In 2015, the state of South Carolina changed laws surrounding domestic violence. More levels were added and, instead of two categories of either criminal domestic violence (misdemeanor) and criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature (felony), there are now four (4) levels based on the severity of the facts. The new levels are: (1) domestic violence in the third degree; (2) domestic violence in the second degree; (3) domestic violence in the first degree; and (4) domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. Additionally, these new laws impose harsher punishment and penalties for first time offenders (depending on the facts) in an effort to crack down on domestic violence and create more protection from alleged victims. In other words, domestic violence cases are taken seriously in South Carolina and can bring swift consequences to every aspect of your life.
False Allegations Of Domestic Violence May Lead To Arrests
As former domestic violence prosecutors and long-time successful criminal defense attorneys, we have seen countless cases of false and/or exaggerated allegations of domestic violence. This occurs, oftentimes, to gain an advantage in family court divorce or custody situations. In these instances, police respond to an alleged domestic dispute and, because of outdated police policies, are often required to make an arrest even if unable to determine who the primary aggressor is. In other scenarios, police may arrest both parties. The laws and surrounding case law are complicated and not easy to navigate without an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer.
The State Can Still Prosecute You Even If The Alleged Victim Does Not Want To
In South Carolina, depending on which level of domestic violence you have been charged with, a police officer or prosecutor may be prosecuting your case. In some cases, the alleged victim may reach out to the police officer or prosecutor and decide he or she does not want to participate in the prosecution. The alleged victim will likely to be asked to fill out a drop charge form. It is important to realize that, just because a victim decides to fill out a drop charge form, you may still be (and often are) prosecuted in South Carolina. This is because the prosecutor holds the charge and is the ultimate decision maker on whether to pursue your charge or not. Similarly, the prosecutor may still try to subpoena the alleged victim to require his or her appearance in court to testify.
Domestic Violence Convictions Can Have Lasting Impacts On Your Life
A conviction can have severe consequences, including jail/prison time and fines along with being unable to have a firearm. Here are the punishments you may face for the four levels of domestic violence:
- Third degree domestic violence: misdemeanor, carrying up to 90 days in prison and/or up to a $2,500 fine
- Second degree domestic violence: misdemeanor, carrying up to 3 years in prison and/or up to a $5,000 fine
- First degree domestic violence: felony, carrying up to 10 years in prison
- Domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature: felony, carrying up to 20 years in prison
In addition to the criminal penalties, there are harsh collateral consequences associated with an arrest and/or conviction of domestic violence. The societal stigma surrounding an arrest for domestic violence is very real. In addition to damaging your personal relationships with family and friends, it can impact your professional life. You could lose your current job or future employment opportunities if convicted of domestic violence. If your job requires a certain level of security clearance or professional licensing requirements, then you may be at risk of losing your job. The list goes on.
As former domestic violence prosecutors and seasoned criminal defense attorneys, we have successfully handled countless domestic violence cases. It is crucial to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to protect your rights. We are available 24/7 to schedule a free consultation today.