If you are charged with a domestic violence offense in the Upstate of South Carolina, you need to be aware of the very serious consequences you face. You could be fined. You could lose your right to carry a firearm. You could be evicted from your apartment or home. Ultimately, you could be jailed.
The criminal defense lawyers of Harrison White, P.C., can help you. We will protect your rights and seek the best possible resolution of your case.
Our firm features lawyers with a wide range of experience, including family law, who can contribute to your defense. We take a team approach to all of our cases.
Types of Domestic Violence Crimes in South Carolina
You may have been charged with one or more of the four types of offenses that are considered domestic violence crimes in South Carolina. These crimes (and their potential punishments) are:
1. Domestic violence – Under state law, it is unlawful to:
- Cause physical harm or injury to a person’s own household member; or
- Attempt to cause physical harm or injury to a person’s own household member with apparent present ability under circumstances reasonably creating fear of imminent peril.
The law defines a “household member” as a current or former spouse, the mother or father of your child or a male or female partner you live with or used to live with.
“Apparent present ability” means that there has to be an actual threat of violence. For instance, saying “I will break your skull” by phone is a threat. However, saying the same thing while confronting another with a baseball bat is a threat with “apparent present ability.”
If you are convicted, the punishment will depend on whether it is a first or repeat offense (one committed within the previous 10 years). The range of punishment includes:
- First offense – This is a misdemeanor. It carries a fine of $1,000 to $2,000. The court can suspend all or part of the fine if you complete a program designed to treat batterers.
- Second offense – This is also a misdemeanor. It carries a fine of $2,500 to $5,000. You face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 30 days and can stay in jail for up to one year. You can serve the 30 days at a rate of two days per week (or weekends). Also, part of your sentence beyond 30 days can be suspended if you complete a treatment program for batterers.
- Third offense – A third conviction (or more than three convictions) elevates the offense to a felony. It carries a mandatory minimum sentence of one year. You can be jailed for up to five years.
2. Domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature – South Carolina law punishes those who commit:
- Assault and battery with a deadly weapon or which results in serious bodily injury; or
- Assault, with or without battery, which would reasonably cause a person to fear imminent serious bodily injury or death.
This is a felony. It carries a one-year mandatory sentence. You can go to prison for up to 10 years. Part of your sentence can be suspended if you complete a treatment program for batterers.
3. Violating a domestic violence protective order – A household member may obtain a protective order that lasts for six months to a year (or is renewed). The order may prohibit you from doing certain acts. For instance, it may bar you from contacting your current or former spouse or from seeing your children. These are also called “restraining orders.”
If convicted, you are guilty of a misdemeanor. You can be fined up to $500 and go to jail for as long as 30 days. You can also be found guilty of criminal contempt. This is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500.
4. Trespassing on the grounds of a domestic violence shelter – Unless you have a legitimate reason for being there, you are prohibited under South Carolina law from coming onto the property of a domestic violence shelter where a household member resides if you have been either charged with or convicted of a domestic violence crime.
If you were armed with a “dangerous weapon” at the time of the trespass, you could be convicted of a felony, fined up to $5,000 and sentenced for up to five years. Otherwise, it would be a misdemeanor. You could be fined up to $3,000 and sentenced for up to three years.
Other Consequences of Domestic Violence Conviction
In addition to direct criminal punishment, you could also face costly collateral consequences if you are convicted of a domestic violence crime in South Carolina. You could:
- Be convicted under state and/or federal law for carrying a firearm
- Be evicted from your home
- Lose custody of your child or the right of visitation.
This is why you must take a domestic violence charge seriously. You need to get legal help immediately.