Solicitor calls for changes to domestic violence laws
COLUMBIA – On October 7, 2014, Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone testified in front of the state’s criminal domestic violence special ad hoc committee to advocate for changes to state law and additional manpower to fight violent crime.
Among the changes was a proposal to charge domestic violence based on the severity of the incident with special escalating charges if the defendant has prior convictions, harsher penalties and more prosecutors to fight violent crime.
Thanks to a law passed Stone lobbied for in 2007, the Fourteenth Circuit is the only judicial circuit in the state that prosecutes domestic violence in General Sessions Court, where defendants sit alongside murderers, rapists and armed robbers as opposed to lower level courts.
“I don’t think we should treat people who beat their spouses and beat their girlfriends the same way we treat people who drove 55 (mph) in a 35,” Stone said.
We are working with Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse to create teams of investigators and victim advocates to meet with victims in their homes shortly after the incidents. We hope this increases the amount of evidence available to prosecutors at trial and drives more people to utilize CODA’s services.
The Fourteenth Circuit has seen a marked decrease in domestic violence victimization rates. All five counties in the circuit are among the top 10 fastest-decreasing areas in the state. For more on that, click here.
Clearly there is more work to be done.
South Carolina ranks second in the nation for the number of women murdered by men, according to the Violence Policy Center. In terms of overall violence, FBI data indicates our state is the sixth most violent in the country with crime rates that exceed the national average in all categories except one.
“These changes will help us win the battle, but they will not help us win the war,” Stone said. “This year, 114,442 charges will be added to the General Sessions court docket. There are 17,000 police officers in the state and there are 305 assistant solicitors. There are 300 people tackling 114,000 crimes every single year. There is not a general in the military that will tell you that’s the way to win a war.”
Watch Solicitor Stone's comments here.
(Due to video format limitations, you will have to manually cue the video to 26:27)