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Defining the Household Member

Complete text of section taken from South Carolina CDV Law

SECTION 16-25-10

"Household member" defined.

As used in this article, "household member" means:

  • (1) a spouse;
  • (2) a former spouse;
  • (3) persons who have a child in common; or
  • (4) a male and female who are cohabiting or formerly have cohabited.

Comments by the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC

In order to differentiate a CDV from another, less serious crime, such as assault, the law requires that a special relationship exist between the accused and the victim. This relationship is called "household member" status.

Under the current law there are four categories of relationships that can create a CDV household member status. This includes spouses, former spouses, people with children together and people who now or formally have "cohabitated." This definition applies to all domestic violence offenses in South Carolina including CDV and CDVHAN.

Under previous versions of the law other family members, such as siblings or parents, could be charged with CDV in cases involving each other. In many other states those type of laws still apply. However in South Carolina CDV only applies in cases involving the specific relationships listed in the statute.

Unless the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a "household member" relationship exists you cannot be convicted of CDV in South Carolina and are entitled to a finding of "not guilty."

To effectively challenge an assertion by the prosecution that a household member relationship exists requires consideration of both the specific facts of the case, rules of evidence, the jurisdiction of the court, and constitutional considerations of due process.

Many times the criminal Courts in South Carolina do not have the required legal authority to determine whether or not a couple is married, or have children together. In many cases these determinations must be made by the Probate Court or the Family Court.

In order for a defendant to fully maintain their right to challenge whether or not a "household member" relationship exists it is necessary for them to remain silent when questioned by law enforcement, to refrain from stipulating or agreeing to such a relationship in Court and to properly object to any improper evidence of such a relationship by the police or prosecutor.

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