In the United States, domestic violence is a pervasive issue that affects millions of men and women every year. Sadly, 4.7 million women experience physical violence by an intimate partner, while 1 in 7 American men will also experience violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. If you have been a victim of domestic violence, you may have questions and concerns about the legal aspects of your situation. One common question that arises is whether domestic violence charges can be dropped. In this article, we will explore the possibility of getting domestic violence charges dismissed and delve into the legal framework surrounding domestic violence in South Carolina.
Understanding Domestic Violence Charges
Many people wonder if they can drop domestic violence charges after pressing them. However, contrary to popular belief, victims cannot unilaterally decide to drop the charges. In South Carolina, household members, including spouses, former spouses, and people who have children together, are considered victims of domestic violence. This definition also extends to individuals of the opposite sex who live together or have previously lived together.
The Role of Law Enforcement
It is important to note that the police play a crucial role in responding to domestic violence calls. In most cases, they are the first to arrive at the scene. While victims or their friends and relatives can file reports at the police station, it is ultimately the police officers who determine whether an arrest should be made. In South Carolina, police officers can make an arrest, with or without a warrant, if they have probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred.
The Power to Dismiss Charges
Once a report of domestic violence is filed, it is the state government, specifically the district attorney, that issues all criminal charges, including those related to domestic violence. Consequently, only the prosecutor has the authority to dismiss domestic violence charges. However, getting charges dropped is not an easy task, particularly in light of the prevalence of domestic violence in the United States. Nonetheless, it is not an impossible feat.
The Affidavit of Non-Prosecution
To increase the chances of getting domestic violence charges dropped, victims can submit an affidavit of non-prosecution. This document serves as a statement by the supposed victim in a criminal case and explicitly requests the dismissal of pending charges. While the final decision lies with the prosecutor, an affidavit of non-prosecution can potentially influence their judgment.
Navigating the Legal Process
To obtain an affidavit of non-prosecution, victims must meet with a witness coordinator to discuss the incident and their desire to drop the charges. It is advisable for victims to have their own attorney present during this meeting, as well as throughout the case. Your defense lawyer should assist you in obtaining the affidavit of non-prosecution, as it is one of the first steps in the process.
Meeting with the Prosecutor
After the initial meeting with the witness coordinator, both the victim and the coordinator will meet with the prosecuting attorney. During this meeting, the prosecutor will review the affidavit of non-prosecution. Depending on the circumstances, the prosecutor may request certain conditions be applied to the defendant and the alleged victim. These conditions can include attending anger management or counseling sessions for the defendant, and awareness classes for the victim.
Considerations for Aggravated Domestic Violence Cases
It is important to note that cases involving domestic violence of a high and aggravated manner are not easily dismissed. In South Carolina, these charges typically result in more severe punishments, such as prison time. Domestic violence is categorized as high and aggravated when a defendant commits assault or battery against a household member using a deadly weapon or causes serious injury.
Tips for Building a Strong Defense
If you have been charged with domestic violence that does not fall into the high and aggravated category, there is a greater chance of having the charges dismissed. Hiring a domestic violence defense attorney is crucial to building a strong defense. Gathering evidence that proves your innocence, such as creating a written record of the incident and obtaining written statements from witnesses, can significantly support your case. It is also important to secure your release from custody as soon as possible, allowing you to work closely with your defense attorney and meet the conditions of your release.
In conclusion, the decision to drop domestic violence charges rests with the prosecutor, not the victim. However, victims can increase their chances of having the charges dismissed by submitting an affidavit of non-prosecution. It is essential to navigate the legal process with the help of a skilled defense attorney who can guide you through each step. Remember, cases involving aggravated domestic violence are more challenging to have dismissed. By understanding the legal framework and building a robust defense, you can strive to achieve the best possible outcome.