A Criminal Defense Lawyer Details What You Need to Know About Domestic Violence Charges

Domestic violence offenses are punished severely in Charlotte and North Carolina. If you’re charged with one of these crimes, you could face incarceration if convicted. 

The experienced Charlotte criminal defense lawyers at Browning & Long, PLLC, understand how a domestic violence conviction impacts your life. In this article, we explain the charges you face and your options. We can also assist you in mounting a strong defense to try to beat the charges. 

What Constitutes Domestic Violence Under North Carolina Law

In North Carolina, domestic violence encompasses various actions that can occur to a person with whom the accused has a personal relationship. Under North Carolina General Statute § 50B-1, if you commit any of the following actions, it’s defined as domestic violence:

  • Attempting to cause the victim to suffer bodily harm.
  • Intentionally causing the victim to suffer bodily harm.
  • Causing the victim or a member of their family or household to be in fear of imminent bodily harm.
  • Placing the victim or a member of their family or household in fear of continual harassment to a degree that the fear causes substantial emotional distress.
  • Committing specific sex-related crimes, such as first or second-degree rape, sexual battery, or statutory rape. 

Domestic violence offenses are serious crimes that can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. They are aggressively prosecuted in North Carolina. The punishments and long-long consequences if you’re convicted can be harsh. In addition, the alleged victim might obtain a domestic violence protective order against you.

Our experienced criminal defense lawyers can assist in raising your defenses. This may help you get the charges dropped or reduced to a less severe offense through a plea bargain.

Defining a Personal Relationship under North Carolina General Statute § 50B-1 

North Carolina law defines a personal relationship as a close association between two people. According to North Carolina General Statute §50B-1, the following individuals would be considered to be in a personal relationship with you:

  • Spouse or former spouse. It doesn’t matter how long you’re married, separated, or divorced—the law still recognizes the designation as a personal relationship.  
  • Current/former individuals of the opposite sex you lived with or dated. Similar protections for LGBTQ+ couples are underway.  
  • Parents and children. If you’re related as a parent and child, including acting in a parental role to a child, or as a grandparent and grandchild, this falls under the definition of a personal relationship. 
  • Child in common. Regardless of co-parenting status, committing harm against the child’s other guardian is categorized as domestic violence. 
  • Current or former household member. Under domestic violence law, the length of time for cohabitation doesn’t matter for it to be an offense to cause harm in this personal relationship.

North Carolina Domestic Violence Crimes You Could Be Charged With Committing 

If you’re charged with domestic violence in Charlotte or Mecklenburg County, it’s essential to understand the specific crimes you may be accused of committing. Here are some common domestic violence charges and their penalties.

Assault on a Female 

Under North Carolina General Statute §14-33(c), the definition of assault on a female applies when the accused is a male at least 18 years old. To classify it as a crime, it’s sufficient for the accused to have attempted to inflict an injury on the victim or place her in fear of being injured. 

In North Carolina, assault on a female is a Class A1 misdemeanor. If you’re convicted of this offense, you could be sentenced to up to 150 days in jail.

Sexual Battery 

Sexual battery involves unwanted or non-consensual sexual contact with another person which may include the use of force. The purpose of sexual contact by the accused must be for sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse. 

Like assault on a female, sexual battery is classified as a Class A1 misdemeanor in North Carolina, with a maximum jail sentence of 150 days. If you’re convicted of this crime, you’re also listed on North Carolina’s Sex Offender Registry for a minimum duration of 30 years. 


This crime is defined as non-consensual vaginal sexual intercourse with another person. To be convicted of first-degree rape, the prosecutor would need to prove that you committed this crime by displaying a deadly weapon, inflicting serious bodily harm on the victim, or having someone assist you in the rape. Second-degree rape and first-degree forcible sexual offenses have different definitions and penalties. 

In North Carolina, first-degree rape is a Class B1 felony. If convicted, you could be sentenced to prison for a minimum of 12 years to up to life in prison. You would also have to register as a sex offender.

Domestic Simple Assault 

There are two definitions for this crime: 

  • You could be found guilty if you take an action or try to take an action, such as striking the victim, that puts them in fear of being injured. 
  • Assault by show of force, where you demonstrate to the victim that you have the ability to harm them. 

In our state, simple assault is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and the maximum sentence is 120 days in jail. However, depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime, you could be charged with a felony, like assault inflicting serious bodily harm, which is a Class F felony punishable by 33 to 44 months in prison.

Assault by Strangulation

Assault by strangulation occurs when someone intentionally restricts the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person or causes them to lose consciousness by applying pressure to the throat or neck. There are three elements to this crime: 

  • You must have assaulted the victim.
  • You must have caused them to suffer a physical injury.
  • The assault must have involved the strangulation of the victim.

This crime is classified as a Class H felony. The punishment can include a four to 25-month jail or prison sentence. 

The stakes are high when defending domestic violence charges. If you’ve been charged with a crime in Mecklenburg County, don’t try to go it alone—the criminal defense team at Browning & Long, P.L.L.C. will investigate your case and use our knowledge to help you obtain the best possible outcome for your unique legal situation.

Howard W. Long, II
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Charlotte Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer