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This information in this article applies to charges occurring before June 4, 2015.

You never expected the argument to get as heated as it did. You said some things you wish you could unsay, and so does your partner. Things may have turned violent, or it could be a big misunderstanding. Either way, you find yourself charged with criminal domestic violence (CDV).

Perhaps this has never happened before, and now you will make sure it never happens again. Cooler heads should have prevailed, but they didn’t. Now, your partner may want the CDV charge dropped.

Police, prosecutors and judges are suspicious when a victim wants the charges to go away. Sometimes victims –particularly female victims–are financially depended upon the accused and therefore have a personal interest in keeping the accused out of jail. Other times, the victim is pressured or intimidated into being uncooperative with the authorities. Or maybe it’s just the opposite. After a CDV arrest: sometimes the victim and the accused genuinely work things out, and they move past it in their relationship.

Regardless, the criminal charge remains an issue to be handled.

Can a CDV charge be dropped in SC?

A CDV charge can be dropped; however, a common misconception is that the victim decides whether to press charges. This is not correct. The state charges the accused. The victim does not.

Even if the victim doesn’t want to cooperate with the police or prosecutor, the prosecutor can still bring forth charges. An unwilling victim makes the prosecutor’s job of proving the case more difficult, but there are situations when a prosecutor will push forward with the case.

The victim can ask for the charges to be dropped, but the victim does not have the power to drop them. This can be confusing since the arresting officer asks the victim to complete a form about whether or not to prosecute the case. The accused should never coerce or threaten a victim to ask the prosecutor to drop the charges.

If the victim wants to drop charges, the prosecutor will want to talk with that person to make sure the accused is not unduly influencing the victim. Prosecutors tend to be open minded when the parties work things out, but they don’t want to drop charges when the accused needs to be prosecuted.

If you’re accused of CDV and the prosecutor wants to move forward in the criminal process, you need to understand what you’re up against.

Understanding your CDV (DV) charge

If you’re convicted of CDV, you face the possibility of fines and jail time. As you accumulate CDV convictions over time, those fines and jail sentences increase. By the third offense, fines are no longer an option, and jail sentences are at least one year.

Here are the penalties for the different CDV charges (for charges occurring before June 4, 2015):

  • First offense (misdemeanor) — Up to 30 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000
  • Second offense (misdemeanor) — Between 30 days and one year in jail or a fine between $2,500 and $5,000
  • Third offense (felony) — One to five years in jail
  • CDV of a high and aggravated nature, or CDVHAN (felony) — One to ten years in jail

Beyond these punishments, you must also pay court costs, and you lose the right to own or possess firearms and ammunition. As you can see, CDV is nothing to take lightly.

On your first offense, you are likelier to have the charge dropped or be allowed to complete a pre-trial intervention (PTI) than you are for subsequent arrests. Your attorney can help you to take advantage of these options, if they’re available to you.

Can a CDV conviction be expunged?

Expungement is the legal process for removing information from a person’s criminal record. Some CDV charges are eligible to be expunged. Consult an attorney to apply South Carolina’s highly technical expungement laws to your situation. After waiting the appropriate amount of time and not getting into more trouble, you can apply to have your CDV charge expunged.

CDVHAN is seldomly expunged. But there are situations where expungement is possible.

If you have your CDV charge expunged, your rights to possess and own firearms and ammunition are restored. however, you may need to complete an appeals process with the FBI to purchase a firearm.

Before the charge goes to trial, you may be eligible for a pre-trial intervention which if successfully completed would take away the need for expungement.

Can I get a pre-trial intervention?

PTI programs are often offered to those facing their first CDV charge. It is important to note that PTI programs are completed before going to trial. Therefore, you do not have to plead guilty or not guilty to complete the program.

If you finish the program successfully, your charge will be dismissed. If you fail out of the program, your case will go to trial.

Am I eligible for PTI?

To be eligible for PTI you must meet the following criteria:

  • You have never participated in a PTI program before
  • You’re age 17 or older
  • You have never been convicted of a felony
  • You have no significant criminal history.

Your admittance into PTI is up to the solicitor.

What do I have to do to get PTI?

Follow these steps to get into a PTI program:

  1. Go to court on your scheduled date and time.
  2. Ask the judge for a PTI.
  3. Fill out the necessary paperwork.
  4. Turn in your paperwork to the court clerk.
  5. Follow further instructions exactly as they’re given to you.

It is beneficial to have an attorney help you walk through this process. You only get the chance to participate in a PTI once, so you don’t want to mess it up.

What if I live in a different state or county from where I’m charged?

It’s possible to have your PTI program transferred to another location, but your first PTI appointment must be completed in the county where you’re charged.

What if I can’t get PTI?

If you’re not eligible for PTI and your charges will not be dropped, you need the assistance of an experienced CDV attorney. That lawyer will explain your options to you and advise you on the choices you’ll need to make.

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Barney Giese

Keith Giese