As state lawmakers take up the debate on the proposed upcoming $7.5 billion budget, some are pushing to make room in the plan to pay for 39 new domestic violence prosecutors requested by Gov. Nikki Haley earlier this year.
The additional prosecutors, along with other changes to the criminal code, will make a South Carolina criminal domestic violence lawyer more important than ever for an accused.
Governor targets domestic violence statistics
The state’s domestic violence statistics have been a hot topic for Gov. Haley. Her administration’s task force has been working toward a list of reforms aimed at strengthening criminal domestic violence (CDV) laws. As a result, the legislature has already increased the penalties for first-time CDV offenses.
Another major part of the administration’s proposal changes the prosecution procedure. South Carolina is one of only three states in the nation that allow police to prosecute domestic violence crimes instead of lawyers. Earlier this year, Gov. Haley set out to change that policy and add dozens of prosecutors to handle the charges, as well as additional judges and court staff as well.
Earlier this month, the House unveiled its proposed budget. It included $7.8 million for new prosecutors but it omitted the $2.9 million needed to fund the CDV prosecutors. Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, said that he will propose an amendment that includes the allocation for the prosecutors plus $1.1 million for three judges to handle the caseload.
Legislation’s impact CDV defense
Not surprisingly, the crackdown on criminal domestic violence is expected to affect those accused of the crimes. In addition to adding dozens of dedicated prosecutors, Haley’s task force’s proposal also recommended hiring 88 public defenders.
The changes in sentencing laws went into place last June and raised both the fines and the jail time involved in domestic violence convictions. The increased fines and jail time mean that an experienced criminal defense lawyer is crucial for defending even a first-time offender.
Some of the changes include:
- A defendant charged with a first offence of a third degree crime (a misdemeanor) can be jailed up to 90 days and fined between $1000 and $2500 while a conviction of first degree domestic violence carries a penalty of up to 10 years behind bars.
- Courts have the additional options of two new restraining orders; violation of the orders is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $2,000.
- Trained prosecutors, not the spouse or arresting officer, will decide whether to proceed with charges or drop them.
- Even a misdemeanor conviction of CDV will disqualify someone from owning a gun.
South Carolina criminal defense attorney
A criminal domestic violence conviction carries hefty consequences that can follow you for a very long time. The changes in the CDV laws make it even more crucial that anyone accused ally themselves with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. The Michael Jeffcoat Firm offers skill and dedication to protecting your rights.
- NCADV.org, House members to push for more domestic violence prosecutors in budget, https://ncadv.org/blog/posts/why-increasing-federal-funding-to-domestic-violence-programs-matters
- The Post and Courier, House snubs Haley’s plan to add more domestic violence prosecutors, https://www.postandcourier.com/archives/panel-rejects-haley-s-plan-to-go-after-abusers/article_22a55dd6-5eaa-5442-addc-25a2480a37d2.html
Warning: This Does Not Constitute Legal Advice. Do not rely on the accuracy of this information because laws are subject to change. You are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney in any legal matter. If you take action in your case without an attorney, it may negatively affect your legal rights.
Disclaimer: This information does not create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided in this document is not legal advice, cannot be cited as legal authority, and cannot replace the advice of an attorney in South Carolina.