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Civil No Contact Orders can help protect victims

In 1994, our legislature adopted a new law to create civil No Contact Orders for the protection of individuals who are the victims of unlawful conduct including stalking and nonconsensual sex.

These no contact orders are under the statutory section named “50C” and therefore are often known as “50C” orders as opposed to “50B” orders which are domestic violence protection orders (DVPO). A 50B or DVPO requires a special relationship between the parties (e.g., cohabitating, etc.) and domestic violence whereas a 50C is much less restrictive. A 50C does not require the plaintiff to be in any type of relationship with the defendant. But to get a 50C, the victim must have been stalking (following or harassing the victim to make that victim afraid for their safety, or the safety of a family member or personal associate and which causes that person to suffer substantial emotional distress) or there must have been nonconsensual sexual conduct (e.g., such as touching, fondling, or penetration of sexual organs or breast of another, for the purposes of sexual gratification or arousal).

Prior to its creation, a victim could bring criminal charges but could not obtain a civil restraining order against a stalker or person who caused nonconsensual sex. The 50C solved the problem of an individual stalking someone they had never met. Now a victim can do both.

The 50C does not have the “teeth,” however, of a 50B. A violation of a 50B can result in immediate criminal arrest and imprisonment whereas a violation of a 50C does not lead to immediate arrest. A violation of a 50C is punishable by contempt which can include jail time but only after a hearing to determine if the defendant is actually in contempt.

50C Orders can be temporary or permanent in nature. If granted, a temporary 50C civil no-contact order will be effective for not more than ten (10) days unless the Defendant consents to a longer time period. A permanent civil no-contact order will be effective for a fixed period of time not to exceed one year.

Very little case law exists on 50C Orders as the statute is so new. However, a recent 2008 case is interesting because it deals with “cyber stalking.”

Judge Foster in Madison County issued a civil no-contact order against Cindie Harmon on behalf of Linda Ramsey and her daughter for “cyber stalking” (see Ramsey v. Harman, 191 N.C.App. 146, 661 S.E.2d 924 (2008).

According to the Complaint, Ramsey had allegedly posted information on a website stating the daughter harasses other kids at school and being the reason other kids “hate to go to school.” Defendant’s website also featured: a voice recording of plaintiffs’ deceased mother and grandmother and references to Linda Ramsey as being a “crow,” “idiot,” and “wack.”

Judge Foster found that the “Defendant has harassed plaintiffs within the meaning of N.C. Gen.Stat. §50C-1(6) and (7) by knowingly publishing electronic or computerized transmissions directed at plaintiffs that torments, terrorizes, or terrifies plaintiffs and serves no legitimate purpose.” However, the case was vacated on appeal because the Judge did not find that the Defendant had placed the Plaintiff in fear for her safety, or the safety of her family or close personal associates or had caused the person substantial emotional distress by placing that person in fear of death, bodily injury, or continued harassment and in fact had caused that person substantial emotional distress.

The Ramsey case suggests that a civil no contact order can be entered for cyber stalking but the proof required is greater than offered at the trial in that case.

Though it is a relatively new law, a 50C can help protect you. It broadens the court’s power to protect your safety and well-being.

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