child. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-2(c)(1); see Hensey v. Hennessy, 201 N.C. App. 56 (2009). A party may also receive “emergency relief” if there is a danger of serious and immediate injury to that party or that party’s minor child. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-2(b). Ex parte and emergency relief Domestic Violence Protective Orders (“DVPO”) can provide the same form relief as those orders entered after a contested hearing. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3(a). If the court finds an act of domestic violence occurred, it is required to enter a DVPO restraining that party from further acts of domestic violence. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3(a). A DVPO may last up to one year unless renewed for good cause. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3(b); Ponder v. Ponder, 247 N.C. App. 301 (2016) (holding that facts supporting entry of original DVPO may constitute good cause for renewal). Renewal of a DVPO may last up to two years unless renewed for good cause. Id. However, child custody provisions may last up to only one year. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3(a1)(4).
Far-Reaching Consequences of a 50B
The court has discretion to enter a DVPO that provides for far more relief. Id. The forms of relief authorized against the unwary party include: (1) granting the claimant possession of the parties’ residence, even evicting the unwary party if necessary; (2) granting the claimant possession of the parties’ vehicle; (3) granting the claimant temporary custody of the parties’ children and pets; (4) ordering that party to pay support payments to the claimant; (5) ordering that party to pay child support payments for the parties’ child; (6) prohibiting that party from possessing or purchasing firearms or permits for same; (7) ordering that party to surrender firearms or permits for same; (8) ordering that party to complete an abuser treatment program; and (9) ordering that party to pay the attorney’s fees of the claimant. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-3(a).
Yet there are still more nuances to appreciate. First, if a DVPO was entered, the issue of domestic violence cannot be relitigated in a later custody case through the doctrine of collateral estoppel. Doyle v. Doyle, 176 N.C. App. 547 (2006). Second, even if a DVPO did not require a party to surrender his firearms or prohibit him from purchasing same, federal criminal law prohibits a party from possessing, transporting, or receiving any firearm or ammunition while a DVPO is in effect. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8). Third, federal immigration law provides that violation of a DVPO is a ground for deportation. 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(E). Fourth, if the victim was an undocumented immigrant residing in the United States, that individual may qualify for a “U visa” which allows for lawful status for up to four years or more if he or she is helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the case. See generally 8 U.S.C. § 1184(p)(6); 8 C.F.R. § 214.14(g). Finally, violations of a DVPO may result in contempt or criminal prosecution. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-4(a); N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-4.1(b). A conviction for violating a DVPO is a Class A1 Misdemeanor. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-4.1(a). If a misdemeanor conviction meets certain criteria, federal law may prohibit a person from every possessing or receiving firearms or ammunition. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9). After two misdemeanor convictions, the third conviction is a Class H Felony. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-4.1(f). If convicted of a felony, federal law may prohibit a person from possessing or receiving firearms or ammunition. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
This blog is designed to comment upon basic legal issues and is not an exhaustive overview of the law. It is intended for educational purposes only and constitutes neither legal advice nor an attorney-client relationship. Contact the skilled criminal law, family law, and civil litigation attorneys at Davis & Davis, Attorneys at Law, P.C., including Board-Certified Specialists in Federal and State Criminal Law and Family Law, to schedule a consultation today.