South Carolina has strict penalties for a domestic violence conviction, including the possibility of jail time. Domestic violence cases can be complicated by the fact that prosecutors do not like to drop these charges. They are afraid of what can happen to their own reputation if someone who is not convicted commits a serious crime. Thus, you may need to fight to exonerate yourself from domestic violence charges.
Contact our skilled Columbia criminal defense attorneys to represent you if you’ve been charged with domestic violence in South Carolina.
Degrees of Domestic Violence and Penalties
The definition of domestic violence under South Carolina law depends on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Prosecutors will categorize domestic violence charges based on the severity of the injury or potential injury, aggravating factors and prior domestic violence history.
First-degree domestic violence
First degree domestic violence is when the defendant inflicted great bodily injury (GBl) or actions accomplished by means likely to result in GBI. Second-degree criminal domestic violence could become a first-degree charge when one or more of the following mitigating factors are present:
- Violating a protective order
- A minor being present or perceiving the incident
- Knew or should have known that the victim was present
- Used force or the threat of force to keep the victim from accessing their phone, with the intent of preventing them from reporting the incident
- The domestic violence happened during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft
- The violence impeded the victim’s breathing or airflow
First-degree domestic violence is punishable with a jail sentence of up to ten years.
Second-degree domestic violence
Second-degree domestic violence involves a defendant inflicting moderate bodily injury (MBI) or acting in ways that could cause MBI. Third-degree criminal domestic violence could rise to second degree if the aggravating factors listed above are present.
Second-degree domestic violence is punished with a jail term or up to three years and/or a fine of $2,500 – $5,000.
Third-degree domestic violence
Third-degree domestic violence is when the defendant actually inflicted physical harm or injury to a household member, or they tried or offered to commit the harm when they had the present ability to do so, thereby placing a victim in fear of imminent peril.
For example, throwing a punch at a household member and missing could be third-degree assault. This offense is charged as a misdemeanor, and it is punished with a jail sentence of up to 90 days and/or a fine of $1,000–$2,500.
If one commits a second offense of third-degree domestic violence, the penalties will rise. A second offense will carry a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days, with the possibility of up to one year in prison. A third offense is a felony, with a jail sentence of 1-5 years.
What Is DVHAN?
Criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature is the most serious type of charge, and it occurs when:
- There is an assault or battery that involves the use of a deadly weapon or one that results in a serious bodily injury
- The assault or battery would leave a reasonable person in fear of imminent death
DVHAN is a felony, and it will result in a jail sentence between 1-20 years. The judge can suspend all but one year of the sentence, meaning that there will be mandatory jail time. Probation would be contingent on the defendant completing a treatment program.
Other Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction
A domestic violence conviction can also carry other consequences, including:
- The loss of your ability to own firearms
- A change in your custody status, including, potentially your loss of your right to see your children
- A change in your immigration status
- The loss of the ability to work in certain jobs
The impacts of a domestic violence conviction could remain with you for years to come, no matter what degree the charge was.
The Domestic Violence Legal Process
The legal process begins when you have been arrested on charges of domestic violence. You would be taken to the station house to be processed and fingerprinted. The court would decide whether to grant bail or release you on your own recognizance. In the meantime, staying away from the alleged victim may be a condition of your pre-trial release.
The court would schedule a trial date for you at some point in the future. In the meantime, your lawyer and the prosecutor may discuss a plea bargain in your case. If no deal is reached, the prosecutor may take the case to trial or drop the charges if they realize that they do not have the necessary evidence to convict you.
An experienced criminal domestic violence defense lawyer is a must during the legal process. They will counsel you on the pitfalls to avoid and help protect your legal rights. Everyone has legal rights, no matter the type of criminal case.
Defenses to a Domestic Violence Case in Columbia, SC
Being charged with domestic violence does not automatically mean that you are going to jail, or even that you will be convicted. The prosecutor may try to offer you a quick deal to get a guilty plea from you. Prosecutors may “overcharge” a domestic violence case to both make themselves look tougher and to gain leverage in a possible plea deal.
However, your lawyer would review your case first to determine whether there are any potential defenses to the charges. Defenses to domestic violence charges could include:
- Physical contact happened by accident (meaning that you did not have the required intent)
- You have an alibi that shows you were somewhere else
- You were acting in self-defense
- The prosecutor cannot prove all the elements of the crime
- Other violations of your legal rights should keep you from being convicted
As you can see, there are a wide range of outcomes when you have been convicted of domestic violence charges. Your attorney may try to work with the prosecutor to negotiate a plea deal that could result in lesser charges, or the recommendation of a lower sentence (the judge is the one who ultimately sentences a convicted defendant).
Contact a Columbia Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Today
Being charged with domestic violence is a stressful experience with high stakes. You are already involved in a difficult domestic situation, and now there is a possibility of jail time.
You need an experienced lawyer to help you deal with CDV charges in South Carolina. The attorneys at Shealey Law Firm are available to you at all times to discuss your case and provide you with diligent legal representation. We will counsel you on your legal options after we gain an understanding of your entire situation.