On December 1st, a new set of laws went into effect, regulating a number of different ranging from handgun permits to Medicaid fraud. But one of the provisions in particular was aimed at assisting victims of domestic violence, by giving them one more tool with which to protect themselves and their loved ones.
According to The Daily Tarheel, the new law makes it a felony to trespass into a shelter where a recipient of a restraining order (also known as a 50(b) Domestic Violence Protective Order) is currently residing. Beverly Kennedy, FVPC’s Executive Director, was quoted in The Daily Tarheel by saying she was extremely pleased with the new law, but lamented that it only extended to victims staying in government-approved shelters and not temporary shelters found in hotels, secondary residences, or the homes of friends and family members. Kennedy also pointed out that homeless shelters, a common source of refuge for victims seeking to flee domestic violence situations, are also not covered by the provision.
This is of particular worry for victims of domestic violence in counties like Orange, which does not have a domestic violence shelters within its jurisdiction. Unlike Durham and Wake counties, Orange is the only county in the Triangle that is not served by a designated domestic violence shelter. The implications of this are that victims fleeing abusive relationships in Orange County are either forced to put themselves up in hotels or motels (if they can afford them), or seek refuge in adjacent counties that do maintain DV-shelters–Chatham, Alamance, Durham and Wake among them. Those who cannot find haven in a DV shelter are often left with few options aside from area homeless shelters (often full) or the residences of friends, family, and co-workers–none of which are covered by the new law’s provisions, even where they are available.
It is important to note that even independent of court orders, it is illegal to trespass on private or state property once the legal occupants have made it clear an individual’s presence is unwelcome and unwanted. And regardless of restraining orders, both bystanders and victims of domestic violence can always call for police assistance to either arrest a trespassing individual, or at a minimum, provide closed patrols and escort unwelcome parties off the property with instructions not to return. Trespassing on the grounds of homeless shelters and private residences that offer shelter to protective order recipients remains a misdemeanor, whereas trespassing on one of North Carolina’s domestic violence shelters now becomes a felony.
To learn more about domestic violence protective orders (DVPOs), call our 24-hour hotline at 919-929-7122.