In South Carolina, facing any criminal charge means facing the possibility of jail or prison time. However, the amount of time you are facing depends greatly on the severity of the crime (or crimes) with which you are charged. In many states, the dividing line between a felony and a misdemeanor is the possibility of spending a year or more in prison. But, in South Carolina, this is not the case. Even certain misdemeanors can carry up to three years of prison time, and felony prison sentences start at up to five years.
Further complicating matters, while most crimes in South Carolina are classified as Class A through F felonies or Class A through C misdemeanors, some crimes are “exempt” from this classification system. For some of these “exempt” crimes, the maximum prison sentence is established by the statute that defines the offense. However, for others, the maximum prison sentence is 10 years. Then, on top of your potential jail or prison sentence, you need to understand the fines and other penalties you may be facing as well.
In short, understanding what is at risk in your South Carolina criminal case is complicated. This article provides an overview of the potential sentences for most felonies and misdemeanors in most cases. To find out what specific penalties you are facing in your case, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation.
Prison Sentences for Class A Through Class F Felonies in South Carolina
The maximum prison sentences for Class A through Class F felonies are outlined in Section 16-1-20 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. Section 16-1-20 provides as follows:
- Class A Felonies: Up to 30 years
- Class B Felonies: Up to 25 years
- Class C Felonies: Up to 20 years
- Class D Felonies: Up to 15 years
- Class E Felonies: Up to 10 years
- Class F Felonies: Up to 5 years
As you can see, Class A felonies are the most serious crimes in South Carolina’s classification system. Class A felonies primarily include serious violent offenses such as voluntary manslaughter, attempted murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and carjacking resulting in great bodily injury. On the other end of the spectrum, Class F felonies are the “least serious” classification, although a conviction still carries life-altering consequences. Examples of Class F felonies in South Carolina include involuntary manslaughter, abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult, malicious injury to animals, and malicious injury to personal property valued at $2,000 to $10,000.
Prison Sentences for “Exempt” Felonies in South Carolina
As noted above, some “exempt” felonies are prescribed specific prison sentences, while others carry a maximum sentence of up to 10 years. Some examples of “exempt” felonies and their penalties include:
- Murder: 30 years to life in prison or capital punishment.
- First–Degree Burglary: 15 years to life in prison.
- Human Trafficking: Up to 15 years for a first offense, up to 30 years for a second offense, and up to 45 years for a third offense.
- Accessory Before or After the Fact: The same punishment prescribed for the principal felon.
- Causing the Death of a Child By Abuse or Neglect: 20 years to life in prison.
- First–Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor: 25 years to life in prison.
- Possessing Marijuana Without Appropriate Stamps: Up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and twice the tax amount owed.
Jail Sentences for Class A Through Class C Misdemeanors in South Carolina
Misdemeanors are generally considered to be “lesser” crimes than felonies. However, if you have been charged with a misdemeanor, you should not let this lull you into a false sense of security. In South Carolina, all misdemeanors carry jail time; and, as noted above, a conviction for a Class A misdemeanor can carry up to three years behind bars. The potential jail sentences for misdemeanor offenses in South Carolina are as follows:
- Class A Misdemeanors: Up to three years in jail.
- Class B Misdemeanors: Up to two years in jail.
- Class A Misdemeanors: Up to one year in jail.
Examples of Class A misdemeanors include third-time driving under the influence (DUI) charges, third-time driving on suspended license charges, retail theft, certain drug possession crimes, and certain arson crimes. Examples of Class B misdemeanors include ticket fraud, tax fraud, threatening violence in order to instigate gang activity, and aiding escape. Examples of Class C misdemeanors include voting fraud, unlawful possession of gaming devices, willfully furnishing false information for tax purposes, and second-degree harassment.
Other Possible Penalties in South Carolina Criminal Cases
In addition to jail or prison time, crimes in South Carolina can carry additional penalties as well. Many crimes carry fines (which can be substantial), and various offenses carry additional penalties that relate specifically to the criminal conduct at issue.
For example, if you are convicted of DUI in South Carolina, not only could you face fines and incarceration, but you could also lose your driver’s license, be required to participate in mandatory alcohol education, and be required to install installation of ignition interlock devices in your vehicles before your driving privileges are restored. If you are convicted of a sex crime, you could be forced to register as a sex offender (in addition to paying a fine and serving time in prison); and, if you fail to register, you could face an additional criminal charge that carries its own prison sentence.
Due to the severe consequences of being convicted of a crime in South Carolina, if you are facing charges, it is extremely important that you speak with an attorney. For more information on what you should do next, we encourage you to read: 10 Steps to Take When Facing Criminal Charges in South Carolina.
Contact Our North Charleston Criminal Defense Attorney For Free Consultation
North Charleston criminal defense attorney Rad S. Deaton represents individuals charged with all types of felony and misdemeanor offenses. For a free and confidential consultation about your case, call 843-225-5723 or tell us how we can reach you online now.