CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - First time criminal domestic violence offenders in South Carolina would spend a lot more time in jail, under a bill pre filed in the House of Representatives.
The bill, authored by Bamberg County Democrat Bakari Sellers would increase the jail time from 30 days for criminal domestic violence first offense to 180 days in jail.
"What I do want to do is give these people voices who cannot be heard," Sellers said.
The executive director of My Sister's House, a shelter for battered women, applauds the legislation.
"I think that's why we have second and third offenses because if people are not punished for a crime the first time, then usually, it's a lot easier to do it the second time," Raven said.
There's more to Sellers' bill.
In addition to the increased jail time, judges would be allowed to issue a higher bond for first time offenders.
Right now, the law allows a maximum bond of $5,000 for criminal domestic violence first offense.
That means an offender could get out of jail by paying only $500.
"What I can tell you Harve, is what we're doing right now is not working," Sellers said.
Raven says the threat of stiffer penalties may make potential abusers think twice about committing the crime.
"I think it should number one priority, considering we rank number one in the nation for the number of women murdered by men," she said.
Sellers says his bill is not a silver bullet, but hopefully will help save some lives.
"And finally make sure South Carolina is not number one in something bad."
Sellers' bill also requires counseling for first time criminal domestic violence offenders. Any offenders who own guns would have to give them up.
The bill will go to a house committee before it goes to the floor for debate.