Domestic violence is a national problem, but South Carolina is unfortunately leading the way. The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault notes that according to statistics, South Carolina ranks first in the United States in the number of women killed by men. 96 percent of these victims were killed by someone they knew. Of these victims who knew their killers, 62 percent were killed by a husband, common-law husband, ex-husband, or boyfriend. One of the most dangerous times for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she tries to get out of it, often when she files for divorce. In 2015, in an effort to punish convicted batterers more severely and better protect the women involved, the South Carolina Legislature enacted a new law known as the Domestic Violence Reform Act.
Domestic Violence & Guns
In an article from the Post and Courier, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson called the law a “giant first step in combatting domestic violence.” The law explicitly links an offender’s right to own a gun to domestic violence convictions, and takes what has been called a “hybrid” approach to the crime, meaning that the length of a batterer’s prison sentence depends both on the severity of the crime and the number of times they have been charged. (See Domestic Violence Reform Finalized by S.C. House.)
Under the new law, a person convicted of domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature is prohibited for life from possessing firearms or ammunition. Domestic violence is considered to be of a high and aggravated nature when the offender causes or attempts to cause physical harm or injury to a household member and:
- Commits the offense under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life and great bodily injury to the victim results;
- Commits the offense under circumstances causing the victim to reasonably fear imminent great bodily injury or death; or
- Commits domestic violence in the process of violating a protective order.
Less severe offenses would carry a 10-year firearms ban or a three-year ban.
The Law’s Other Provisions
In addition to strengthening prison time for offenders and banning gun possession, the law also adds the following provisions:
- Allows judges to issue permanent orders of protection, eliminating the need for victims to go to court to renew them;
- Creates a Domestic Violence Advisory Committee to study domestic violence cases; and
- Allows judges to set an offender’s bond based on danger to an individual as well as danger to the community.
Consult a Greenville Family Lawyer
If you are contemplating divorce, whether or not you are in an abusive situation, a Greenville, SC attorney experienced in family law can help you explore your legal options. Attorney Robert Clark is a lifelong resident of Greenville and concentrates on compassionate representation of clients in family court. Contact Robert today for a consultation.