Is Domestic Violence a Felony in SC?

by | Jun 4, 2019 | CDV Domestic Violence |

Is domestic violence a felony in SC?

There are five domestic violence-related offenses in SC – some of them are classified as felonies while others are classified as misdemeanors. Regardless of the classification, domestic violence is a serious charge in SC that has significant “collateral” consequences in addition to the potential for jail time.

When is domestic violence a felony in SC, when is domestic violence a misdemeanor, and why does it matter?

Is Domestic Violence a Felony in SC?

There are at least five domestic violence-related offenses in SC, including:

  • Domestic violence third degree;
  • Domestic violence second degree;
  • Domestic violence first degree;
  • Domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature; and
  • Violation of a domestic violence protection order.

Some of these are felony offenses while others are misdemeanors. Below, I’ll discuss each of them in turn, including whether they are felonies or misdemeanors, whether it even matters if it is a felony or misdemeanor, and what some of the collateral consequences are for a domestic violence conviction.

Which Domestic Violence Offenses are Misdemeanors in SC?

SC Code Section 16-25-20 contains SC’s domestic violence law related to domestic violence first, second, or third degree, or violation of a domestic violence restraining order.

Domestic violence third degree is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 90 days in jail. Although the potential sentence is greater than 30 days, the magistrate and municipal courts have jurisdiction over these offenses:

A person who violates this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than one thousand dollars nor more than two thousand five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both. Notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 22-3-540, 22-3-545, and 22-3-550, an offense pursuant to the provisions of this subsection may be tried in summary court.

Domestic violence in the third degree is when a person:

(1) causes physical harm or injury to a person’s own household member; or

(2) offers or attempts to cause physical harm or injury to a person’s own household member with apparent present ability under circumstances reasonably creating fear of imminent peril.

Domestic violence second degree is also a misdemeanor and it carries up to three years in prison. Domestic violence in the second degree consists of the same elements for domestic violence first degree (above), plus one or more of the following:

(1) moderate bodily injury to the person’s own household member results or the act is accomplished by means likely to result in moderate bodily injury to the person’s own household member;

(2) the person violates a protection order and in the process of violating the order commits domestic violence in the third degree;

(3) the person has one prior conviction for domestic violence in the past ten years from the current offense; or

(4) in the process of committing domestic violence in the third degree one of the following also results:

(a) the offense is committed in the presence of, or while being perceived by, a minor;

(b) the offense is committed against a person known, or who reasonably should have been known, by the offender to be pregnant;

(c) the offense is committed during the commission of a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft;

(d) the offense is committed by impeding the victim’s breathing or air flow; or

(e) the offense is committed using physical force or the threatened use of force against another to block that person’s access to any cell phone, telephone, or electronic communication device with the purpose of preventing, obstructing, or interfering with:

(i) the report of any criminal offense, bodily injury, or property damage to a law enforcement agency; or

(ii) a request for an ambulance or emergency medical assistance to any law enforcement agency or emergency medical provider.

Violation of a domestic violence protection order is also a misdemeanor in SC that carries up to 30 days in jail:

A person who violates the terms and conditions of an order of protection issued in this State pursuant to Chapter 4, Title 20, the “Protection from Domestic Abuse Act”, or a valid protection order related to domestic or family violence issued by a court of another state, tribe, or territory is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than thirty days and fined not more than five hundred dollars.

Which Domestic Violence Offenses are Felonies in SC?

The remaining SC domestic violence offenses are felonies.

Domestic violence first degree is a felony that carries up to ten years in prison. Domestic violence in the first degree consists of the same elements as domestic violence third degree (above), plus:

(1) great bodily injury to the person’s own household member results or the act is accomplished by means likely to result in great bodily injury to the person’s own household member;

(2) the person violates a protection order and in the process of violating the order commits domestic violence in the second degree;

(3) has two or more prior convictions of domestic violence within ten years of the current offense;

(4) the person uses a firearm in any manner while violating the provisions of subsection (A); or

(5) in the process of committing domestic violence in the second degree one of the following also results:

(a) the offense is committed in the presence of, or while being perceived by a minor;

(b) the offense is committed against a person known, or who reasonably should have been known, by the offender to be pregnant;

(c) the offense is committed during the commission of a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft;

(d) the offense is committed by impeding the victim’s breathing or air flow; or

(e) the offense is committed using physical force or the threatened use of force against another to block that person’s access to any cell phone, telephone, or electronic communication device with the purpose of preventing, obstructing, or interfering with:

(i) the report of any criminal offense, bodily injury, or property damage to a law enforcement agency; or

(ii) a request for an ambulance or emergency medical assistance to any law enforcement agency or emergency medical provider.

Domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature is covered by a separate statute, SC Code Section 16-25-65. High and aggravated domestic violence is a felony in SC, and it carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years.

Domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature in SC consists of the elements of domestic violence (above), plus the person:

(A) A person who violates Section 16-25-20(A) is guilty of the offense of domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature when one of the following occurs. The person:

(1) commits the offense under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life and great bodily injury to the victim results;

(2) commits the offense, with or without an accompanying battery and under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, and would reasonably cause a person to fear imminent great bodily injury or death; or

(3) violates a protection order and, in the process of violating the order, commits domestic violence in the first degree.

What are “circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life?” Although not a complete list, the statute says it may include:

(1) using a deadly weapon;

(2) knowingly and intentionally impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood of a household member by applying pressure to the throat or neck or by obstructing the nose or mouth of a household member and thereby causing stupor or loss of consciousness for any period of time;

(3) committing the offense in the presence of a minor;

(4) committing the offense against a person he knew, or should have known, to be pregnant;

(5) committing the offense during the commission of a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft; or

(6) using physical force against another to block that person’s access to any cell phone, telephone, or electronic communication device with the purpose of preventing, obstructing, or interfering with:

(a) the report of any criminal offense, bodily injury, or property damage to a law enforcement agency; or

(b) a request for an ambulance or emergency medical assistance to any law enforcement agency or emergency medical provider.

Why Does it Matter if Domestic Violence is a Felony in SC?

In many cases, as a practical matter, t does not matter if a domestic violence charge is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Most felony convictions will cause a person to lose their right to own a firearm or apply for a concealed weapon permit (CWP) if the offense carried a potential sentence of more than a year. That doesn’t matter with a domestic violence conviction, however.

A conviction for even misdemeanor domestic violence in the third degree, which carries a maximum penalty of 90 days, will cause you to lose your right to own a firearm under both federal and state law.

Similarly, a felony conviction can have immigration consequences for a person who is not a U.S. citizen. Domestic violence, however, is a deportable offense whether it is classified as a felony or misdemeanor.

What are Some of the Collateral Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction in SC?

Besides the stigma of having a criminal history that says you are a spousal abuser, a domestic violence conviction can result in:

  • Prison time;
  • Fines;
  • Difficulty finding employment;
  • Rejection for occupational licenses;
  • Loss of civil rights such as the right to serve on a jury if the conviction carried a potential sentence of more than one year;
  • Requirement to attend and pay for extensive batterer’s counseling;
  • Loss of your right to own a firearm;
  • Loss of your right to apply for a CWP; and
  • Deportation if you are not a U.S. citizen.

SC Domestic Violence Defense Lawyers in Myrtle Beach

The bottom line is, if you are charged with any domestic violence offense, you need to retain an experienced Myrtle Beach domestic violence defense attorney immediately and fight the charges because the consequences may be severe and long-lasting.

If you or someone you love has been charged with domestic violence in SC, call the domestic violence defense lawyers at Coastal Law now at (843) 488-5000 or send us a message online to find out how we can help.

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Charleston, SC 29401

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