Stricter domestic violence law approved in South Carolina

A new law changing the way that South Carolina domestic violence offenses are assessed and punished could lead to harsher penalties for many accused people.

Allegations of domestic violence can have huge ramifications for people in Clemson and other parts of South Carolina. People accused of this offense may have to live with restrictions established under protective orders, and severe criminal sanctions are also possible. Now, people who are convicted of domestic violence in the state may face even more serious consequences under a recently passed law.

Escalating charges

The News & Observer reports that this law, which Governor Nikki Haley signed in June, increases the potential penalties for domestic violence offenses. Previously, sanctions were based primarily on the number of prior offenses that a person had been convicted of. Now, various other factors are taken into account, leaving room for harsher punishments even for people without prior convictions.

The new law outlines specific criteria for several charges. These include domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature; domestic violence in the first, second or third degree; and assault and battery in the third degree. The law also provides that charges escalate if an alleged offense involves certain circumstances. For instance, a person accused of domestic violence in the second degree may be charged with domestic violence in the first degree in the following situations:

  • The alleged violence occurred in the course of certain other criminal activities, such as theft or kidnapping.
  • The accused person knew or should have realized that the alleged victim was pregnant.
  • The alleged incident happened in the presence or sight of a minor.
  • The alleged victim's breathing or airflow was impeded during the incident.
  • The accused person prevented the other party from accessing an electronic communication device to report a crime, injury or property damage.

The new law additionally takes prior convictions of domestic violence into account. These convictions may also provide grounds for the escalation of charges.

Serious potential penalties

The law also establishes more severe sanctions for many of these charges. The most serious felony charge, domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. People convicted of domestic violence in the first or second degree may, respectively, be sentenced to maximum terms of 10 or three years in prison.

Convicted offenders may also face other long-term consequences, including the loss of gun ownership rights. The law establishes automatic lifetime ownership bans for people convicted of domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. Those convicted of lesser charges may face automatic bans lasting ten or three years.

Secure legal help

Unfortunately, defending against domestic violence charges and these steep associated penalties can be challenging. Consequently, anyone accused of this offense should consider seeking legal advice. An experienced attorney at Aaron & Aaron can offer assistance in challenging these charges or pursuing less severe sentencing.

Keywords: domestic violence, protective order, charges, arrest