Domestic violence is one of the most serious criminal charges. The negative stigma and financial penalties associated with domestic violence charges can damage your career and destroy relationships with friends and family. If you have been charged with domestic violence, it is very important that you understand the basics of the law and consult with an Attorney Aaron De Bruin. In the state of South Carolina, a new law regarding domestic violence went into effect on June 4, 2015. The main difference between the old law and the new law is that the old law increased penalties based on the number of offenses committed, while the new law increases penalties based on the severity of the incident, making it tougher on first time offenders.
The New Domestic Violence Law
Under the new statute, the victim and accused must be male and female and must either be married, live together, used to live together, or have children in common. In order for a charge of domestic violence to be filed, the accused must either actually physically harm the victim or threaten to harm the victim in such a way that a reasonable person in the victim’s shoes would have feared immediate harm. If the accused is charged under threatening the victim, then they must have had the ability at that moment to harm the victim. If the parties to an incident do not meet these criteria then the charge of domestic violence is not issued. Generally, as in the case of LGBT couples, the incident will be filed as an assault or something similar.
Penalties For Domestic Violence
If all the above requirements are met, then the accused person will likely be charged with a third degree domestic violence charge under the new law. A third degree charge is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $2,500 fine. The more serious second degree charge must meet additional criteria. A second degree charge may be issued if the victim:
- Is unconscious;
- Is disfigured;
- Temporarily loses control of limbs;
- Temporarily loses organ functionality;
- Requires anesthesia;
- Has fractured or dislocated bones;
- Requires multiple medical treatments; or
- Requires serious medical attention.
Additionally, a second degree charge may be issued under the following conditions:
- The accused already had a domestic violence charge on their criminal record;
- The accused violated a court-issued restraining or protective order;
- If the accused knew or should have known the victim was pregnant;
- A minor witnessed the incident;
- The accused trespassed to get to the victim;
- The accused restricted the victim’s breathing; or
- The accused denied the victim access to a communication device.
A second degree charge is also a misdemeanor offense, but is punishable by up to three years in jail and $5,000 fine. A first degree domestic violence offense is even more serious and may be issued if:
- The accused has two or more domestic violence charges within the past 10 years;
- The accused caused or could have caused serious injury on the victim’s body; or
- The accused used a firearm.
Contact An Attorney When Charged With Domestic Violence
Finally, the most serious domestic violence charge is “Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature.” This charge is a felony and can result in up to 20 years in prison. In these cases, the victim is at serious risk of death or disfigurement or a deadly weapon is used. All of these charges are quite serious and if you are in South Carolina and have been charged with domestic violence you need knowledgeable legal representation. Allow the attorneys at the De Bruin Law Firm to represent you and handle your case in this difficult time.