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South Carolina to require warrants for domestic violence arrests?

Fights between two people in a relationship have the potential to get heated quickly. In these cases, there are often few bystanders around to back up allegations of domestic violence. This can lead to false accusations and false arrests based on the testimony of someone who has a wish to harm the other party. Due to the serious penalties associated with a conviction for domestic violence, protections must be in place to ensure people are not being falsely accused. One South Carolina man and his criminal defense team recently won a court case, which will help ensure domestic violence arrests and charges are being applied correctly.

Before the new ruling, police officers would issue universal traffic citations for domestic violence allegations and arrest suspects based on the traffic tickets. In these situations, the officers may have never actually witnessed any illegal activity and were solely issuing tickets based on one party's statement or circumstantial evidence found at the scene. Now, police officers who do not actually witness an act of domestic violence themselves have to get an arrest warrant from a magistrate before arresting a suspect. If officers actually witness a domestic assault, they will be able to issue a uniform traffic citation and make an arrest.

Proponents of the decision argue that this ruling enforces the law the way it was always meant to be carried out. This offers some protections against false accusations. However, others warn that this change could make domestic violence charges more serious; instead of being issued a traffic citation, now those accused of domestic violence will face an arrest warrant that is much more egregious on a person's criminal record.

The case has been appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court, and it will be important to watch going forward.

Source: Herald Online, "York County domestic violence case may go to SC Supreme Court," John Monk, July 6, 2012

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