|TO:||Magistrates and Municipal Judges|
||Jean Hoefer Toal
|RE:||Batterer Treatment Programs|
|DATE:||April 10, 2008|
It has come to my attention that some summary court judges continue to order defendants to attend unauthorized batterer treatment or anger management programs as a condition of a suspended sentence of a criminal domestic violence (CDV) conviction, which is contrary to the requirements provided by State law. As you well know, South Carolina continues to rank among the top ten states in the nation in domestic homicides and appropriate sentencing of offenders convicted of lower-level CDV charges is essential to battling the root of this problem. In that spirit, I provide the following statutory guidelines which shall be strictly followed by judges when suspending a CDV sentence upon successful completion of a batterer treatment program.
S.C. Code Ann. §16-25-20(B) provides that the court may suspend the imposition or execution of all or part of the fine for a first offense CDV conviction conditioned upon the offender completing, to the satisfaction of the court, and in accordance with the provisions of S.C. Code Ann. §16-25-20(I), a program designed to treat batterers. S.C. Code Ann. §16-25-20(I) requires that an offender who participates in a batterer treatment program must participate in a program offered through a government agency, non-profit organization, or a private provider approved by the Department of Social Services (DSS). DSS is the only government agency charged with the task of approving batterer treatment programs and only DSS approved programs shall be used for this purpose1. The DSS website, www.state.sc.us/dss, contains a link to a list of all approved programs, and referral by a judge must be to a batterer treatment program included in the list. When you open the website, click on “Domestic Violence” and scroll down to “Batterers Intervention/Treatment Program List.” For your convenience, we have added a quick link to this list on the Judicial Department’s website, www.sccourts.org, under the “Legal Links” section.
Again, suspension of CDV fines must be conditioned upon successful completion of DSS approved batterer treatment programs only. If you have questions concerning this matter, please do not hesitate to contact my staff at Court Administration.
Cc: Circuit Court Judges2
The Honorable Gilda Cobb-Hunter
1 S.C. Code Ann. §16-25-20(I) also allows the Court, as a condition of a suspended sentence, to order, or the batterer treatment program may refer, the defendant to supplemental treatment coordinated through the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services with the local alcohol and drug treatment authorities, pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. §61-12-20. However, this treatment is supplemental to the requirement that the fine be suspended upon attendance and successful completion of a DSS approved batterer treatment program.
2 Generally, Circuit Court Judges dispose of CDV cases pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. §16-25-20(C), which provides that the Court may suspend the imposition of all or part of a sentence, except the mandatory minimum 30 day sentence, conditioned upon the offender completing, to the satisfaction of the court, and in accordance with the provisions of S.C. Code Ann. §16-25-20(I), a DSS approved program designed to treat batterers, which are the same programs authorized for use by summary court judges. Therefore, I provide this memorandum to circuit court judges and solicitors for their edification, as well.