If you have been charged with a crime in South Carolina, one of the most important things you need to know is how much jail or prison time is on the table. However, this can also be one of the most difficult pieces of information to find. Section 16-1-10 of the South Carolina Code of Laws establishes seven classes of felonies and three classes of misdemeanors (each with its own prescribed maximum term of incarceration); but, several crimes fall outside of this classification system, and individual criminal statutes may impose fines and other additional penalties as well.
Prison Time for Felonies in Class A Through Class F
In general terms, a crime is classified as a felony if it carries the potential for more than a year of prison time (although, as discussed below, certain misdemeanors carry the potential for more than a year of imprisonment as well). However, South Carolina has some of the most punitive criminal laws in the country, and several classified offenses carry the potential for decades of imprisonment. Under Section 16-1-20 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, the maximum prison sentences for Class A through Class F felonies are as follows:
- Class A Felony(examples include voluntary manslaughter, attempted murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and carjacking resulting in great bodily injury) – Up to 30 years.
- Class B Felony(examples include second-degree arson, certain drug trafficking crimes, causing great bodily injury while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and causing an explosion by means of a destructive device) – Up to 25 years.
- Class C Felony(examples include second-degree criminal sexual conduct, carjacking, attempted armed robbery, domestic violence of a high and aggressive nature, certain drug trafficking crimes, and administering or attempting to administer poison) –Up to 20 years.
- Class D Felony(examples include third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in great bodily injury, stalking within 10 years of a prior conviction, third-degree arson, and second-degree burglary) – Up to 15 years.
- Class E Felony(examples include bribing a public employee or official, first-degree assault and battery, third-degree criminal sexual conduct, resisting arrest with a deadly weapon, and shoplifting involving $10,000 or more in value) –Up to 10 years.
- Class F Felony(examples include intentionally using false documents in connection with public employment or to obtain a public benefit, willful attempted tax evasion, involuntary manslaughter, abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult, and malicious injury to animals or personal property (value over $2,000 up to $10,000) – Up to five years.
Jail Time for Class A, Class B, and Class C Misdemeanors
Unlike most other states, South Carolina allows for the punishment of certain misdemeanors by more than one year of incarceration. The maximum jail sentences for misdemeanors in South Carolina are:
- Class A Misdemeanor(examples include tampering with voting machines, voter impersonation, certain drug possession crimes, third-time DUI, third-time driving on a suspended license, and negligent use of firearms resulting in death)) – Up to three years.
- Class B Misdemeanor (examples include drawing a fraudulent check for $5,000 or less, unlawful storage of alcohol in a place of business, third-time unlawful sale of alcohol, cruelty to animals in one’s possession, and trespassing on state park property) – Up to two years.
- Class C Misdemeanor (examples include unlawful disclosure of confidential information, fraudulent voting or voter registration, failure to report abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult, and unlawful betting) – Up to one year.
Examples of Prison Sentences for “Exempt” Felonies
Several felony offenses are “exempt” from the classifications listed above. For each of these crimes, the maximum prison sentence is either (i) specified in the statute outlining the offense, or (ii) 10 years. South Carolina also imposes the death penalty for capital murder. Examples of exempt felonies (and their potential penalties) include:
- Possessing marijuana or other controlled substances without appropriate stamps – Up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and double the tax owed.
- Murder – 30 years to life in prison or the death penalty.
- First-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor – A minimum 25-year prison sentence without eligibility for probation, or life in prison.
- First–degree burglary – 15 years to life in prison.
- Failure to register as a sex offender (third offense) – A mandatory five-year prison sentence with three years of ineligibility for probation.
Fines and Other Sentences for Criminal Convictions in South Carolina
In addition to the terms of imprisonment listed above, many classified felonies and misdemeanors carry fines and other penalties. For example, individuals charged misdemeanor and felony DUI offenses can face substantial fines, driver’s license suspension, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, mandatory alcohol education, and other penalties. Many sex crimes in South Carolina carry the potential for fines, sex offender registration, and other penalties as well.
Factors that Can Determine the Potential Penalties in a South Carolina Criminal Case
In many cases, the classification of a criminal offense will depend on the specific facts and circumstances involved. This includes facts related to the alleged crime as well as the defendant’s criminal history. For example, factors that can heighten a crime’s classification and increase the potential penalties include:
- Whether the alleged criminal act resulted in injury or death.
- Whether the alleged criminal act involved the use of a firearm or other deadly weapon.
- Whether the alleged criminal act targeted a minor or a vulnerable adult.
- The number of drugs or money involved.
- The defendant’s criminal history, particularly any prior convictions for the same crime.
Regardless of the penalties that are on the table, if you have been charged with a crime in South Carolina, you need experienced legal representation. In order to give yourself the best chance to assert the strongest possible defense, you should schedule a free initial consultation as soon as possible.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation in Rock Hill, SC
If you have been charged with a crime in Rock Hill, SC, our criminal lawyers can fight to protect your freedom. To get started with a confidential initial consultation, call us at 803-328-8822 or request an appointment online now.