Articles on South Carolina Law

Criminal Domestic Violence: SC LAWS, CHARGES & FACTS

by | Mar 6, 2015 | Criminal Defense, Domestic Violence

Maybe it was jealousy or alcohol that sparked a heated argument between you and your partner. Now you wish you could take it all back.

Before you knew it, the cops were called. And now you’re having to deal with a SC Criminal Domestic Violence (CDV) charge.

A CDV charge can wreak havoc on you and your family. If you’re the accused, you may feel embarrassed by being labeled an “abuser.” What’s more, you’re facing fines and criminal charges that could change your life forever.

CDV Charges & Classifications

If you or someone you know has been arrested for CDV in South Carolina, the first step is to understand the charge’s classification–misdemeanor or felony. This classification is determined by whether this is the accused’s first, second or third CDV conviction within the last 10 years. Potential fines and jail time increase accordingly.

First offense:

  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Fines of up to $1,000, excluding court costs

Second offense:

  • Misdemeanor
  • Mandatory minimum of 30 days but no more than one year in jail
  • Fines from $2,500 to $5,000, excluding court costs

Third (or more) offense:

  • Felony
  • Mandatory minimum of one year but not more than five years in jail

Criminal Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature (CDVHAN):

  • Felony
  • Mandatory minimum of one year but no more than 10 years in jail

If you’ve been convicted in another state, special conditions may apply to your current case. A domestic violence attorney can help you determine if prior out-of-state CDV convictions will affect you in South Carolina and answer any related questions.

Common Questions About CDV

What’s considered CDV?

According to South Carolina law, Criminal Domestic Violence can occur between two people who either:

  • Currently live together
  • Used to live together
  • Are currently married
  • Used to be married
  • Have a child together

Also, the accused (defendant) has:

  • Caused physical harm to the victim or
  • Threatened to cause immediate physical harm to the victim
  • Intimidated the victim in such a way that a reasonable person in the victim’s shoes would fear physical harm.

What’s the difference between CDV and CDVHAN?

CDVHAN means a situation meets all of the elements of CDV and aggravating factors are present. Examples of some of these aggravating factors include the victim sustained serious bodily injury, there was a significant difference in height and/or weight between the accused and the victim, or the accused used a weapon.

Can the alleged victim drop my CDV case?

Possibly. But the alleged victim should never be forced or threatened into dropping a CDV charge. If the alleged victim decides on his/her own free will to drop the CDV charge, he/she should contact the police officer in charge of the CDV case, a victim’s advocate, the prosecutor or hire a private attorney as soon as possible.

It’s important to note that filling out a form declining to prosecute during the arrest isn’t enough. This is a common misunderstanding. Prosecutors want to know what the alleged victim wants to do after the arrest, once the heat of the moment has passed.

Often, a prosecuting attorney will pursue charges regardless of the alleged victim’s wishes. If this is the case, it is up to the prosecutor to prove the accused is guilty of CDV. Without a cooperating victim to testify, this will make the prosecutor’s job of proving their case difficult.

Should I just pay the fine?

It’s tempting to just pay the fine to get this trouble behind you. Unfortunately paying a fine is the same as pleading guilty to CDV. Once you pay that fine, a CDV conviction goes on your criminal record. If you’re eligible for an expungement, you must wait five years from the date of your CDV conviction. This means the CDV will remain on your criminal record for at least five years after pleading guilty.

Not to mention, there are consequences to having a CDV conviction on your record that law enforcement isn’t required to tell you. For example, if convicted of CDV, you lose your right to bear arms, including the right to have concealed weapons permit and hunting license.

What if children are involved?

If children were present during the alleged CDV, law enforcement can contact the Department of Social Services (DSS) to investigate. DSS could open a case against you if DSS agents conclude that you put the children in danger by exposing them to domestic violence.

If you physically harm a child, you could face other charges such as Assault and Battery or Unlawful Conduct Towards a Child.

Does physical injury have to occur to be convicted?

No. If the alleged victim reasonably believed the accused was going to cause the victim immediate physical harm, you could still be convicted of CDV.

What if law enforcement didn’t read me my rights?

The purpose of the Miranda warning is to make sure you know your constitutional rights during an arrest, such as the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. If you’re in police custody and a law enforcement officer questions you without first reading you your Miranda rights, any statement you make, including a confession, could be thrown out in court.

If the officer doesn’t show up in court, will the case be dismissed?

It’s possible. The police officer represents the prosecution or the “State.” The State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. The accused doesn’t have to prove that he/she is innocent. So if the officer doesn’t show up for court, the State may have one less witness to prove guilt.

There were no physical signs of injury. Why was I arrested?

South Carolina law doesn’t require signs of physical injury to proceed with CDV charges. The law only requires there to be a threat of physical harm.

Does the alleged victim have to testify for me to be convicted?

Most likely. The prosecution relies heavily on the alleged victim’s testimony to help get a conviction. Without sufficient evidence, CDV charges may be dropped.

An exception would be if a law enforcement officer or some other witness (such as a neighbor, a stranger, etc.) personally witnessed the domestic violence. But this isn’t common as domestic violence usually occurs in a private place.

What is a No Contact Order?

As a prosecutor in Dorchester County, I would often hear the judge explain this as “not even breathing the same air as the victim.” Under a no contact order, the accused may not communicate with the victim directly or indirectly. The accused cannot communicate electronically, meaning no texts, phone calls, emails or Facebook messages. The accused also cannot ask a third party to deliver a message to the victim. And if the accused sees the victim in a public place, the accused is required to leave.

How will I know if a no contact order has been issued?

The judge at your hearing will usually tell you if you’re not to have contact with the victim. Otherwise, you can find out from your bond paperwork. If you see “no contact with the victim” on your bond paperwork, do not, by any means or for any reason, contact the victim.

Download CDV Form Examples (See Highlighted Sections)

Can I get rid of a no contact order?

A no contact order should be taken very seriously and remains in effect until a judge signs a written order allowing contact. The victim can help get the order modified by submitting a written request after the CDV arrest to the arresting officer, prosecutor or victim’s advocate. The defendant’s attorney also can file a motion with the court to change the terms of the order.

My spouse and I are back together. Do I still need to abide by the no contact order?

Absolutely. If you break the court order, regardless of whether you’ve reconciled with your partner, you can face additional jail time for contempt of court. Your no contact order must be modified by the court in order for you and the alleged victim to resume legal contact.

What happens if I contact the victim after a no contact order has been issued?

You will face a contempt of court charge for disobeying a court order, which is punishable by fines or jail time. Remember, even if the victim consents to contact, it’s up to a judge to change a no contact order. Until a judge modifies the Order in writing, the defendant should have no contact with the victim.

What happens if the victim contacts me after a no contact order has been issued?

If the victim contacts you, you should not respond. Do not answer calls, texts, emails or any other form of communication. Instead, let your attorney know right away. Regardless of whether the victim contacted you first, any response is still a violation of your no contact order.

If you’ve been charged with CDV in South Carolina, please contact a domestic violence attorney about your situation.

Call Attorney Susan E. Williams now at 843-607-9800 or email for a free consultation using this contact form.

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