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Criminal Domestic Violence, or CDV, is the "willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another", according to the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. In laymen's terms, when one person in a couple abuses their partner, whether they are dating or married. This includes various behaviors, including but not limited to physical and sexual assault, emotional abuse, and psychological violence.
As of 2019, South Carolina tops the Nation in domestic abuse deaths, and domestic violence has been on the rise in the state for the last decade. Because of this, the state of South Carolina has been passing down harsher sentences, even for first time offenders, to try and stop the increase in these domestic violence events.
Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is paramount to making sure your case comes to the best possible outcome. If you are facing criminal charges for domestic abuse in South Carolina, call the Touma Law Group as soon as possible.
What is the Sentencing for Domestic Violence in South Carolina?
Criminal Domestic Violence comes in four different tiers in South Carolina.
- Domestic Violence 3rd Degree: a misdemeanor, up to 90 days in jail, and/or be fined up anywhere between $1000 and $2500
- Domestic Violence 2nd Degree: a misdemeanor, up to 3 years (36 months) of jail time, and/or a fine between $2500 and $5000
- Domestic Violence 1st degree: a felony, up to 10 years of time in a federal prison
- Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature: a felony, up to 20 years of time in a federal prison
Because of the way that domestic violence laws are written, these charges are not decided by the extent of the victim's bodily injury, but by the intention of the perpetrator. Because of this, someone who punched their spouse in the face while angry or drunk will most likely face lower charges than a person who caused no physical injury to their partner but created an environment that made their victim feel as though there was a real and substantial risk of death, or that they were in imminent peril, via threats and coercion.
The court believes there is a line between simple assault and extreme indifference to the life of your partner, or human life in general, and awards charges based on this belief. This means, in certain situations, threats can be charged harsher than actual physical assault.
What Happens After a Domestic Violence Arrest?
As with any other arrest, as soon as you are taken into custody it's time to be quiet. Anything you say during your arrest will be recorded by police dashcams and by the body camera worn by the law enforcement officer. It is important to protect your 5th amendment right against self incrimination. As soon as possible you should contact an experienced Greenville domestic violence defense attorney to represent you since you will be taken to a bond hearing the day after your arrest to decide whether you will be awarded bail, or if you will have to wait for your next court date in a jail cell.
Once your attorney is able to look over your case and evidence, they will help you find the right path through your time in court. You should not contact the alleged victim at any point during your process in court, except through your attorney. Most judges award a "no-contact" order to defendants during their bond hearing, and if you are found in violation of this no-contact bond restriction a bench warrant will be issued for you.
There are normally other bond conditions set in place by your bond judge. These can range from a temporary loss of child custody of any minor children, to AA or NA meetings, to anger management therapy. Any violation of your bond conditions can lead to your arrest via a bench warrant, so you should take the conditions of your bond seriously.
What is the Best Defense for Domestic Violence Offenses?
Because domestic violence situations can vary so much, there isn't a single defense that is better than others. For domestic violence events that encompass only minor injuries that did not need medical treatment, where alcohol was being consumed and the perpetrator does not have prior domestic violence charges on their criminal record, this is likely to be charged as 3rd-degree domestic violence.
In this case, alcohol-induced "loss of consciousness", or blacking out, could be the defense you need to avoid jail time and only receive probation and/or a fine. This defense will not work in a situation where no alcohol or drugs were involved, in which a person systematically physically abuses their spouse and children every day for a month.
Receiving a domestic violence charge can be scary, but no matter the circumstances there is always a path to follow. Depending on your criminal history, the degree of the domestic violence charge, and the evidence presented against you, your criminal defense lawyer will make sure they get the best outcome for your case possible. In some cases, this might mean a guilty plea or a plea bargain for lesser sentencing. Additional factors, like being a youthful offender, can make huge differences when it comes to a domestic violence charge, and every tiny detail is important to avoid a criminal conviction.
Are all Domestic Abusers Men?
There is a common misconception, especially in South Carolina, that domestic violence is only committed by men, against women. While female victims do make up the majority of domestic abuse and domestic sexual assault victims, women also make up a significant portion of domestic abusers. Domestic abuse can and does happen between mothers and their children, women and their partners, and wives and their spouses.
Because female offenders make up a smaller percentage than male offenders, events like a false arrest can see male victims jailed and tried in court when they are actually the victim. While it is rare, an experienced lawyer would be able to help the victim prove they are not the abuser, but the survivor.
Contact Touma Law Group for Help Defending a CDV Charge
With the highest potential penalty being 20 years in prison, facing domestic abuse or violence charges can be scary, especially for those who have never dealt with the court system in any capacity before. Even those who have experienced courtrooms before may find themselves lost and confused, with tons of questions.
No matter your situation, contacting an experienced Greenville defense lawyer is a must. At the Touma Law Group there is nothing more important to us than a trusting attorney-client relationship, and avoiding a criminal conviction for our clients. During your initial consultation, our team with discuss your case with you, as well as help you figure out your eligibility for pre-trial intervention programs or alcohol counseling that may help your case, and well as build a customized defense for your case. With experience in the CDV court and the appeals process for criminal domestic assault, your case and future are safe in our hands.