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North Carolina Spousal Abuse Laws

Spousal abuse is a form of domestic violence that generally doesn't refer to just one offense. If you've committed spousal abuse (unlike domestic violence which is sometimes criminalized as one distinct crime), there are multiple crimes for which you can be charged. "Spousal" refers to not only current or former spouses, but also people who share or have shared an intimate relationship such as domestic partners or fiancés; "abuse" refers to a broad category of mistreatment that can include assault, sexual assault, and stalking.

Because of the idea that abusers often use an existing relationship as a way to manipulate their victims by abusing their trust, domestic violence is treated very seriously, exemplified through state legislation. Although North Carolina does not have a separate criminal law for either domestic violence or spousal abuse, the criminal offenses that fall into these categories can carry strict penalties.

North Carolina Spousal Abuse Charges at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of statutes related to North Carolina's spousal abuse charges, including links to important code sections.


  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-33 (c)(2) (Assault on a female)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-33.2 (Habitual misdemeanor assault)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-32.4 (Assault inflicting serious bodily injury; strangulation)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-226.1 (Violating orders of the court)


Assault on a female: A man, 18 years old or older, assaults a female

  • Class A1 misdemeanor

Habitual misdemeanor assault:

  • Violates any provisions of assault statutes and causes physical injury and has 2 or more prior convictions for either misdemeanor or felony assault, with the earlier of the 2 prior convictions occurring no more than 15 years prior to the date of the current violation.
  • Class H felony

Assault inflicting serious bodily injury:

  • Class F felony


  • Class H felony

Violating orders of the court (including injunction and restraining orders):

  • Class 3 misdemeanor which may include a fine not to exceed $250.

Possible Defenses

  • Mistaken identity
  • Self defense
  • Consent
  • There is no defense that the rape or sexual assault victim is the person's legal spouse at the time of the incident.

Related Offenses

  • Stalking: North Carolina General Statutes 14-277.3A
  • First-degree forcible rape: North Carolina General Statutes: 14-27.21
  • Murder: North Carolina General Statutes: 14-17

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources for Prohibited Consensual Activity Laws

Need Help with Spousal Abuse Issues? Contact an Attorney

If you're dealing with charges associated with spousal abuse, then you probably want to resolve the issues as quickly as possible with the best outcome possible. Don't hesitate in speaking with an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney who can provide assistance with your goals. Contact a local attorney immediately.

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