Being charged with domestic violence is a serious offense, and it can have long-lasting effects on not only your relationship but your personal rights. Many times, domestic violence charges can have an impact in family law, and family court, so it is very important that your criminal charges are handled with the utmost care.
In South Carolina, domestic violence is defined under §16-25-20, being unlawful to cause physical harm or injury to a person’s own household member or offer or attempt to cause physical harm or injury to a person’s own household member with apparent present ability under circumstances reasonably creating fear of imminent peril.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, it is important to know your options. Find help here.
Household Member: Legal Definition
You do not have to be in a relationship to be charged with domestic violence. SC law defines a household member as any of the following
- Former spouse
- Persons who have a child in common; or
- Male and female who are cohabitating or formerly have cohabitated.
Additionally, the SC Supreme Court has held that LGBTQ couples are covered and protected under this statute.
Degrees of Domestic Violence Charges and Their Penalties
There are varying degrees of domestic violence charges, but at the core of each one is the requirement that someone causes physical harm to a member of the household, or they attempt to cause physical harm in a way that would place the household member in fear of imminent harm.
Once the State proves that a household member was harmed or sufficiently threatened, the next analysis is what degree of Domestic Violence will be charged.
Domestic Violence of a High or Aggravated Nature
DVHAN is the most serious domestic violence charge and involves intentional disregard for human life. A DVHAN conviction has a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
If the act of domestic violence results in serious bodily harm to the victim, involves the use of a firearm, is committed in the presence of a minor, or involves the violation of a protective order, it is likely a first-degree domestic violence charge. This felony carries the potential of 10 years in prison.
Second-degree domestic violence is a misdemeanor. It is applied when the assault causes moderate bodily injury, if a person has a prior conviction of domestic violence, or if the offense was committed against a pregnant woman or in front of a child.
A second-degree domestic violence conviction carries the penalties of up to 3 years in prison and/or a fine between $2,500 and $5,000.
A third-degree charge of domestic violence is the least severe of the charges. An act of domestic violence without the aggravating factors of a first degree, second degree, or DVHAN charge is generally labeled a third-degree misdemeanor.
If convicted of third-degree domestic violence, a person may face up to 90 days in prison and a fine between $2,500 and $5,000.
While imprisonment is possible with each domestic violence charge, it is not always the case that a person convicted will go to prison. Instead, a conviction could result in the loss of firearm privileges or the inability to receive a concealed carry permit.
It is also possible for pretrial intervention (PTI) on a charge of domestic violence. A referral to PTI needs the approval of the solicitor handling the case, and likely would involve completing a battered victim’s course by the defendant. With approval and completion of PTI, the charges would be dismissed.
It is incredibly important to have an experienced attorney by your side to ensure that you were properly charged under the correct degree. The statutes have a lot of carry-over and specific elements. It is important that an experienced defense attorney goes over all of the evidence to make sure the State has properly charged you and to make sure the best defense against a domestic violence charge.
If you have been charged with domestic violence, contact us today on our website or call 803-639-8719 to speak with an attorney.