Legal Services

Domestic Violence

Resolving the Issues of Family Law

State law contains a specific offense known as Domestic Violence. Domestic violence is classified into three levels, each with its own elements and penalties.

All of these crimes share a common core aspect: physical harm to someone in the household or the attempt to cause physical harm to someone in the household.

Clients facing allegations of domestic violence can seek legal representation from a South Carolina domestic violence attorney. In addition to protecting our clients’ freedoms, an experienced attorney can work to maintain positive relationships within the family.

About Domestic Violence

The Protection from Domestic Abuse Act provides a way to protect spouses and ex-spouses, children, and other family members from physical harm and criminal sexual activity by facilitating a protective order through the family court system. Physical abuse takes many forms, including being kicked, punched, slapped, shoved, sexually molested, or physically harmed in any way.

In civil law, a person who has been abused or threatened with abuse can seek help from the family court. Another family member can ask the family court for help if the abused or threatened person is under 18 years old.

Teddy bear toy lying down on the table. Conception of domestic violence

Protective Orders

To obtain a protective order, you do not need an attorney. Consult the clerk of court in the county where the abuser lives, where you lived together last, or where you live if you cannot find the abuser. You can file your documents with the clerk of court, and a hearing will be scheduled. If you cannot pay the filing fees, the clerk will explain to you how to do so without paying anything.

You can obtain a protective order from a magistrate when the court is closed. A protective order issued by a family court can order the abuser to stop abusing you and to leave the home. Family court orders can also order temporary child custody, child support, and visitation rights, as well as possession of personal items such as clothes and medicines. The protection orders issued by magistrates are more limited and can only tell the abuser to stop abusing you.

A six-month protection order can be obtained without filing for divorce. If you don’t file for divorce or legal separation, the support, custody, visitation, and property portions of the order expire after 60 days.

You can ask the court for an emergency protective order if you have a lawyer and have already filed for divorce or separation.

Be sure to bring witnesses, pictures of your injuries, police reports, medical reports, and any other evidence you have to prove that you were abused to the hearing.

You, the abuser, and your local law enforcement agency will receive copies of any protective order issued. Sheriff’s deputies can enforce this protective order.

When the abuser violates your protective order, contact the police, the court clerk, or your lawyer immediately. Violation of this order is a crime punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine of $200. In addition, violating a protective order could result in contempt of court; the punishment is up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1500 and/or 300 hours of community service.

Separate criminal charges for criminal domestic violence may be filed against your abuser in addition to the relief discussed above under the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act. 

It applies to family members and persons who live together but have never been married. Contact your local magistrate if you wish to file criminal charges. In addition to the fine, the abuser may be sentenced to a 30-day jail sentence or a fine of up to $200. The penalties for repeat offenders are more significant.

Laws Regarding Domestic Violence

The laws dedicate a whole chapter to the punishment of domestic violence and contains the definitions, elements, and penalties for the three degrees of domestic violence.

To be charged with domestic violence, a person must cause physical harm to a household member or attempt to do so in a way that would place a reasonable person in fear of harm.

Taking action against a household member is the first requirement. Household members may include spouses, former spouses, people with a child in common, or a male and female who live together or have lived together in the past. The crime will be charged as assault and battery or another related crime if this requirement is not met.

A domestic violence charge can be brought against a person even if there is no actual physical contact. For example, a husband who swings his fist at his wife and misses may still be charged with domestic violence even if he does not connect. A South Carolina domestic violence attorney should be contacted if an attempt is sufficient under the law.

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Domestic Violence Penalties

DVHAN (domestic violence of a high or aggravated nature) is one of the most severe charges in domestic violence. In this case, human life is being intentionally ignored. It is possible to be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted here.

Second-degree domestic violence is the most serious type. In essence, the act:

  • Results in great bodily injury to the victim,
  • Violates an already in place protective order,
  • The offense involves the use of a firearm, or
  • The crime is committed in the presence of a minor, among others.

Domestic violence in the first degree is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, making it imperative to consult a South Carolina domestic violence lawyer.

Domestic violence of the second degree is committed when a person injures moderately, a person has a prior conviction of domestic violence, or the offense is typically classified as a third-degree offense. Still, it was committed against pregnant women or a child.

This statute carries a fine between $2,500.00 and $5,000.00, imprisonment for up to three years, or both.

Third-degree domestic violence is the least severe level. This is the catch-all version of the statute that contains the core definition listed above without any aggravating factors that may lead to a 2nd or 1st-degree charge.

If convicted under this statute, a person can be imprisoned for up to 90 days and fined between $2,500.00 and $5,000.00. Occasionally, a person may be recommended for a pretrial diversionary class for domestic abuse and anger management in order to avoid a criminal conviction.

When Can I be Charged with Domestic Violence?

According to the severity of the allegations and whether you have previous convictions for domestic violence offenses, domestic violence charges in South Carolina may be classified as first, second, or third-degree, or domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature (DVHAN).

Domestic violence has these elements in all degrees:

  • You caused physical harm or injury to a household member; or
  • You offered or attempted to cause physical harm or injury to a household member, with the present ability to follow through, under circumstances that reasonably created a fear of imminent peril.


Whether the charge is first, second, or third-degree, or DVHAN, depends on the facts of each case, including the severity of the offense and whether the defendant has a prior conviction for domestic violence.

Which Court Handles Domestic Violence Cases?

Domestic Violence Third Degree

You can spend up to 90 days in jail for DV in the third degree if you cause physical harm or offer or attempt to cause physical harm to a household member.

DV third-degree charges with no prior convictions may be eligible for PTI (pretrial intervention) – if you enter the program and complete the requirements, the charges will be dismissed and expunged.

Even if you are ineligible for PTI, the court may suspend your sentence (not send you to jail) if you complete a “domestic violence intervention program” (batterer’s counseling). However, even though you don’t serve time in jail, the conviction remains on your record.

If you do not have any other convictions on your record, you can expunge a conviction for DV third degree after five years.

Domestic Violence Second Degree

DV in the second degree is punishable by up to three years in prison. You must cause physical harm, or offer or attempt to cause physical harm to a household member, and:

  • There is (or could have been) “moderate bodily injury;.”
  • You were violating a protection order at the time of the incident while committing a DV third degree;
  • You have a prior conviction for domestic violence within the past ten years; or
  • While committing a DV third degree:
    • The offense was committed in the presence of a minor;
    • The alleged victim was pregnant;
    • The crime was committed during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft;
    • The alleged victim was choked; or
    • You prevented the alleged victim from accessing their cell phone or computer to call for help.

Domestic Violence First Degree

A conviction for first-degree DV could result in a prison sentence of up to ten years. It requires that you do physical harm to a household member, or attempt to harm them, and:

  • There is (or could have been) “great bodily injury;.”
  • You were violating a protection order at the time of the incident while committing a DV second degree;
  • You have two or more prior convictions for domestic violence within the past ten years;
  • You used a firearm while committing domestic violence; or
  • While committing a DV second degree:
    • The offense was committed in the presence of a minor;
    • The alleged victim was pregnant;
    • The crime was committed during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft;
    • The alleged victim was choked; or
    • You prevented the alleged victim from accessing their cell phone or computer to call for help.

Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature (DVHAN)

The felony of DVHAN is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. It requires that you do physical harm to a household member, or attempt to harm them, and:
  • There was extreme disregard for the value of human life, and the alleged victim suffers great bodily injury, or the alleged victim reasonably feared great bodily injury or death; or
  • During the incident, you violated a protection order while committing DV first degree.

“Circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life” are defined as:
  • Using a deadly weapon;
  • Choking the alleged victim and they lose consciousness for any period;
  • Committing the offense in the presence of a minor;
  • The alleged victim was pregnant;
  • The offense was committed during a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft; or
  • You prevented the alleged victim from accessing their cell phone or computer to call for help.

How a Domestic Violence Attorney Can Help

Under the aw, domestic violence is looked upon as a harsh crime. Several aggravating factors may increase the level of charges, which makes it difficult for officers to classify precisely.

Domestic violence attorneys represent people accused of any level of domestic abuse. They know the law and how to defend themselves against these serious accusations.

If convicted, a person will face steep fines and significant jail time and negatively impact their family’s future. Don’t take any unnecessary risks; contact our attorneys today.

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Get In touch

Our knowledgeable attorneys at Montgomery and Hart, PLLC can discuss your case with you or a loved one if you have been in a domestic violence situation or being accused of domestic violence. If you hire an experienced domestic violence lawyer, you may be surprised at the difference they can make.

Contact one of our attorneys and they will explain your rights to you and advise you on the following steps to take.

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888.928.0748

North Carolina Office: 125 Remount Rd Charlotte, NC 28203

South Carolina Office: 410 West Liberty St. Suite 104 Sumter, SC 29150