Burden of Proof in Domestic Violence Cases in Aiken: What You Need to Know


Are you facing a criminal domestic violence charge? Do not worry! Johnson, Johnson, Whittle, Lancer and Staggs in Aiken, South Carolina, is your go-to criminal defense lawyer. We have experienced attorneys whose forte is poking holes into prosecutors’ cases and arguments.

And with the burden of proof falling on the prosecutor, you can trust our domestic violence lawyers to ensure we weaken their case and enhance the chances you’ll get a positive outcome.

Understanding the Burden of Proof

So, what is the burden of proof? It’s the standard that the plaintiff must meet while trying to prove a fact in court to have it established legally as a fact. In typical civil cases, the burden of proof tends to be lower. The plaintiff needs to establish that the accused is more likely than not guilty of having committed the charges.

However, the standards in a criminal case are strict and challenging to prove. The burden of proof in a criminal case, such as a domestic violence case, which lies on the victim, is proving beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecutor must convince the jury or judge that the prosecutor has presented facts whose only reasonable explanation is that the accused committed the crime.

What Are Acts of Domestic Violence?

Acts of domestic violence are defined in Section 16-25-20, which prohibits causing physical harm or injury to a person with a household member status or attempting to cause physical injury or harm to any person with a household member status.

Under Section 16-25-65, South Carolina defines criminal aggravated domestic violence as assault and battery whereby the accused uses a deadly weapon, resulting in serious bodily injury. This section further adds that assault that accompanies or does not accompany battery results in the victim fearing serious bodily injury.

You should note that acts of domestic violence do not include acts of self-defense.

Defining “Household Member”

Under South Carolina law (SECTION 16-25-10), a crime can only be classified as criminal domestic violence if there is a special relationship existing between the accused and victim—the “household member” status.

Moreover, there are four categories of relationships that can create a criminal domestic violence case:

  • A spouse
  • A former spouse
  • Persons who have a child in common
  • A male and female who live together or have cohabited

As such, to differentiate between domestic violence and other lesser criminal cases, such as assault, the prosecutor must establish the household member status. However, the criminal domestic violence status can be applied beyond these four categories if the prosecutor can prove beyond reasonable doubt that both parties involved in the case form a household member relationship.

If the household member status is challenged, the case is handled and determined in the probate court or family court.

Image is of a courtroom with a judge, concept of the burden of proof for domestic violence cases

Types of Criminal Domestic Violence Evidence That You Can Collect

In an effort to meet the burden of proof in a domestic violence case, the investigating officers and the prosecutors will use the following types of evidence:

  • Medical Documentation – These are medical reports from hospitals or doctors that treated the victim’s injuries incurred during a domestic violence case. In some cases, doctors or healthcare providers can use these documents to report suspected cases of domestic violence.
  • Police Reports – Any law enforcement who responds to a domestic violence case is required to write a police report of their case. These reports are essential in meeting the burden of proof in prosecuting the case. As such, it is common for the police reports to be subpoenaed during the case.
  • Objects Found at the Crime Scene – Objects around the crime scene can help illustrate the physical struggle involved in the domestic violence case. Such objects include torn clothes, broken furniture, broken glass, weapons, etc.
  • Video and Photographs – Video and photographic evidence provide compelling proof of the domestic violence case. As such, almost all domestic violence cases will involve video and photographic evidence. This includes using photos and/or videos of the incident and its aftermath, such as broken or damaged household items, torn clothes, damaged furniture, and wounds, cuts, and bruises taken at the time of the domestic violence case are compelling evidence.
  • Voicemails and Text messages – The prosecutor could use documented communication between the accused and the victim as evidence if applicable. If text messages contain threats, the prosecutor might use printouts of the text in court.

Circumstantial Evidence Used in Criminal Domestic Cases

The prosecutor may also present circumstantial evidence to bolster their case. This may include:

  • Evidence of opportunity,
  • Evidence of possible motive,
  • Convenient timing, etc.

JJWLS: Defending You Against Domestic Violence Charges

The gravity of the case of domestic violence charge means that you not only need an experienced criminal defense lawyer but a dedicated team that will pull all stops in your defense. We cannot overstate the importance of having excellent representation if you’re facing a domestic charge.

Keep in mind that domestic violence tends to create a public reaction, which can negatively impact your life and career. As such, you need an attorney to help assert and protect your rights throughout the process while also ensuring that your reputation is not dragged through the mud.

At Johnson, Johnson, Whittle, Lancer, Staggs, we have a team of criminal defense lawyers ready to help you overcome a criminal domestic violence charge. With nearly 45 years of experience in criminal defense, you can trust our experience firm to help protect your rights. Call us today at (803) 649-5338 to schedule a consultation.