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Durham changes policy on domestic violence protective orders

Although state law offers guidelines, the treatment of domestic violence cases by local law enforcement can vary from county to county. Although North Carolina law permits district courts the ability to issue civil protection orders when court is not in session, few counties offer "overnight" restraining orders. Durham County was one of the areas that used to offer civil domestic violence protection orders, but it recently chose to stop this practice. 

Prior to stopping the practice, magistrates in Durham County would issue the ex parte protection orders with the requirement that plaintiffs go before a judge on the following day. The Chief Magistrate requested that this ability be removed, however, as his office found that the plaintiffs in these cases were often not in emergency situations. He also called the process redundant while adding that many petitioners were referred from other counties which did not have this ability.

Like many other counties, Durham County has now decided that a judge is the best person to review domestic violence cases. Domestic violence victims still have options for immediate protection by speaking with law enforcement in the area. The Chief Magistrate noted that police will make an arrest if called to a dangerous situation.

Domestic violence is a serious issue in North Carolina and across the United States. There are many legal steps that may be required as a function of these incidents, from protective order hearings to criminal trials. Those who have been accused of domestic violence in the state have a right to present a defense, and can work with a lawyer to understand the best options for their case.

Source:, "Durham Stops Overnight Civil Restraining Orders For DV Victims", Rebecca Martinez, May 15, 2018

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