Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC

South Carolina’s domestic violence laws can be harsh.

With constant pressure coming from victim’s rights organizations and “tough on crime” politicians, penalties for domestic violence keep increasing. Police and prosecutors feel an obligation to make arrests and to vigorously prosecute domestic violence cases.

Remember, prosecutors in SC are elected to their positions and the last thing that they want is bad press on a hot political issue like domestic violence.

Below we will discuss how SC defines domestic violence, the potential penalties for domestic violence, and how to remove a domestic violence conviction from your record.

What is Domestic Violence in SC?

Depending on the extent of injuries and the nature of the allegations, domestic violence charges in SC can range from domestic violence third degree, which carries up to 90 days in jail if convicted, up to domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature (DVHAN), which carries up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

All domestic violence charges require proof that mirrors SC’s assault and battery offenses, except the alleged victim must be a “household member:”

  • You cause physical harm to a household member (battery), or
  • You threaten physical harm to a household member, with the present ability to follow through with the threat, and under circumstances that create a reasonable fear of peril (assault).

These are the elements that must be proven for domestic violence third degree.

Domestic violence second degree, domestic violence first degree, and domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature have additional elements that must be proven, each increasing in the severity of the defendant’s conduct, the alleged victim’s injuries, or the defendant’s prior record of domestic violence convictions.

What are the Penalties for Domestic Violence in SC?

Third-degree domestic violence carries up to 90 days in jail. If you are convicted, the court has the option of ordering you to complete the “domestic violence intervention program,” or “batterer’s counseling,” in lieu of serving the jail sentence.

Domestic violence 3rd degree can also be sent to the Charleston, SC PTI (pre-trial intervention) program if the defendant qualifies and all parties agree to it – in an otherwise difficult case where you may be convicted, this is an option that will allow you to have the charge dismissed and expunged if you complete the requirements of the PTI program.

Second-degree domestic violence carries a potential penalty of up to three years in prison.

First-degree domestic violence carries a potential penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

Domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature (DVHAN) carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

You Cannot Own a Gun or a CWP if You are Convicted of Domestic Violence

Under federal and SC state law, any person convicted of a domestic violence offense cannot own a firearm and is not eligible for a concealed weapon permit (CWP).

In the past, some attorneys tried to get around this by recommending that their clients plead to assault and battery charges instead of domestic violence. But, the federal appellate courts have clarified that the federal prohibition on gun ownership for persons convicted of domestic violence also applies to a conviction for assault and battery if the alleged victim was a family member.

You can keep your right to own firearms by:

  • Getting your case dismissed;
  • Pleading to something other than an assault or battery on a family member;
  • Winning your case at trial; or
  • Getting a pardon after the conviction.

Can We Get a Domestic Violence Conviction Expunged in SC?

If you were convicted of domestic violence third degree, we can apply for an expungement if:

  • Five years or more have passed since the conviction; and
  • There are no other convictions on your record.

Although it is a bit of a “gray area,” most attorneys will agree that an expungement does not restore your civil rights like a pardon would – to be sure that you are legally permitted to own firearms, you will need to apply for and receive a SC pardon.

SC Domestic Violence Defense Attorney in Charleston

If you have been charged with domestic violence in the Charleston, Georgetown, or Myrtle Beach areas of Eastern SC, call Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.