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When Is Domestic Violence a Felony in South Carolina?

When Is Domestic Violence a Felony in South Carolina?

When Is Domestic Violence a Felony in South Carolina?

While facing any kind of criminal charge can be daunting, being charged with a domestic violence offense in South Carolina can be especially nerve-racking. Like most U.S. states, South Carolina takes domestic violence crimes very seriously, making it all the more important to secure trusted representation to defend your rights in court after being charged with any domestic violence offense, regardless of guilt or innocence,

Understanding Domestic Violence Laws in SC

In South Carolina, domestic violence is best defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in a relationship where one person uses physical, emotional, or psychological harm to establish and maintain control over their intimate partner or household member. This legal term encompasses various forms of abuse, including physical assault, sexual assault, threats, intimidation, and other behaviors that result in fear or injury.

Under South Carolina Code §16-25-10, a “household member” includes:

  • A spouse or former spouse;
  • Individuals who have a child together;
  • Individuals who are or have been in a dating relationship; or
  • Individuals who live together or have lived together in the past.

Domestic violence charges in South Carolina apply to acts committed against these household members, and the severity of the charges depends on factors such as the degree of injury, the presence of aggravating factors, and prior convictions for domestic violence.

4 Types of Domestic Violence Offenses in South Carolina

Facing domestic violence charges can be a distressing and confusing experience for many people. Whether you never planned on taking things that far, weren't aware of your volume after a night out, reaped too-severe charges for a minor occurrence, or simply made an honest mistake, it's essential to understand what constitutes a domestic violence conviction to avoid life-altering criminal consequences.

In South Carolina, state law distinguishes between four types of domestic violence offenses, including:

1. Domestic Violence in the Third Degree

Third-degree domestic violence is the least severe. Under South Carolina Code §16-25-20, this is typically a misdemeanor offense involving situations where the defendant caused or threatened to cause physical harm to a household member, but no actual or potential moderate or great bodily injury occurred.

A conviction for third-degree domestic violence is punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

2. Domestic Violence in the Second Degree

Second-degree domestic violence is generally a misdemeanor offense in South Carolina. To be charged with second-degree domestic violence, the defendant must have caused moderate bodily injury or could have reasonably caused moderate bodily injury to a household member.

The penalties for a second-degree domestic violence conviction include imprisonment for up to 3 years and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

3. Domestic Violence in the First Degree

Under §16-25-20, first-degree domestic violence is the second-most severe domestic violence charge in South Carolina, after DVHAN. It is classified as a felony offense. In order to convict, the prosecution must prove that the defendant caused great bodily injury or could have reasonably caused great bodily injury to a household member. Additionally, there may be other aggravating factors present that can lead to domestic violence (DV) charges in the first degree, including:

  • The defendant has 2 or more prior convictions for DV within the past 10 years;
  • The defendant used a deadly weapon when committing the crime;
  • The defendant committed second-degree DV in front of a minor (under age 18);
  • The defendant committed second-degree DV against a pregnant woman;
  • The defendant committed second-degree DV during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft;
  • The defendant choked the victim while committing second-degree DV;
  • While committing second-degree DV, the defendant prevented the victim from calling the police or EMS to report the domestic violence; and/or
  • The defendant committed the act in violation of a protective order.

A criminal conviction for first-degree domestic violence is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, fines, and the loss of certain civil liberties, such as the ability to own or carry a firearm.

4. Domestic Violence of a High & Aggravated Nature (DVHAN)

Under S.C. Code §16-25-65, domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature (DVHAN) is the most severe domestic violence offense in the state. It can be charged when an individual commits third-degree domestic violence and:

  • Demonstrates “extreme indifference to the value of human life” that either 1) results in great bodily injury to the victim, or 2) causes the victim to reasonably fear imminent great bodily injury or death; and/or
  • Commits domestic violence in the first degree in violation of a protective order.

DVHAN is a felony charge punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Similarly to first-degree domestic violence, a conviction can carry especially harsh consequences, including the loss of civil liberties like firearm ownership and even voting rights.

Regardless of the severity of the domestic violence charges against you, it’s imperative to consult with a trusted criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to preserve your freedom and clear your good name. A qualified legal advocate with an in-depth understanding of South Carolina’s domestic violence laws can help determine the most effective defense to establish on your behalf and guide your steps with sound legal counsel to obtain a favorable result in court.

Our Lexington Firm Can Fiercely Defend Your Rights

The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC has been defending the rights of the accused in Lexington since 2004, making us well-equipped to represent your best interests in criminal court. Our seasoned legal advocates have a comprehensive knowledge of criminal law in South Carolina to establish a strong defense on your behalf and fight to restore your freedom. From DUI charges to probation violations, you can count on us to fortify your claims with the best evidence possible to get the criminal charges against you reduced or dismissed altogether.

Domestic violence charges can change your life forever. Contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our Lexington criminal defense lawyer.


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