Domestic violence is one of the most commonly prosecuted crimes in the state. Even a first-time conviction can result in jail time and high fines. If you are facing a charge of this nature, you may benefit from calling a Summerville domestic violence lawyer for advice and guidance.
Domestic violence can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the offense and the existence of prior criminal history. However, some charges are supported by little or no evidence, which may make them more easily overcome. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to evaluate your situation and determine the best strategy for obtaining a positive result in your case.
Defining Domestic Violence in Summerville
Under South Carolina Code of Laws § 16-25-20, it is illegal to commit domestic violence, which includes individuals who:
- Cause bodily injury to their household members
- Offer or attempt to cause physical harm to their household members with the perceived capacity to do so, which creates a reasonable fear of imminent danger
SC Code of Laws § 16-25-10 defines household members as current or former spouses, persons who share a child, and persons who currently cohabitate or formerly cohabitated.
What is Domestic Violence in the Third Degree?
Domestic violence in the third degree is the lowest degree and a misdemeanor offense. A conviction can result in up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 – $2,500 fine.
Individuals may be eligible for pretrial intervention for a domestic battery third-degree charge. They may also receive a wholly suspended sentence, if they comply with various terms, including completion of a domestic violence intervention program.
What is Domestic Violence in the Second Degree?
Second-degree domestic violence is also a misdemeanor offense but carries potential penalties of up to three years of incarceration and/or a $2,500 – $5,000 fine. This offense occurs when individuals:
- Cause or uses means that are likely to cause moderate bodily injury to household members
- Violate a protective order and commit third-degree domestic violence
- Have a prior domestic violence conviction within the last ten years
Moderate bodily injury under SC Code of Laws § 16-25-10 refers to any physical injury that results in prolonged loss of consciousness, temporary or mild disfigurement, or temporary loss of function of a bodily member or organ. Other injuries that qualify as moderate bodily injuries include fractures or dislocations of bones, or any injury that requires anesthesia for medical treatment.
Furthermore, an incident may also result in second-degree domestic violence charges if individuals commit the offense in the presence of a minor. Enhanced charges may also apply when the violent incident targets another whom they know or reasonably should know is pregnant. If the offense was committed using force or threat of force to block a person’s access to their phone with the purpose of preventing them from calling 911, the incident also qualifies as a second-degree domestic violence charge.
What is First Degree Domestic Violence?
Various situations can lead to first-degree domestic violence charges, the second most severe of this type of offense. For example, first-degree family battery charges can result from situations in which individuals cause or use means that are likely to cause significant bodily injury to household members. Violating a protection order and committing any acts that qualify as second-degree domestic violence can also result in first-degree charges.
Other first-degree charges can result from having two or more prior domestic violence convictions within the past ten years or using a firearm. A family abuse attorney in Summerville may be able to assess the evidence in specific cases and determine whether the level of charges is appropriate, based on the situation.
Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature
The most serious and punitive domestic violence charge in South Carolina is DVHAN (SC Code Section 16-25-65). If a person commits the offense of home battery under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life and great bodily injury results, or the offense occurs without an accompanying battery but the victim fears great bodily injury or death could result, or if the offense violates a protective order and the circumstances meet the elements of abuse, first degree, then the person can be charged with domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. Circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to value of a human life include, but are not limited to:
- Use of a deadly weapon
- Domestic violence against a pregnant victim
- Domestic violence during a robbery or burglary
- Committing the offense by chocking the victim around the throat/neck or obstructing their mouth or nose to prohibit them from breathing in such a way that loss of consciousness could occur, although loss of consciousness does not have to actually occur to meet this element of DVHAN
The penalty for committing the offense of DVHAN is up to twenty (20) years in prison.
Contact a Summerville Domestic Violence Attorney Today
Aside from incarceration and fines, a domestic violence charge may also result in a civil protective order, which can restrict movements and interactions with your family significantly. A Summerville domestic violence lawyer may be able to help you minimize or eliminate some of the potentially adverse effects of family abuse charges on your life. Contact an attorney as soon as possible following an arrest.