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School of Law

Comparing Orders of Protection, Restraining Orders, and Permanent Restraining Orders

The three primary civil remedies to address domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in South Carolina include:

  1. Orders of Protection
  2. Restraining Orders
  3. Permanent Restraining Orders

Some people may be eligible for more than one type of order.

The following provides information about who is eligible for each and what types of protection each offers.


 

Restraining Orders

(Plaintiff/Defendant)

Where to File?
§ 16-3-1750

Magistrates Court
File at the Magistrate office located in the county

  • where the defendant lives;
  • where the stalking/harassment occurred; OR
  • where the plaintiff lives if the defendant is a nonresident of the State or cannot be found.
Who can File?
§ 16-3-1750

Anyone who has been subjected to harassment or stalking.

  • No specific relationship required.
  • Spouses, co-habitants, and those who share a child in common also may be eligible for Orders of Protection, which offer different remedies.
What Conduct is Required?
§ 16-3-1750
§ 16-3-1700

Plaintiff must be a victim of

  • harassment; OR
  • stalking

(See below for definitions of harassment and stalking)

What Complaint Must State?
§ 16-3-1750
  • The defendant is engaged in harassment or stalking against the plaintiff
  • The time, place and manner of the acts complained of;
  • The defendant’s address; AND
  • Any other facts and circumstances that you think the court should know.

(Police reports are helpful but NOT required)

Remedies if the Order is Granted:
§ 16-3-1770

The defendant is prohibited from:

  • abusing, threatening to abuse, or molesting plaintiff or plaintiff’s family (see page 6 for definition of “family”);
  • entering or attempting to enter the plaintiff’s place of residence, employment, education, or other location; and
  • communicating or attempting to communicate with the plaintiff in any way.

 (see below for definition of “family”)

Duration:
§ 16-3-1750
Not less than 1 year
Filing Fees?
§ 16-3-1750
There are no fees to file, however, the non-prevailing (losing) party will be required to pay the $55.00 filing fee.

 

Orders of Protection

(Petitioner/Respondent)

Where to File?
§20-4-30

Family Court of county where:

  • the abuse occurred;
  • respondent lives/resides;
  • the parties last resided together; OR
  • petitioner lives/resides
    • (However, if the respondent doesn’t live in that county then the case will be transferred to the county where the abuse occurred, where the respondent lives/resides, or where you last lived together.)
Who can File?
§20-4-20

Petitioners who share one of the following relationships with a respondent:

  • current/former spouse;
  • having a child in common; OR
  • current/former cohabitants.
What Conduct is Required?
§20-4-20

Petitioner must be a victim of abuse, which includes:

  • physical harm;
  • bodily injury;
  • assault;
  • threat of physical harm; OR
  • criminal sexual offenses.
What Complaint Must State?
§20-4-40
  • The respondent abused the petitioner;
  • Specific time(s), place(s) & details of acts of abuse;
  • The respondent’s address; AND
  • Any other facts and circumstances that you think the court should know.
Remedies if the Order is Granted:
§20-4-60
§16-25-30
  • No abuse, threatening to abuse, molesting petitioner
  • No contact with the petitioner
  • Stay away from the petitioner
  • Temporary custody/visitation/financial support
  • Respondent vacate home
  • Assign possession of personal property and order law enforcement assistance in removing personal property of the petitioner
  • Court costs and attorney’s fees
  • Other Family Court relief if applicable
  • Respondent prohibited from possession of firearms and ammunition (if court finds warranted and orders this relief)
Duration:
§20-4-70
6 months to 1 year
Filing Fees?
§20-4-40
§20-4-65
No filing fees.

 

Permanent Restraining Order
(Complainant/Respondent)

Where to File?
§16-3-1910

Circuit Court: 
In the County where:

  • the respondent currently resides;
  • the criminal offense occurred; OR
  • the complainant lives, if the respondent does not live in this State, or cannot be found.

(Available at the time a conviction is entered in General Sessions OR after conviction in the Court of Common Pleas.)

Who can File?
§16-3-1910
  • A victim of a qualifying criminal offense that occurred in South Carolina;
  • An adult who resides in South Carolina may file on behalf of a minor child who is a victim of a qualifying criminal offense that occurred in South Carolina; OR
  • A witness who assisted in the prosecution of a qualifying criminal offense that occurred in South Carolina. 
What Conduct is Required?
§16-3-1900
  • The respondent was convicted of a qualifying crime (including domestic violence, stalking, harassment, sexual offenses); AND
  • The complainant suffered direct or threatened physical, emotional, or financial harm as a result of the crime.
What Complaint Must State?
§16-3-1910
  • The respondent was a person convicted of a criminal offense for which the victim was the subject of the crime or for which the witness assisted the prosecuting entity; AND
  • When and where the conviction took place, and the name of the prosecuting entity and court.
Remedies if the Order is Granted:
§16-3-1910

The respondent is prohibited from:

  • abusing, threatening to abuse, or molesting the victim, witness, or members of the victim’s or witness’ family;
  • entering or attempting to enter the victim or witness’ place of residence, employment, education, or other location; AND
  • communicating or attempting to communicate with the victim, witness, or members of the victim’s or witness’ family.
Duration:
§16-3-1910
Determined by the court.
Filing Fees?
§16-3-1910
No filing fees.

 


Article 17. Stalking and Harassment.
S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-1700. Definitions.

(A) “Harassment in the first degree” means a pattern of intentional, substantial, and unreasonable intrusion into the private life of a targeted person that serves no legitimate purpose and causes the person and would cause a reasonable person in his position to suffer mental or emotional distress. Harassment in the first degree may include, but is not limited to:

(1) following the targeted person as he moves from location to location;

(2) visual or physical contact that is initiated, maintained, or repeated after a person has been provided oral or written notice that the contact is unwanted or after the victim has filed an incident report with a law enforcement agency;

(3) surveillance of or the maintenance of a presence near the targeted person's:

(a) residence;
(b) place of work;
(c) school; or
(d) another place regularly occupied or visited by the targeted person; and

(4) vandalism and property damage.

(B) “Harassment in the second degree” means a pattern of intentional, substantial, and unreasonable intrusion into the private life of a targeted person that serves no legitimate purpose and causes the person and would cause a reasonable person in his position to suffer mental or emotional distress. Harassment in the second degree may include, but is not limited to, verbal, written, or electronic contact that is initiated, maintained, or repeated.

(C) “Stalking” means a pattern of words, whether verbal, written, or electronic, or a pattern of conduct that serves no legitimate purpose and is intended to cause and does cause a targeted person and would cause a reasonable person in the targeted person's position to fear:

(1) death of the person or a member of his family;

(2) assault upon the person or a member of his family;

(3) bodily injury to the person or a member of his family;

(4) criminal sexual contact on the person or a member of his family;

(5) kidnapping of the person or a member of his family; or

(6) damage to the property of the person or a member of his family.

(D) “Pattern” means two or more acts occurring over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose.

(E) “Family” means a spouse, child, parent, sibling, or a person who regularly resides in the same household as the targeted person.

(F) “Electronic contact” means any transfer of signs, signals, writings, images, sounds, data, intelligence, or information of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by any device, system, or mechanism including, but not limited to, a wire, radio, computer, electromagnetic, photoelectric, or photo-optical system.

(G) This section does not apply to words or conduct protected by the Constitution of this State or the United States, a law enforcement officer or a process server performing official duties, or a licensed private investigator performing services or an investigation as described in detail in a contract signed by the client and the private investigator pursuant to Section 40-18-70.

(H) A person who commits the offense of harassment in any degree or stalking, as defined in this section, while subject to the terms of a restraining order issued by the family court may be charged with a violation of this article and, upon conviction, may be sentenced pursuant to the provisions of Section 16-3-1710, 16-3-1720, or 16-3-1730.

 

 


 


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