Atlantic Beach's police chief was fired on Monday.
In September, he was charged with criminal domestic violence (CDV) 1st degree and unlawful conduct to a child. Although those charges were dismissed at a preliminary hearing on October 20, the town decided to terminate him as police chief anyway.
What is a Preliminary Hearing in SC?
Any time a person is charged with a crime in General Sessions Court (which would include CDV 1st degree), they are entitled to a preliminary hearing (prelim) before a magistrate.
In most cases, only the arresting officer or case agent will testify at the prelim. The prosecutor will ask the officer questions to establish that there was probable cause for the arrest, and the defense attorney will then cross-examine the officer to establish that there was not probable cause for the arrest.
If the magistrate believes that there was probable cause, the magistrate will "bind the case over" for trial in the General Sessions Court.
If the magistrate finds that there was no probable cause for the arrest, the magistrate will dismiss the case, or, in some cases, reduce the charges to a lesser included offense if appropriate.
In the police chief's case, the magistrate heard the testimony of the arresting officer and decided that there was no probable cause for the charges. Although the case was dismissed, the prosecutor can (and often does) seek an indictment from the grand jury to revive the charges.
Why was the Police Chief Fired if His Case was Dismissed?
The magistrate did not find that the incident never happened. Rather, the magistrate found that the facts as presented did not constitute probable cause for CDV 1st degree. What were the facts?
A police report says Taylor went to a home on S.C. 905 to pick up his children on Sept. 1 but became "irate" after being told he couldn't. The report states Taylor said "he can't live like this anymore" and allegedly pulled a gun out and pointed it at his head...
The victim told authorities she feared for her safety and the children's, according to the report.
CDV first degree involves either 1) causing physical harm to a household member, or 2) threatening to cause physical harm to a household member.
Using a firearm or committing a CDV in the presence of a child are both "aggravating factors" that could make the offense "first degree" which carries up to ten years in prison.
The police chief was alleged to have used a gun, and there was an allegation that a child was present. The alleged victim said that she feared for her safety. But, if there was no allegation that he either caused physical harm or threatened to cause physical harm to the alleged victim, it is not a CDV and it should have been dismissed at the prelim.
Although his alleged conduct may not have risen to the level of domestic violence, it is probably not the sort of behavior that inspires confidence in a person as the head of a police department which would explain why the town decided to go ahead and terminate him from that position.
Were you Charged with Domestic Violence (CDV) in Horry County?
Our Myrtle Beach CDV lawyers at Axelrod and Associates regularly defend clients against CDV charges in the Magistrate and General Sessions Courts. We will meet with you, get the evidence from the prosecutor, conduct an independent investigation, interview your witnesses, negotiate for you, and either get your case dismissed or try it to a jury when necessary.