Is Domestic Violence a Felony or Misdemeanor?

What constitutes domestic violence? When is it considered a misdemeanor and when is it considered a felony? South Carolina’s laws will be the focus.

SOUTH CAROLINA DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAWS

Criminal domestic violence laws in South Carolina are detailed and complicated. The circumstances around domestic violence charges can be layered with complex history of the people involved in the domestic situation, and emotions can run high. Sorting out the law when domestic violence charges are pending is best handled by experienced attorneys who can act as your trusted advisors and guide you on how to present the best defense possible.

Many factors have to be considered, such as history of other domestic violence charges, violation of protective orders, what type and degree of injury has been perpetrated, whether or not a weapon was involved, and so forth. These are challenging circumstances and, depending upon the case, can result in charges of either a misdemeanor or a felony, the latter of which is much more serious. Felony charges can follow you forever, making it difficult or impossible to vote, obtain housing, get a job, get a loan, pursue an education, and more.

In this blog, I’ll discuss the different types of domestic violence charges and how South Carolina determines which is a misdemeanor and which is a felony.

WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

A charge of domestic violence generally involves one or more of certain types of acts perpetrated upon someone who is a spouse, former spouse, someone with whom you share a child, or someone with whom you currently or formerly cohabitate (live with). These acts can include intimidation, physical assault (which can include a threat of violence or harm), battery (physical harm caused to another), and sexual assault.

Charges are further complicated by whether or not there was a protective order in place at the time of the incident, how serious the injuries were to the victim, prior domestic violence convictions of the assailant, and other factors.

MISDEMEANOR OR FELONY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

In South Carolina, Title 16 covers the definitions and provisions related to domestic violence. This is a long and complex part of the state’s Code of Laws, but let me break it down for you. Put simply, a charge of a misdemeanor versus a felony depends on the nature and seriousness of the crime. Offenses fall into four classifications; two are misdemeanors and two are felonies:

  • Domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. THIS FELONY CAN CARRY A SENTENCE OF UP TO 20 YEARS.
    • This charge essentially means assault with intent to kill, including choking, use of a deadly weapon, assault on a pregnant woman, after forced entry, assault done while a minor was present, and other circumstances.
  • 1st degree domestic violence. THIS FELONY CAN CARRY A SENTENCE OF UP TO 10 YEARS.
    • While some of the circumstances seem similar to a first degree domestic violence charge (assault using a weapon, a minor was present, forced entry, pregnant victim, choking, etc.), it’s the details, the history of any charges against the defendant and resultant harm to the victim that determine the outcome.
  • 2nd degree domestic violence. THIS IS A MISDEMEANOR THAT CAN CARRY A SENTENCE OF UP TO THREE YEARS AND FINES BETWEEN $2,500 and $5,000.
    • A lot of the detail around this charge relates to specific types and severity of injuries caused to the victim during the assault, such as non-functioning organs, broken bones, loss of use of limbs, burns, and other details.
  • 3rd degree domestic violence. THIS IS A MISDEMEANOR THAT CAN CARRY A SENTENCE OF UP TO 90 DAYS AND FINES BETWEEN $1,000 and $2,500.
    • The “least serious” of the charges, this charge is used when you have threatened to harm the victim, or may have caused them actual harm but to a lesser degree than is spelled out in the other charges.

SOUTH CAROLINA DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DEFENSE

If you are charged with domestic violence in South Carolina, understanding every complexity of the law and working with a lawyer who understands the circumstances of your individual case is crucial. Mounting a defense requires a history of representing clients who have been accused of domestic violence charges and requires pursuit of justice with dedication and passion for each case and each client. The Leventis Law Firm offers free consultations and can advise you on how they would handle your case to maximize your chances of the best possible outcome. Contact us today for a free consultation.