While it is typical for South Carolina law enforcement to prosecute any domestic violence crimes, there are situations in which federal government agencies can step in. For instance, if domestic violence crosses state lines or involves an offender who has a history of violations in different states, federal prosecutors can take action. Federal laws protecting victims of domestic abuse include the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) and Title 18 U.S.C Section 922 – Interstate Domestic Violence.
Actions that constitute domestic violence
If someone assaults, kidnaps, harasses or injures another within the confines of their own home or family residence, the law considers that domestic violence. This could include physically injuring someone, threatening them with violence, verbally assaulting them or making unwanted sexual contact.
Enforcement by federal government agencies
The federal government is committed to protecting victims of domestic violence and will prosecute those accused if they feel that state laws are not being properly enforced. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) takes the lead on cases involving federal prosecution for domestic violence crimes and can take action against offenders even if the state does not.
The DOJ can also investigate any potential violations of civil rights related to domestic violence, such as discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation when it comes to victims of domestic abuse. Furthermore, the DOJ may assist in bringing civil suits against those who perpetrate acts of domestic violence.
Consequences of federal domestic violence charges
Federal charges customarily carry stiffer penalties than what states would impose. For example, a first-degree charge in South Carolina can lead to up to 10 years of incarceration while the federal penalty could result in life in prison. In addition, a federal judge might impose hefty fines and court fees, probation or supervised release and potential restitution payments if there were any financial losses incurred as a result of the crime.
Given the seriousness of federal domestic violence charges, it is essential for anyone accused to understand what they are up against and try to build a solid defense. Besides the court penalties, a record can greatly hinder the accused’s ability to find employment, housing and credit in the future.