There remains a lot of confusion involving the differences between South Carolina's new domestic violence offenses. This began in mid-2015 with the passing of the South Carolina Domestic Violence Reform Act. This law made substantial changes to law, court procedure, and possible penalty in every case.
Under the old law people would be charged with CDV 1st, CDV 2nd, or CDV 3rd. The 1st, 2nd, or 3rd referred to the number of prior convictions. Someone with a first offense would get a CDV 1st, a prior would get a 2nd, and two or more priors would get a 3rd.
Under the new law all of this is scrapped. Instead we have DV 1st, DV 2nd, and DV 3rd , but this time the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd refers to degree of charge not the defendant's prior record. So someone with a first offense can be charged with either a DV 1st, DV 2nd, or DV 3rd.
DV 3rd Degree
The minimum level CDV charge is now a DV 3rd degree. It has, for the most part, replaced the CDV 1st charge. This is a misdemeanor, usually prosecuted in Magistrate or Municipal Court. It carries a penalty of up to ninety days in the county jail. There is no requirement that anything particular happened, or that the defendant has a prior record of domestic violence convictions. Instead, defendants may be arrested simply on an accusation that they improperly touched, threatened to touch, or acted like they might touch a household member.
DV 2nd Degree
This is the other domestic violence charge very common for a first time offense. This is a misdemeanor, but carries up to three years in the South Carolina Department of Corrections. It is prosecuted in General sessions. There is no requirement that the defendant have a prior record of domestic violence convictions, but in some circumstances a prior instance can be used to enhance a charge that would otherwise have been made as a DV 3rd.
Common allegations that result in a first time DV 2nd Degree charge include:
- Pregnancy of alleged victim
- Allegations of taking or breaking a phone
- Children under 18 somewhere in the house
DV 1st Degree
This is a less common domestic violence charge. It is a felony that carries up to ten years in the South Carolina Department of Corrections. It is also a strike (right combination of strikes = life in prison). There is no requirement that the defendant have a prior record of domestic violence convictions, but in certain circumstances a prior conviction can be used to enhance a charge that would otherwise have been a DV 3rd or DV 2nd degree.
How serious are these charges?
All domestic violence charges are very serious. Anyone charged, even based on false or unfair allegations, runs the risk of a jail sentence and criminal record. You cannot expect to just show up on your court date and assume to have your charge dismissed.
We recommend that anyone who is facing one of these charges begin by ordering a copy of James Snell's book, Challenging CDV 2nd Edition. This book will provide you with all of the important information you need to know to give yourself the best chances of success with your case. To request your free copy follow this link or give our office a call.