Domestic violence charges in South Carolina can carry severe criminal penalties, including steep fines and a possible jail sentence. These penalties can have a major impact on every aspect of your life going forward. If you have been arrested on domestic violence charges, you will want the services of an experienced Columbia domestic violence lawyer to protect your rights throughout the legal process.
At Touma Law Group we have a track record of getting the best possible result for our clients. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation for your case so we can begin building an effective defense strategy.
How Does South Carolina Define Domestic Violence?
South Carolina law defines domestic violence as either causing or threatening/attempting to cause physical harm to a member of the same household. This includes couples who are currently or were formerly married, couples who have a child together, and people who either currently live together or used to live together. This is what makes domestic violence incidents so complicated, it often occurs between spouses, significant others, or close members of the household.
Domestic violence is generally a method of gaining power and establishing control over the victim. Because of this, domestic violence is often both physical and psychological in nature.
It is important to remember that just being arrested and charged with domestic violence claims does not confer guilt on you. Working with an experienced domestic violence law attorney will help you determine what opportunities you have to defend yourself, and allow you to avoid common pitfalls while fighting your criminal charges.
Learn More: Can Women Be Charged With CDV?
Is Domestic Violence a Misdemeanor or Felony in SC?
Domestic violence can carry either misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the severity of the incident. The different levels of charge are listed here:
- Domestic Violence of an Aggravated Nature - This is a felony offense that carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years for a conviction. It is usually applied to cases involving severe injury, permanent disfigurement, or death of the victim, use of a deadly weapon, the involvement of a minor, and similar circumstances that increase the severity of the incident.
- 1st-Degree Domestic Violence - This is a felony offense with up to 10 years in prison on conviction. Cases with this charge typically involve a defendant with 2 prior domestic violence convictions in the last 10 years, a pregnant victim, use of a gun, violation of a restraining order, and more.
- 2nd-Degree Domestic Violence - This is a misdemeanor offense that can result in up to 3 years in prison and/or a fine of between $2500 and $5000. Factors that could elevate your charge from 3rd to 2nd-degree include broken bones, disfigurement, or visible injuries to the victim, forced entry into the home or business of the victim, or if you have a single prior domestic violence conviction in the last 10 years.
- 3rd-Degree Domestic Violence - This is a misdemeanor offense that can result in up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of between $1000 and $2500. You and the victim must be married, live together, or have previously lived together, and/or share a child together.
Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction
The severity of the penalties you face for a domestic violence conviction depends on the level of the charge. As a general rule, the more violent the offense, the harsher the punishment.
- Domestic violence of a high or aggravated nature is the most serious charge, and as such carries the heaviest penalty. It is generally applied to cases with a deliberate disregard for the life of the victim. A conviction under DVHAN charges will result in a 20-year maximum prison sentence.
- 1st-Degree domestic violence is the second most serious charge you can face. It is used for cases in which a restraining order is violated, a gun is used, a minor witnessed the incident, or if the victim received significant bodily harm. A conviction for a first-degree domestic violence charge will result in up to 10 years in prison.
- 2nd-Degree domestic violence is the third most serious charge in South Carolina. It applies to cases in which the victim receives moderate bodily harm, the defendant has a previous domestic violence conviction on their record, or if the incident was less severe but targeted a pregnant woman. A conviction for 2nd-degree domestic violence will result in up to 3 years in prison and/or a fine of $2,500-5000.
- 3rd-Degree domestic violence is the least severe charge. This serves as the baseline charge for domestic violence cases and can be upgraded based on the unique circumstances of each individual case. A conviction for a 3rd-Degree charge will result in up to 90 days of jail time and/or a fine of $1000-2500.
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How an Attorney Can Help With Domestic Violence Charges
South Carolina assigns severe penalties to domestic violence crimes. Each case carries unique circumstances, such as physical injuries or a demonstrated disregard for human life, that can result in an upgrade to the charges. Even the least severe charge can have a substantial impact in the form of expensive fines, while more serious cases can see a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. A conviction can also carry repercussions for your personal life including lost employment opportunities due to your criminal record.
One of the first steps that should be taken after a domestic violence arrest is contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney in Columbia. A domestic violence attorney at Touma Law Group, LLC can provide you with the legal representation you will need to effectively fight your charges in court. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free case consultation!