For Flea: An Overview of Domestic Violence in South Carolina

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At One Good Thing, Flea, a native of South Carolina, posted about a domestic violence situation here that touched her personally. And she captured in a sentence how I feel about this state most days when she wrote:

I think sometimes it’s impossible to have so much love for a place, and so much anger, too.

She asked me for an update on the domestic violence laws here, and she certainly earned one. The news is not good. The section of the SC Code dealing with “Criminal Domestic Violence” is here. Below is an excerpt, with bolding added by me:

SECTION 16-25-20. Acts prohibited.

(A) It is unlawful to:

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

(2) offer or attempt 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.

(B) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who violates subsection (A) is guilty of the misdemeanor of criminal domestic violence 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 thirty days. The court may suspend the imposition or execution of all or part of the fine conditioned upon the offender completing, to the satisfaction of the court, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 16-25-20(I), a program designed to treat batterers. Notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 22-3-540, 22-3-545, and 22-3-550, an offense pursuant to the provisions of this subsection must be tried in summary court.

(C) A person who violates subsection (A) and who has been convicted of a violation of that subsection or of Section 16-25-65 within the previous ten years is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than two thousand five hundred dollars nor more than five thousand dollars and imprisoned not less than a mandatory minimum of thirty days nor more than one year. The court may suspend the imposition or execution of all or part of the sentence, except the thirty-day mandatory minimum sentence, conditioned upon the offender completing, to the satisfaction of the court, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 16-25-20(I), a program designed to treat batterers. If a person is sentenced to a mandatory minimum of thirty days pursuant to the provisions of this section, the judge may provide that the sentence be served two days during the week or on weekends until the sentence is completed and is eligible for early release based on credits he is able to earn during the service of his sentence, including, but not limited to, good-time credits.

(D) A person who violates subsection (A) after previously having been convicted of two violations of subsection (A) within the previous ten years or two violations of Section 16-25-65 within the previous ten years or a violation of subsection (A) and a violation of Section 16-25-65 within the previous ten years is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not less than a mandatory minimum of one year but not more than five years.

(E) A person who violates the terms and conditions of an order of protection issued in this State under 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.

Basically, domestic violence does not become a felony until someone is convicted of it three times in a ten year period. It seems unbelievable, unless you live here and are used to having to deal with politicians like this. Here’s an excerpt from the linked article:

… Both cockfighting and domestic violence are currently misdemeanor crimes, punishable by 30 days in jail. If the bill passes, cockfighting will become a felony, punishable by five years in jail. Domestic violence crimes will remain a misdemeanor.

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Dist. 66-Orangeburg) says of the two bills, “What we have said by the actions of the Judiciary Committee is we aren’t going to create a felony if you beat your wife, partner. But now, if you’ve got some cockfighting going on, whoa! Wait a minute.”

Rep. Altman responds to the comparison, “People who compare the two are not very smart and if you don’t understand the difference, Ms. Gormley, between trying to ban the savage practice of watching chickens trying to kill each other and protecting people rights in CDV statutes, I’ll never be able to explain it to you in a 100 years ma’am.”

News 10 reporter Kara Gormley asked Altman, “That’s fine if you feel you will never be able to explain it to me, but my question to you is: does that show that we are valuing a gamecock’s life over a woman’s life?”

Altman again, “You’re really not very bright and I realize you are not accustomed to this, but I’m accustomed to reporters having a better sense of depth of things and you’re asking this question to me would indicate you can’t understand the answer. To ask the question is to demonstrate an enormous amount of ignorance. I’m not trying to be rude or hostile, I’m telling you.”

Gormley, “It’s rude when you tell someone they are not very bright.”

Altman, “You’re not very bright and you’ll just have to live with that.”

South Carolina has a very high rate of domestic violence. See e.g. this (“South Carolina is continually recognized among the worst states in the nation for its rate of domestic violence. There were at least twenty-seven (27) women who died as a result of domestic violence in 2005. The Palmetto State was highlighted as the sixth worst state in the nation for the rate of men killing women in both 2003 and 2004; the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division recorded 35,124 victims of domestic violence in 2004.”). Data in this report shows that:

For the years 1991 to 2004, domestic homicides accounted for 29.9% of all homicides.

Women and girls made up 76% of domestic violence victims. The victimization rate among females was 198.8% higher than the victimization rate among males.

Males accounted for 88.9% of domestic violence offenders under supervision.

There is some helpful information about related laws here and here.

–Ann Bartow

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