South Carolina Criminal Domestic Violence

Criminal Domestic Violence (CDV), is one of the most common criminal offenses now in South Carolina. CDV charges are either misdemeanor or felony depending on the exact nature of the allegations and the defendant's prior history of CDV offenses. Charges are considered felony level if you have been convicted twice in the past ten years of CDV or if you are charged with Criminal Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature (CDVHAN).

James Snell recognizes that CDV charges may be brought in cases where there is little or no evidence to support them. Many times situations are blown completely out of control by law enforcement. A CDV arrest or conviction may have serious and lifelong consequences that may effect every aspect of your life. If you or a loved one has been charged you owe it to yourselves to educate yourself on CDV law and procedure and retain a domestic violence defense attorney. Mr. Snell is experienced in representing both men and women charged with domestic violence, including clients with and without previous arrest records.

What follows is information primarily for those charged with either 1st or subsequent CDV. If you or your loved one is charged with CDVHAN then that page's information may also be relevant to your situation. 

South Carolina's domestic violence laws are codified in S.C. Code § 16-25-10, et seq. The law makes it illegal to:

  • Cause physical harm or injury to a person's own household member; or
  • Offer 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.

Household member is defined as:

  • A spouse;
  • A former spouse;
  • Persons who have a child in common; or
  • A male and female who are cohabiting or formerly have cohabitated.

The penalties if convicted for CDV are as follows:

  • For a first offense (no prior CDV conviction in 10 years) it is a misdemeanor, up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of approximately $5,000 and/or 26 weeks of domestic abuse counseling. Prosecuted in Magistrate Court;
  • For a second offense (one prior CDV conviction in 10 years) it is a misdemeanor, 30 days to one year imprisonment and fine of up to $10,000. Prosecuted in General Sessions or Transfer Court;
  • For a third offense (two or more prior CDV convictions in 10 years) it is a felony, one year to five years imprisonment. Prosecuted in General Sessions.

Additional penalties will include a criminal record, difficulty in entering certain foreign countries or in remaining legally in the United States or becoming a U.S. Citizen, loss of ability to possess a Concealed Weapon Permit, loss of ability to purchase\possess a firearm and for CDV 3rd or subsequent entrance into the South Carolina DNA database.

The law in South Carolina is that an officer must make a domestic violence arrest when they are called to a domestic disturbance and find evidence of actual physical harm along with cause to believe the incident has only recently occurred. Many times officers may be erroneously trained that they must make an arrest every time they are called to a domestic disturbance. This is not the case - although it creates situations in which individuals are arrested and charged with only minimal, or no evidence that any violation of the law actually occurred.

The Criminal Domestic Violence law is different from other offenses, such as simple assault, in that it does not require that there was actually any injury or attempt to cause any injury to another. It criminalizes conduct that in all other situations would not be a criminal act. Individuals may be arrested based on a misinterpretation of the statute by the officer, or based solely on unsupported or false allegations. However those arrested and charged with domestic violence are entitled to all of the protections of the law, and an arrest does not automatically result in a conviction or in any of the penalties.

Individuals charged with any level of domestic violence in South Carolina are entitled to be represented by an attorney at every stage of their case. After an individual is arrested they will be transported by the police to the local jail or county detention center. There they will be "booked" or admitted in, which will include a photograph and fingerprinting. Usually within 24 hours they will be taken before a Magistrate for purposes of setting bond. The Magistrate will determine what conditions should be imposed to allow for a release pending trial and whether or not a cash or surety bond will be imposed. Defendants may be represented by an attorney at the Bond Court.

After an individual has been released they will frequently be under an order set by the Bond Court to have no contact with the alleged victim in their case. If this "no contact" order was put into place, and the defendant is found to be in contact (even if such was initiated by the alleged victim) the defendant can be held in contempt of court and may be sentenced to 30 days or more in jail. The "no contact" provision may be imposed even in cases where the parties are married, living together and have small children. James Snell is familiar with the steps required to request a "no contact" order be lifted by the Court in appropriate cases.

The next step in the process will be a referral to the county's central CDV Court (Lexington and Richland and other large counties), the local Magistrate or Municipal Court. This Court date is usually written on the CDV ticket, or will be provided at the Bond Court.

At The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, we represent individuals charged with all levels of domestic violence. After we are contacted by or on behalf of an individual who has been charged, or is under investigation, for domestic violence we will schedule an initial consultation with Mr. Snell. At this consultation you will have an opportunity to learn about the different options available to you.

Upon being retained Mr. Snell will file the necessary motions and paperwork with the Court to request that he receives the evidence the police or prosecute has and may be planning to use against you. Once that evidence is made available you will have an opportunity to review it fully with him and agree on an appropriate strategy for your case. Once your charges are formally challenged by our office you will ordinarily not have to appear on your original Court date (given on your ticket or at Bond Court) and instead any contested trial would not be scheduled until after we have an opportunity to investigate your case and review the evidence intended to be used against you.

After a review of your case, and negotiation with the police or prosecutor, it may be possible that your case will be resolved in one of the following ways:

  • Referral to a program for individuals charged with domestic violence that will result in you not pleading or being found guilty and upon completion your charges will be dismissed and your record expunged;
  • Referral for a comprehensive jury trial in which all facets of your case or charges will be challenged;
  • Through plea negotiations to a reduced or lowed charge (frequently only done in cases with other serious companion criminal charges or for 2nd or 3 rd offense charges);
  • Referral to a judge only trial (frequently only done in cases with no or exceptionally limited evidence).

Most police departments and counties (including Lexington and Richland) have "no drop" policies. This will preclude CDV charges from being dismissed even upon the request of the alleged victim. If charges are outright dismissed by the local police or prosecutor the office of the South Carolina Attorney General may still prosecute.

Sometimes when an individual is arrested for domestic violence there are companion criminal charges brought at the same time. These may include (not a comprehensive list):

  • Old bench warrants                 
  • Child support warrants          
  • Disorderly conduct               
  • Resisting arrest  
  • Public intoxication                                  
  • Weapons Violations
  • Drug Possession
  • Cruelty to Children
  • Assault on 3rd Parties
  • Kidnapping
  • Burglary
  • Sexual Assault/Rape
  • Probation Violations          

As a criminal defense attorney, James Snell will be able to represent you on any companion or other charges that may be brought and assist in the interplay and complexities that multiple pending charges in different courts may present.

Mr. Snell Strongly believes that no case or situation is hopeless, and he has found that methodical preparation combined with the availability of an aggressive courtroom defense frequently results in outcomes more favorable than first thought possible. If you or a loved one is facing any South Carolina CDV or other criminal charges please contact our office for a confidential initial consultation.

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