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Is Domestic Violence a Form of Self-Defense?

Did you act in self-defense but get charged with domestic violence? An estimated 10 million people experience domestic violence in the United States annually, with South Carolina ranking sixth in the nation.

Legally, there is a major difference between domestic violence and self-defense. Unfortunately, a police officer may charge you with domestic violence without having all the facts. This is no small error that will come at the expense of your freedom and reputation.

A domestic violence charge is a serious offense in South Carolina, accompanied by imprisonment, fines, and other penalties. If you have been accused of domestic violence, our South Carolina domestic violence lawyers are available to offer guidance.

What is Domestic Violence?

South Carolina law defines domestic violence as causing physical harm to a household member or creating a fear of imminent harm. You can be charged with domestic violence if another person testifies that you threatened to harm them.

The law defines a household member as being any of the following:

Stand Your Ground Law

Thirty-eight states currently have stand-your-ground laws, South Carolina being among them. Under this law, you do not have a duty to retreat from your attacker but are allowed to use reasonable force (even deadly force) if you deem it necessary to protect yourself.

Under South Carolina Code §16-11-440, deadly force is legal if you “have a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to [yourself] or another person.”

This does not apply to when you are in your own home, which is covered under the Castle Doctrine. Under this doctrine, you are allowed to assume that you are in danger of great bodily harm or death if the perpetrator forces entry into your residence.

Self-Defense as an Affirmative Defense

South Carolina classifies domestic violence charges in degrees. If convicted of domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, you could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. In some instances, you may be fined in lieu of prison time.

Self-defense can be used as an affirmative defense in domestic violence cases that result in death. To avoid a conviction, your attorney will need to demonstrate that you were reacting to a threat in which you felt you needed to use lethal force. In raising an affirmative defense, it does not deny the act but rather negates criminal liability.

To establish self-defense, you must demonstrate the following:

Contact a South Carolina Domestic Violence Lawyer Today

If you have mistakenly been charged with domestic violence while attempting to protect yourself, we are here to help. Our South Carolina domestic violence lawyers will know what defenses are available in your situation. Contact our legal team today by phone or by filling out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.