While there is a perception that domestic violence charges are typically brought against men, the fact is that both men and women are charged with domestic violence crimes in South Carolina on a daily basis.
People of all genders, ethnicities, ages, and income brackets can become involved in a domestic violence case—and should you ever find yourself on the receiving end of a domestic violence charge, the consequences can be serious.
If you have recently been charged with domestic violence, you may be feeling understandably anxious and worried about your future. Will you face prison time? Will your gun rights be revoked? How will being labeled as a domestic violence offender affect your personal and other relationships?
WHAT CONSTITUTES DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN SOUTH CAROLINA?/
In the state of South Carolina, domestic violence is generally charged under the same category of crimes as assault. This means it is normally treated as a fourth-degree felony charge and carries very serious sentences for those who are convicted.
How exactly does South Carolina define an act of domestic violence? Any of the following acts carried out by a family member or romantic partner typically fall under the category of domestic violence:
threat of physical injury or other abuse
Some domestic violence charges may also involve claims of child endangerment, spousal abuse, stalking, or even harassment.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CHARGES/
Domestic violence charges are taken very seriously by the South Carolina court system—and rightfully so. If you’re found guilty of domestic violence, you could face severe sentences, including hefty fines and imprisonment. It’s also important to understand that if you are convicted of domestic violence in South Carolina, your gun-carrying privileges will be revoked, because domestic violence is a felony charge. This means you will be unable to legally own a firearm for the rest of your life. Being found in illegal possession of a firearm can also result in additional charges and sentencing.
Unfortunately, false accusations of domestic violence are not uncommon, especially where romantic partners are involved. Jealousy or a need to “get back at” a partner may fuel a person to make false claims of abuse, physical injury, and the like to local police. Because police don’t need much in the way of evidence to make a domestic violence arrest, it is not uncommon for innocent people to end up facing these very serious charges.
The good news is that there are defense strategies that reputable and experienced domestic violence attorneys may be able to utilize in your case. One of the most common defenses for domestic violence, for example, is self-defense. If your actions were provoked by being attacked or threatened by another person in your household, you should not be found guilty of domestic violence, because you have a legal right to protect yourself. Of course, proving this defense in court can be easier said than done. This is why it’s so important to have an experienced domestic violence defense attorney on your side through every step of the process.
Domestic violence has a broader scope than you might think when it comes to defining the involved parties. These charges are not limited to acts of violence and/or injury between a man and a woman who are married, but, rather, apply to anyone considered under the law to be a “household member.”
While domestic violence is inclusive of events with a current spouse, domestic violence incidents can include former spouses, people with whom you cohabitate or used to cohabitate—including roommates, current and former relationship partners (e.g., boyfriend, girlfriend), same-sex partners (married or unmarried), and people with whom you share a child, whether or not you ever lived together. It is worth noting that domestic violence charges can include heavier penalties if the incident takes place while minor children are present, whether or not they are the perpetrator’s children.
In South Carolina, Title 20 provides for protection from domestic abuse from a household member, which is formally called an “Order of Protection.” The petitioner is the one requesting protection, and the “respondent” is the person from whom the petitioner is seeking protection. When you are seeking protection from someone who is not defined as a household member, it is called a “Restraining Order.”
To get an Order of Protection, you file the order and that creates a request for a hearing (these can be obtained to take place within 24 hours if needed on an emergency basis) and be able to reasonably provide evidence that the household member either harmed you or threatened you with physical harm. This includes acts of sexual violence to any family member or household member, including the petitioner, or any children.
When an order of protection is granted, the respondent is prevented by law from communicating with or coming into contact with the petitioner for a period of time, typically six months or longer. The respondent may also be required to pay any fees you incur for attorneys in obtaining the order and to pay temporary financial support. The order will likely prevent the respondent from obtaining a gun or selling property owned by both parties, such as a house or car. Violating such an order can result in fines and jail time.
In South Carolina, if physical injuries are present resulting from a domestic violence incident, the police are required to make an arrest of the person who is clearly the “primary aggressor,” even if the act didn’t take place in the presence of the officer. This is called a “warrantless arrest,” or an arrest not planned ahead of time, when a warrant would have been obtained first.
They may also make an arrest if they have probable cause to believe one person is the primary aggressor in a situation, in the case of mutual accusations. If they are unable to determine at the scene who is the primary aggressor, they may arrest both parties, stating that they tried but were unable to make that determination. It will then be up to the court system to determine who the primary aggressor is.
At that point, the other party may be dismissed. Under conditions of this “warrantless” arrest, law enforcement officers are permitted to enter a private residence in order to make the arrest.
HOW A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DEFENSE ATTORNEY CAN HELP/
A domestic violence defense attorney will have proven experience and success in helping people facing domestic violence charges have the charges reduced or even dropped altogether. Even in situations where it is in your best interest to plead guilty, having a domestic violence attorney on your side can benefit you because they may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor assigned to your case. This means that you may be able to get your charges or sentences significantly reduced; you may be able to avoid a felony conviction on your record, which can protect your gun rights as well.
Fear and worry are common for those facing domestic violence charges, and the legal process involved in a domestic violence case can be both complex and overwhelming. When you have a domestic violence defense attorney on your side, you’ll have the guidance and representation you need to navigate each step of your case with confidence.
If you have been charged with domestic violence in South Carolina, your future is relying on the outcome of your case. Make sure you have the legal defense you need by scheduling a consultation with the Leventis Law Firm today.
Domestic violence is not just a crime, it is typically a repetitive pattern in a relationship where one party is trying to exert control and dominance over the other party. Domestic violence isn’t as simple as obvious battery and injuries. It is mental and emotional abuse, including intimidation, threats, belittling or talking down to a person, making them feel powerless and worthless, and threatening or actually harming them if the victim does something that angers the perpetrator.
Domestic violence does not discriminate. It knows no class, gender, or race. It is at every level of society, involves people of every religion and denomination. Among women, one in three has experienced some form of domestic violence, and one in four men have as well.
South Carolina has one of the highest rates of death in the country. Every year since records began to be kept, South Carolina has ranked among the top 10 states in the nation for femicide, where a woman is killed by her male partner.