Domestic Violence (DV) in SC

Domestic violence has been a politically charged issue in SC for decades – victim’s advocate organizations feel that the state does not do enough to combat domestic violence, and the politicians who write or enforce our laws know that being “tough on crime” is a safe issue to campaign on.

As a result, SC’s domestic violence laws are constantly changing – usually to make the penalties increasingly harsher.

What is domestic violence in SC and what are the penalties?

When Can I be Charged with Domestic Violence in SC?

SC domestic violence charges can be first, second, or third degree, or domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature (DVHAN) depending on the severity of the allegations and whether you have prior convictions for domestic violence offenses.

All degrees of domestic violence have these elements:

  • You caused physical harm or injury to a household member; or
  • You offered or attempted to cause physical harm or injury to a household member, with the present ability to follow through, under circumstances that reasonably created a fear of imminent peril.

Whether the charge is first, second, or third degree, or DVHAN, depends on the facts of each case including the severity of the offense and whether there are prior convictions for domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Third Degree

DV in the third degree carries up to 90 days in jail and requires only that you cause physical harm or offer or attempt to cause physical harm to a household member.

If you are charged with DV third degree and do not have a prior record, you are most likely eligible for PTI (pretrial intervention) – if you enter the program and complete the requirements, your charge will be dismissed and expunged.

Even if you are not eligible for PTI, the court may suspend your sentence (not send you to jail) if you complete a “domestic violence intervention program,” (batterer’s counseling). In this case, the conviction will remain on your record although you do not serve the jail sentence.

A conviction for DV third degree can be expunged after five years if there are no other convictions on your record.

Domestic Violence Second Degree

DV in the second degree carries up to three years in prison. It requires that you cause physical harm or offer or attempt to cause physical harm to a household member, and:

  • There is (or could have been) “moderate bodily injury;”
  • You were violating a protection order at the time of the incident while committing a DV third degree;
  • You have a prior conviction for domestic violence within the past 10 years; or
  • While committing a DV third degree:
    • The offense was committed in the presence of a minor;
    • The alleged victim was pregnant;
    • The offense was committed during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft;
    • The alleged victim was choked; or
    • You prevented the alleged victim from accessing their cell phone or computer to call for help.
Domestic Violence First Degree

DV in the first degree is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison. It requires that you cause physical harm or offer or attempt to cause physical harm to a household member, and:

  • There is (or could have been) “great bodily injury;”
  • You were violating a protection order at the time of the incident while committing a DV second degree;
  • You have two or more prior convictions for domestic violence within the past 10 years;
  • You used firearm while committing domestic violence; or
  • While committing a DV second degree:
    • The offense was committed in the presence of a minor;
    • The alleged victim was pregnant;
    • The offense was committed during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft;
    • The alleged victim was choked; or
    • You prevented the alleged victim from accessing their cell phone or computer to call for help.
Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature (DVHAN)

DVHAN is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. It requires that you cause physical harm or offer or attempt to cause physical harm to a household member, and:

  • It happened “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life” and the alleged victim suffers great bodily injury, or the alleged victim reasonably feared great bodily injury or death; or
  • You were violating a protection order at the time of the incident while committing a DV first degree.

“Circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life” are defined as:

  • Using a deadly weapon;
  • Choking the alleged victim and they lose consciousness for any period of time;
  • Committing the offense in the presence of a minor;
  • The alleged victim was pregnant;
  • The offense was committed during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft; or
  • You prevented the alleged victim from accessing their cell phone or computer to call for help.
Which Court Handles Domestic Violence Cases in SC?

Most SC counties, including Horry County and Richland County, now have consolidated domestic violence courts that hear most DV third degree offenses.

If you are charged with DV first degree, second degree, or high and aggravated, your case will be heard in General Sessions Court.

Will I Lose My Right to Own a Firearm if I’m Convicted of Domestic Violence?

Even if you are convicted of the least serious form of domestic violence, you will be prohibited from owning a gun or getting a concealed weapon permit (CWP) under both SC and federal law.

Even if your charge is re-written to assault and battery in the third degree, you are still prohibited under federal law from owning a firearm or getting a CWP if the alleged victim was a household member.

Although a DV third degree conviction can be expunged after five years, and an assault and battery conviction can be expunged after three years if there are no other convictions, the only way to be sure that your rights to own and carry a firearm are restored is to receive a pardon.

Can I Get a SC Domestic Violence Conviction Expunged?

A conviction for domestic violence 3rd degree in SC can be expunged after five years, if there are no other convictions on your record.

“Someone Has to Go to Jail…”

Law enforcement agencies receive funding that is earmarked for domestic violence enforcement, and it is justified by the number of arrests that the agency makes. Similarly, solicitor’s offices receive funding that is specifically for domestic violence prosecutors.

On a regular basis I help people who feel that they have been victimized by the politics of domestic violence prosecutions. Officers may arrive at a residence and arrest everyone in the house, or they tell people once they have been called they must arrest someone. Why would they do that?  

Under South Carolina's domestic violence statute, officers are required to decide who the primary aggressor is and only arrest that person. But, if they find evidence that no crime has been committed, they are not required to take someone to jail.

SC Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and Lexington

If you have been charged with domestic violence, or if you feel that your spouse or loved one has been wrongfully accused of domestic violence, call the Thompson Defense Firm at 843-444-6122 or contact us online to see if we can help.