Have you been served with a notice to appear in a 50B or 50C hearing in Wake County? You probably are wondering what’s going to happen and if you even need to appear.
First, there are two main types of restraining orders in North Carolina:
- Domestic Violence Protective Order 50B. A 50B can be filed by a person who claims they have been harassed and/or assaulted/abused by another who they share(d) a household with, are in a romantic relationship with or have been in a romantic relationship with, have a child in common, or related as parent/child or as grandparent/child if the grandparent is acting as a parent to the child.
- Civil No-Contact Order 50C. A 50C is between two people who do not follow into the 50B categories. A 50C may be brought between fighting neighbors, by a person being stalked online or in real life, or by former friends who no longer get along.
A person can apply for a 50B or 50C on the fifth floor of the Wake County Courthouse at 316 Fayetteville Street. The person will appear in front of a judge after 2 p.m. and plead their case. The judge will then either enter an ex-parte or deny the ex-parte and set it for hearing.
- Ex-Parte Entered: If a judge finds there’s enough evidence for a 50B or 50C to be entered, she will issue an ex-parte order. An ex-parte order is good for ten days. The defendant will be notified by sheriff that an ex-parte has been filed. The order will contain certain provisions, such as forbidding contact with the person who applied for the order. A hearing will be set for approximately ten days out.
- Ex-Parte Not Entered: If the judge does not find there’s enough to enter an ex-parte, the person who applied for the order has the option to dismiss the case or set it for hearing. The hearing will be set whenever the court next has an opening on its docket. If no ex-parte is entered, the defendant will be notified of the hearing, but does not have any no-contact restrictions against them.
If a hearing is set, it will be in Courtroom 5A of the Wake County Courthouse in Raleigh. Court starts promptly at 9 a.m. If you are late, an order could be entered against you without the option to be heard. If there currently is an ex-parte against you, your case takes priority. If there is no ex-parte, your case might be continued to another date depending on how busy the docket is.
Currently, you are allowed to have your cell phone in the courtroom, but it must be on silent. You can also bring a book to pass the time. Talking is strictly forbidden. If you must talk to someone, including your attorney, you must go out to the hallway.
A hearing is essentially a trial. The person who filed for the order will present their case and call any witnesses. You will have the chance to cross-examine the witnesses. After the close of their case, you have the chance to present your case. You can testify and call any witnesses who have knowledge of the situation.
The rules of evidence do apply, and the judge will enforce them. If you plan of having a hearing, you ideally should have an attorney who understands court procedures and evidence.
Sometimes you might not want to have anything to do with the person. Be aware that under a 50B, you will lose your ability to possess a firearm in North Carolina for at least one year if the order is entered against you. If you have no desire to have a firearm, you may choose to enter into a consent order. A 50B consent order does not require a finding a fact, so the order will not list any allegations. However, a 50C consent order does require a finding of fact, so the accusations will be listed and will be public record. Currently, 50Bs and 50Cs cannot be expunged. Therefore, you likely should fight a 50C. (Do note there is no firearm restriction with a 50C).
If the judge finds it is appropriate to enter the order, you will have an order against you for one year. This will include certain conditions, such as:
- Do not go to the plaintiff’s workplace or home;
- Do not call the plaintiff;
- Do not text the plaintiff; and/or
- Stay within so many feet of the plaintiff.
These provisions will change depending on the case. For example, if you have children with the plaintiff, the judge might enter a temporary order on custody and how you can pick up your children, but ultimately a family court judge will need to hear the matter.
After one year, the plaintiff can apply to renew the order for one or two years. The standard to renew is significantly lower — it only needs to be “for good cause.” Again, a finding of fact may be entered, so you may want an attorney if you do not want the facts to be public record. You again have the option to consent.
Once a 50B expires or if the 50B is dismissed during the hearing, you may be able to get your guns back. This can be a confusing process and requires very specific forms. Talk to a Raleigh lawyer about this before you try to do it yourself.
Do you NEED a lawyer? Ideally, yes. A lawyer will be able to investigate the case, subpoena witnesses, and prepare questions to ask you and the plaintiff. The lawyer will research case law relevant to your situation. An attorney will also advise you on whether or not you should consent. If you have a criminal case attached to the same situation, the lawyer may advise you to continue the hearing until your criminal case is resolved. Every hearing in 5A is recorded and the recording can be used against you (or for you) in criminal court.
Understandably, a DVPO attorney isn’t always financially feasible. Unfortunately, you cannot have an attorney appointed to you because 50Bs and 50Cs are civil matters, not criminal. If you are looking for an attorney, call around to a few — prices for DVPO cases range greatly depending on the attorney. However, you want to make sure you have an attorney you can mesh with and who is willing to work for you.
A lawyer cannot guarantee you will win the case — some cases are simply not winnable. Any attorney who tells you they can win every case is full of it and should not be trusted. A good attorney will tell you the different scenarios that may occur, and to be prepared for the unexpected.
If someone has filed a restraining order against you in Wake County, North Carolina, contact Attorney William Pruden at 919-880-2124 for a free consultation.