A domestic violence charge can negatively impact your life. Even if you are not convicted and the charges are dropped, the arrest becomes part of your permanent record and can negatively affect your future in many ways—personally and professionally. How long does a domestic violence charge stay a part of your record, and is there any recourse to remove them? In South Carolina, you may have a path forward to clearing your record of domestic violence charges.
Degree of Charges
Part of assessing the impact of a domestic violence charge includes understanding the severity and complexity of your particular charge(s) under the law. In South Carolina, it is against the law to harm—or, in some cases, simply to threaten to harm—a member of your household. The law defines a household member more loosely than you might imagine. It does not necessarily mean someone with whom you are currently cohabitating, but can include someone with whom you used to live with or someone with whom you share a child or children, even if you are not living together. These laws are also not confined to romantic or spousal relationships. A current or former roommate can be someone with whom you have shared a household, and so harming them can also fall under domestic violence statutes.
It is important to understand that even if the household member drops the charges, the state can still pursue a case against you. It is the state that brings charges against you, and it is up to the state prosecutor to decide whether or not to pursue those charges, even if the victim drops the complaint.
Domestic violence charges in South Carolina are broken down thusly:
- 3rd Degree: The least serious of all the charges, this is a misdemeanor charge. If convicted, you could spend up to 90 days in prison and/or be required to pay a fine of between $1,000 and $2,500.
- 2nd Degree: Also a misdemeanor. If convicted, you could spend up to three years in prison and/or have to pay a fine ($1,000-$2,500).
- 1st Degree: This is a felony offense, which is a very serious charge. Conviction of domestic violence in the 1st degree in South Carolina can result in up to 10 years in prison.
- DVHAN or Domestic Violence of an Aggravated Nature: In South Carolina, this is the categorization of the most serious domestic violence charge. This felony charge can result in a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Sentences are further complicated by multiple charges. If you are a repeat offender, fines may no longer even be an option, and jail time can be required.
Impact of Charges
A background check can reveal your arrest and/or conviction. Background checks are routine in many job applications or when you apply for a loan or lease, such as for a home, apartment, or car. Many potential grantors and employers could decline to hire you or extend you a loan when the arrest and/or conviction are revealed through a background check.
If you have been convicted of assault, it could prove very difficult to find a new job when that information is uncovered in your background check. Socially, this type of conviction can haunt you for years, with friends and neighbors ostracizing you because of the charge, fairly or unfairly.
Even a misdemeanor conviction can prevent you from living life as freely as you might wish. In South Carolina, a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction prohibits you from legally possessing a gun and/or ammunition, for example.
Expungement is basically a legal way of wiping or clearing your record of a charge. If the charges against you are dismissed, you are eligible to apply for expungement.
Some, but not all, domestic violence convictions are eligible for expungement. Typically a particular period of time must pass before you can consider seeking expungement. For example, if your record is otherwise clear at the time of conviction, and remains so for a period of five years, and the conviction is your first offense, typically you can pursue expungement after the five-year period has passed.
Retaining a lawyer who is experienced in pursuing expungement in South Carolina is extremely important. The Leventis law firm is familiar with and understands the circumstances surrounding domestic violence charges in South Carolina, and we know when and how applying for expungement is possible. If you are not sure whether or not the circumstances surrounding your arrest and/or conviction will allow your record to be expunged, contact a South Carolina domestic violence attorney for a free consultation.