“Britny’s Law” went into effect on December 1, 2017, enhancing the penalties for domestic violence in North Carolina, according to an article by WRAL.
Three years ago, Britny Puryear was stuck in a vicious relationship. At that time, Britny lived with her boyfriend in Fuqua-Varina, North Carolina. Over the course of four years, their relationship became increasingly abusive. The relationship ended after a violent argument in 2014, when the boyfriend shot and killed Britny in their home.
The boyfriend was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He pleaded guilty in court and received a 32-year jail term. The boyfriend is currently serving his sentence.
Britny’s parents were not satisfied with this outcome. They felt that first-degree murder should apply, given the abusive history of the relationship. Outside of certain exceptions under the felony murder rule, first-degree murder requires premeditation. Stated otherwise, the killer must plan out the murder ahead of time. Generally speaking, that is a difficult standard to prove in cases of domestic violence like Britny’s, where an argument sparked violence.
To continue the fight, Britny’s parents contacted the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCCADV). The NCCADV is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending domestic violence and supporting victims.
Working alongside the NCCADV, Britny’s parents were able to find a Minnesota law that classified domestic violence killings as first-degree murder. So the NCCADV used the Minnesota law as a foundation to create similar legislation in North Carolina.
The initial form of Britny’s law would have made it much easier to apply first-degree murder whenever there was evidence of repeated past abuse. As the bill worked through the North Carolina legislature, however, there were some changes. In its final form, Britny’s law requires a previous conviction for domestic violence in order for first-degree murder to apply.
Overall, Britny’s law clears the path to first-degree murder for future domestic violence killings. If the killer has a previous conviction for domestic violence involving the victim, that qualifies as premeditation. In such circumstances, the resulting charge will likely be first-degree murder, not second-degree murder.
While Britny’s parents are happy to see changes to the domestic violence laws in North Carolina, they plan to continue fighting in their daughter’s honor. They would like to see the initial form of Britny’s law resurrected and signed into law, allowing any past evidence of abuse to escalate a domestic violence killing to first-degree murder.
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If you are struggling with domestic violence, divorce or related concerns, it can be valuable to seek legal counsel from a trusted family law attorney. Contact Powers Landreth PLLC for dedicated assistance with your case.
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