Domestic violence charges are widespread in South Carolina. Whether felonies or misdemeanors, they can have a far-reaching impact on your life. They’re also the subject of many misconceptions.
Here are four things to know about these serious criminal charges.
1. Physical harm isn’t a requirement
The law defines “violence” to include an “offer or attempt” to cause bodily harm. This means you could face domestic violence charges even if you never touched the alleged victim. Importantly, the prosecution must still prove that the circumstances created a reasonable fear of immediate harm, and that you seemingly had the ability to carry out the threat or attempt.
Without physical injuries or witnesses, however, these charges are much harder to prove. They often boil down to a “he said, she said” situation.
2. They don’t just apply to current romantic partners
You don’t have to be in a relationship with the alleged victim for domestic violence charges to apply. Under South Carolina law, they cover any “household member,” which means a:
- Current or former spouse
- Current or former live-in girlfriend (or boyfriend)
- Co-parent of your child
If you and the alleged victim lived together in the past, that fact alone would satisfy the relationship requirement.
3. There will likely be a restraining order against you
Restraining orders often accompany domestic violence charges. The judge may issue a no-contact order preventing you from reaching out to the alleged victim. Additionally, you might face separate proceedings for a more extensive, long-term restraining order, called an “order of protection.” Depending on how they’re crafted, these orders can prevent you not only from contacting the alleged victim, but also from going back to your own home (if you lived with the alleged victim) or seeing your children.
4. A conviction means you can never own or carry a gun
If you’re a hunter, you enjoy sport shooting or you just prefer to have a gun for your own safety, domestic violence allegations can seriously jeopardize your firearm rights. Federal law makes it a felony offense for people with domestic violence convictions to own or carry a gun, even if the conviction was a misdemeanor. The law imposes a lifetime ban on using firearms. It may also apply if you’ve had an order for protection issued against you by an intimate partner. A similar state-level ban applies to those convicted of more severe domestic violence charges.
As you can see, domestic violence charges are more nuanced than they might initially seem. Make sure you get qualified legal help to address the specifics of your situation.