Until October 1, 2015, North Carolina had only two statutes that allow the Civil District Court to enter restraining orders. Our state is now adding a third statute that provides special protection for victims of sexual crimes. An examination of each of the statutes shows why this new statute offers a unique, additional layer of protection and support to these particular victims.
The first type of restraining order is provided for under North Carolina General Statute Chapter 50B. This is the domestic violence statute and allows the Court to issue what is called a domestic violence order of protection. This statute applies to the following groups of people: married or previously married couples, people of the opposite sex who live together or have lived together, parents and children (or others acting as parents), people who have a child together, current or former household members, and anyone else who is or has been in a dating relationship. There are specific requirements by the statute that set forth the type of conduct the Court is looking for in order to put a 50B restraining order in place, but they essentially require a showing that an act of domestic violence occurred. If the court puts a domestic violence order of protection into effect, it cannot exceed a period of more than one year. Prior to the expiration of the domestic violence order of protection, the plaintiff (the protected party) can file a motion to renew the order for up to another two years. This can continue as long as the court finds there is good cause to renew the order. However, this requires the victim to file a motion to renew each time the order is set to expire. The defendant is entitled to a hearing each time and can contest the renewal, requiring the victim to testify as to why the order should remain in place potentially over and over again.
Similarly, North Carolina General Statute 50C also has its own set of people it covers and conduct it is looking to prevent. A 50C restraining order is available for basically anyone that doesn’t fall under the 50B statute. While 50B is designed for personal relationships, the 50C statute is for issues between people like coworkers, neighbors, platonic friends, or other unique relationships like a paramour and spouse who has been cheated on, for example. Unlike the 50B statute, the type of restraining order that is put in place is called no-contact order. While the conduct involved can be violent, it doesn’t have to be. It can also be other acts such as harassment, stalking, unwanted sexual conduct, or any other type of non-consensual contact that a judge feels warrants the issuance of a no-contact order. The relief granted in the no-contact order can be a traditional bar to any and all contact whatsoever, or can be tailored to only ordering the defendant not to further harass the plaintiff. The maximum time frame for the no-contact order is one year, and the plaintiff has to file a motion to renew the order, similar to the 50B restraining order.
The new North Carolina statute appears as Chapter 50D. This statute allows the victim of a sexual crime to apply for a no-contact order against the offender. The sexual crime must be a crime that requires the offender to register as a sex offender. Additionally, the crime must have been committed in North Carolina. The key feature of this statute is that it is a lifetime no-contact order. This means that unlike the 50B and 50C statutes, the victim does not have to file to renew the order and relive the circumstances leading to the no-contact order over and over again. In fact, the statute mandates that the order be entered for the life of the defendant (criminal offender) and that duration cannot be shortened by the court. The victim is required to show that the defendant was convicted of a sex offense against the victim and reasonable grounds exist for the victim to fear future contact with the defendant. It should be mentioned that North Carolina provides a similar lifetime no-contact order through its criminal statutes to be issued at the time of the defendant’s conviction of the sexual offense. However, the new civil statute provides an additional layer of protection for these victims and option for when the other no-contact order may not have been put in place. Full details on the statute can be found through the North Carolina General Assembly website.