For a free in person consultation

Dial: 803-808-0905

As a result of South Carolina’s new Domestic Violence Law, if you were charged with domestic violence after June 4, 2015, you could face more serious consequences.

Along with increasing the seriousness of the possible consequences, the law changed the way police and judges deal with Criminal Domestic Violence (now simply called Domestic Violence, or “DV”). This law was established because South Carolina has one of the highest rates of domestic violence-related deaths in the nation, as reported by WCNC. If you’re facing a South Carolina domestic violence charge, it’s important that you understand this new law and know what it means to you.

In this article you will learn:

  • Why the new law was brought about;
  • What changed from the old law to the new one;
  • The different degrees of Domestic Violence;
  • The possible penalties for a Domestic Violence conviction; and
  • What the most serious DV charge, Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature, is and its consequences.

What does this new law mean?

When she signed the bill, Governor Nikki Haley said, “South Carolina is thinking about strengthening the survivor.” To help survivors, the bill made it easier for first-time offenders to receive serious punishments.

To allow judges to hand down serious sentences, the bill changed the way consequences are determined. Before this bill, punishment for DV mainly depended on the number of times someone was charged with a domestic violence-related crime. Under the new law, now the seriousness of the incident is also taken into account when deciding the sentence.

The new legislation spells out both the definition of and punishment for all four types of DV, including Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature, 1st Degree Domestic Violence, 2nd Degree Domestic Violence, and 3rd Degree Domestic Violence.

Degrees of Domestic Violence Charges in South Carolina

The basic law on domestic violence in South Carolina is that it is illegal to physically harm or try to physically harm someone with whom you share a special relationship. It can’t be empty threats if physical harm doesn’t occur; the threats have to create fear and have to be realistic.

To be considered DV of any degree under South Carolina law there are two important elements that must be met:

  1. Required Relationship: You and the victim must be married, live together, previously have lived together and/or share a child.
  2. Injury: You must have injured, or threatened to injure, the victim. These two requirements are very important and apply to all four types of domestic violence in South Carolina.

Each type of domestic violence will then have other requirements that must be met, but the two elements listed above apply to all four types of DV — Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature, 1st Degree DV, 2nd Degree DV, and 3rd Degree DV.

You can be charged with domestic violence in SC if you’re accused of injuring your child’s other parent.

Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature (DVHAN)

This is the most serious type of domestic violence charge in South Carolina. It is not a “degree” of domestic violence like the other types you will review next. Instead, it is its own charge with its own stiff penalties.

Remember – one of the required types of relationships must exist between the alleged abuser and victim and harm or threatened harm must have occurred. You can be charged with Domestic Violence of High and Aggravated Nature if at least one of the following apply to your situation:

  • The victim died or nearly died
  • The victim was permanently disfigured
  • You used a deadly weapon (This doesn’t have to be a gun or a knife. It can be anything that could have killed this person.)
  • A minor saw or heard the event
  • You knew the victim was pregnant
  • You forced entry into the victim’s home, vehicle or business
  • You attempted to choke or suffocate the victim
  • You prevented the victim from getting to a phone

For example, imagine Bob and Becky have been married several years. Bob has a bit of a temper and a love for alcohol, and their fights can get pretty heated. In the past their fights have gotten violent, but nothing so serious that it required medical attention. One day Bob gets angry at Becky after she tells him she is finally leaving him, and is tired of his terrible temper and drinking problem. Bob grabs his gun and threatens to shoot her and himself if she leaves. He says he can’t live without her. Becky runs to the bathroom and locks herself in so she can call the police. Bob is now facing a domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature charge.

Penalties of a DVHAN Conviction in SC

Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature is a felony offense. You could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

DVHAN also has two important designations by South Carolina statute: violent and serious. A “violent” designation affects an offender’s placement within the SC department of corrections and some other details of the incarceration. It is also a “serious” offense, which has bearing on the severity of the punishment the offender may receive at sentencing.

The Court has the ability to suspend the sentence ordered for a DVHAN conviction and place the offender on probation.  However, any active portion of a sentence for DVHAN is considered “no-parole.”  This means that an offender would have to serve at least 85% of the sentence before being eligible for probation.

DVHAN is a “violent” and “serious” offense in South Carolina.

1st Degree Domestic Violence

This is the second most serious domestic violence charge in South Carolina. You can be charged with 1st Degree Domestic Violence if the required relationship between the alleged abuser and victim exist, if harm or threatened harm occurred, and if at least one of the following apply to your situation:

  1. You used a gun
  2. The victim had a restraining or protective order and one of the aggravating circumstances of 2nd Degree DV listed below is present
  3. You have two domestic violence convictions within the past 10 years
  4. The offense results in actual or potential “great bodily injury”
  5. You commit two of the aggravating circumstances of 2nd Degree DV listed below

Aggravating Circumstances:

  • A minor saw or heard the event
  • You committed the offense during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft
  • You knew the victim was pregnant
  • You attempted to choke or suffocate the victim
  • You prevented the victim from getting to a phone

Great Bodily Injury Definition

“Great bodily injury” is injury that causes a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.

Some examples of great bodily injury include:

  • The victim can no longer use one arm or leg
  • The victim has a large scar that covers part of the face
  • The victim needs a cane to walk
  • The victim almost died

For example, let’s revisit Bob and Becky from the example above. One day Bob gets angry at Becky after seeing a text message from a male coworker on her phone. He totally loses it and grabs Becky around the throat, completely blocking her airway. Becky grabs at her throat and tries to push Bob off of her, but he holds on long enough that Becky starts to lose consciousness before he lets go. Bob and Becky’s 10 year old son, Steve, was home at the time and heard the whole thing from the kitchen. Bob is now facing a First Degree Domestic Violence charge.

Penalties of a 1st Degree DV Conviction in SC

Domestic Violence of the First Degree is a felony offense. You could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The court has the ability to suspend the sentence ordered for a 1st Degree Domestic Violence conviction and instead place the offender on probation.

A 1st Degree Domestic Violence conviction is a “serious offense” according to the South Carolina statute.  This means that after three convictions for other “serious” or “most serious” offenses, the penalty could increase to life without the possibility of parole.

Your DV charge can get bumped up to 1st Degree if a minor was present during the incident.

2nd Degree Domestic Violence

This is the third most serious type of domestic violence charge in SC and is a misdemeanor.

You can be charged with 2nd Degree Domestic Violence if the required relationship between the alleged abuser and victim exists, harm or threatened harm occurred, and at least one of the following applies to your situation:

  1. Moderate bodily injury to the victim or by way of circumstances likely to result in moderate bodily injury.
  2. The victim had a restraining or protective order
  3. You have one domestic violence conviction within the past 10 years
  4. A minor saw or heard the event
  5. You knew the victim was pregnant
  6. You committed the offense during a robberyburglary, kidnapping, or theft
  7. You attempted to choke or suffocate the victim
  8. You prevented the victim from getting to a phone

Moderate Bodily Injury Definition

“Moderate bodily injury” is injury that involves prolonged loss of consciousness or that causes temporary or moderate disfigurement or temporary loss of the function of a body part or injury that requires anesthesia or injury that results in a fracture or dislocation. 

Some examples of moderate bodily injury include:

  • The victim passed out
  • The victim was disfigured
  • The victim can no longer use an arm, leg, finger, etc.
  • The victim’s organs stop working
  • The victim’s injuries require anesthesia
  • The victim’s bones were fractured or dislocated
  • The victim had to receive medical treatment more than once
  • The victim had scratches, cuts, bruises or burns

For example, imagine that Bob and Becky are fighting about a text message Becky received from her male coworker. This time their fight starts at the top of the stairs near their bedroom and Bob loses it, shoving Becky down the stairs. Becky suffered multiple injuries including a broken arm. She is expected to fully recover, but she has to wear a cast. Bob is now facing a Second Degree Domestic Violence charge.

Penalties of a 2nd Degree DV Conviction in SC

If convicted, you could be sentenced to up to three years in prison and/or be fined between $2500 and $5000. The decision as to the combination of punishment lies with the judge.

The Court has the ability to suspend the sentence ordered for a 2nd Degree Domestic Violence conviction and choose to place the offender on probation

The judge in your 2nd Degree Domestic Violence case gets to decide if you’re sentenced to jail time, a fine, or BOTH.

3rd Degree Domestic Violence

This misdemeanor is the least serious domestic violence charge. To warrant this charge, you must have injured, or threatened to injure, the victim. Also, you and the victim must:

  • be married,
  • live together,
  • previously have lived with and/or
  • share a child.

For example, imagine that Bob has quite a temper and expects to make all the decisions in his house. This time Bob really loses it when Becky spends too much money at the nail salon. He slaps her across the face, leaving a red mark on her cheek. Becky calls the police and Bob is now facing a Third Degree Domestic Violence charge.

Penalties of a 3rd Degree DV Conviction in SC

If convicted, you could be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail and/or face fines between $1000 and $2500. This means you may only get a fine or only jail time, but the judge can also decide to order both consequences.

The Court can suspend the sentence ordered for a 3rd Degree Domestic Violence conviction in some situations. All of the following conditions must be met for this to happen:

  • The offender completes a domestic violence intervention program.
  • The offender complies with any required court obligations.
  • The offender pays any restitution ordered by the Court.
  • The statute mentions probation, but a magistrate or municipal judge cannot give a probationary sentence.

Gun Rights & Domestic Violence Convictions

On top of all the other penalties listed above you could be facing the loss of a right that is very important to you. According to federal law, a Domestic Violence conviction takes away your right to have a gun.

3rd Degree DV is the least serious type of domestic violence charge in South Carolina.

Need help with a SC Domestic Violence Charge?

Domestic violence charges are serious business that shouldn’t be ignored. Even the lowest level charge can land you in jail and facing a big fine.

Have you been charged with domestic violence (DV) in Lexington, Aiken, Newberry, Columbia, SC or the surrounding areas? Would you like to talk about your options?

Call 803-808-0905, or use this form to speak with Kent Collins.

Schedule Your Free
In Person Consultation!

Contact Kent Collins

Get in Touch