Domestic Violence Laws in South Carolina

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Gavel, books and handcuffs

South Carolina is making news, but not for a good reason. A recent study found that South Carolina has the highest number of women who are murdered by men in the entire country. While this total number includes murders that happen under a wide variety of circumstances, the majority of these murders occur as a result of domestic violence. The release of this statistic has prompted state leaders and officials to begin looking for additional ways to stem the growing tide of domestic violence crimes perpetrated against women in South Carolina. The data (from 2013) indicates that 57 women were killed by men in the state. South Carolina’s statistics in this regard have been in the top ten of all states since 1996.  This increased public focus is likely to result in an increase in charges for criminal domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Charges in South Carolina

A domestic violence charge can be levied against a defendant who has perpetrated violence or a threat of violence against someone with whom he or she lives with, used to live with, is married to or used to be married to, or with whom he or she has a child. It is not necessary for the defendant to actually strike the victim in order for a crime to take place; if the defendant places the victim in fear of immediate physical harm (raising a hand, making threatening gestures or statements), prosecutors can obtain a conviction.
Because of South Carolina’s continued and consistent problems with domestic violence, the South Carolina General Assembly recently updated South Carolina’s domestic violence statute to include harsher potential penalties and additional aggravating circumstances for law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies to consider.  The new law came into effect on June 4th, 2015, so if you’ve been charged with a violation of South Carolina’s domestic violence stautute before that date, then the “old law” would provide the elements the State would have to prove and govern your potential punishment.  If you’ve been charged after June 4th, then the “new law” would provide the elements the State would have to prove and govern your potential punishment.
Old Law—Criminal Domestic Violence (“CDV”)
CDV 1st Offense: 0 to 30 days or a fine of $1,100 to $2,500
CDV 2nd Offense: 30 days to 1 year and a fine of $2,500 to $5,000
CDV 3rd Offense: 1 to 5 years
CDV High and Aggravated: 1 to 10 years
New Law—Domestic Violence (“DV”)
DV 3rd Degree: 0 to 90 days and/or $1,100 to $2,500
DV 2nd Degree: 0 to 3 years and/or $2,500 to $5,000
DV 1st Degree: 0 to 10 years
DV High and Aggravated: 0 to 20 years
Under the old law, all domestic violence could be grouped in to two categories: aggravated and non-aggravated offenses.  Aggravated offenses required the existence of circumstances of aggravation—the use of a deadly weapon, for instance.  Non-aggravated offenses required only injury or threat of injury and a reasonable fear by a household member, and the penalty was contingent upon how many convictions the accused accrued in the preceding ten years.
The new domestic violence law takes a great many circumstances into consideration, and the degree of offense can be based on many things, including but not limited to:

  • The violation of a protective order;
  • A pregnant victim;
  • A minor witnessing the incident;
  • The existence of prior domestic violence convictions;
  • The use of a deadly weapon;
  • Choking a victim or otherwise keeping her from breathing;
  • The type and severity of injury caused;
  • Other circumstances outlined in South Carolina Code Section 16-25-10, et seq.

Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges

Contrary to popular belief, a domestic violence charge is not dismissed simply because the victim indicates he or she no longer wants to pursue the charge. The prosecutor has an ability to pursue a domestic violence charge even if the victim no longer wishes to cooperate with law enforcement (the prosecutor’s potential for success at trial, though, may be impacted by a victim’s reluctance to participate).
Legal counsel and representation from an experienced domestic violence defense attorney is necessary to obtain the best possible outcome. The Greenville criminal defense attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A.,  have represented numerous clients throughout South Carolina who have been charged criminal offenses. While he was a prosecutor, attorney Sam Tooker was responsible for the vast majority of domestic violence prosecutions in Pickens County, so he understands the cases from both sides of the courtroom.  The attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A. help their clients obtain positive outcomes by exposing weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and by presenting all favorable facts to the court. Contact the law office of David R. Price, Jr., P.A. today at (864) 271-2636 or contact the office online to discuss your domestic violence charges today.


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