This article was reposted with permission from The Journal – written by LaDonna Beeker, 02/21/2012. To contact your local state legislators to voice support for this needed funding, visit http://www.scstatehouse.gov/ .
WALHALLA – With South Carolina’s criminal domestic violence numbers staggeringly high in the nation, 10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams is hopeful that state legislators remember to adequately fund prosecutors who fight for domestic violence victims in the upcoming budget.
In the 2009-10 fiscal year, South Carolina’s budget did not include funds for criminal domestic violence prosecutors in the state because of a three-year $500,000 federal grant and $1 million received in one-time money from the federal government.
With the grant expiring in June, Adams, along with 15 other state solicitors, is reminding lawmakers that $1.6 million is needed to continue to fight CDV cases in the state. If the $1.6 million is allocated, Adams said it would give $100,000 to each circuit.
Oconee County has one prosecutor in Magistrate Court and another in General Sessions Court, but there are four total prosecutors in the 10th Circuit, including two in Anderson County.
“Oconee County has provided funds for the prosecutor in Magistrate Court,” Adams said, adding that criminal domestic violence and driving under the influence cases are heard in Magistrate Court. “While Anderson County provides funds for my Magistrate Court prosecutor, the funds provided do not cover all the costs. The $100,000 requested from the state would cover the overage and also help fund the prosecutor and associated staff in General Sessions Court.”
First-offense CDV cases are in tried Magistrate Court, while second offenses, as well as CDV of a high and aggravated nature, are heard in General Sessions Court. If there is no prosecutor in Magistrate Court, solicitors say police officers have to defend a victim for a case they have investigated and oftentimes face experienced defense attorneys before a judge.
Arrests made in Oconee County for CDV cases heard in General Sessions Court stayed around 50 from 2007 to 2011. Anderson County saw a drastic decrease in 2008-09 from about 220 arrests for General Sessions charges to about 150 arrests. The number then increased to 200 arrests in 2009-10 and stayed around the same number of offenders for 2010-11.
Adams said the funding requested to continue trying CDV cases in the 10th Circuit and around the state would combat the domestic violence problem in South Carolina and prevent cutbacks to an already slim department.
“We are a core function of government, and I am confident that the state will come through with our funding request,” Adams said. “It is important to understand that the criminal justice system works as a whole. If only one leg is funded, the table still falls. The court system needs to be funded adequately based on workload and responsibilities of each player in the court system.”
Adams wants to ensure all cases get the funding needed, but if that money is cut short, it will limit resources available to bring justice.
“As 10th Circuit solicitor, I will ensure that all cases receive justice,” she said. “However, the amount of available resources for the entire criminal justice system will affect how quickly that justice is administered.”