Arson Laws in SC

Arson Laws in SC

What are the arson laws in South Carolina? Arson is when you set fire to something, right? 

Hold on – the definitions of arson contained in South Carolina criminal law are a bit more detailed and complex than that. Understanding them – as well as what the State must prove to get a conviction – could make the difference between a dismissal, an acquittal, a probationary sentence, or life in prison. 

In this article you will learn:

  • The basic elements of arson laws in South Carolina;
  • What the State must prove to get a conviction; and
  • The potential penalties for arson 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree.

Arson Laws in South Carolina – 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Degree Arson

The arson laws in South Carolina define the elements of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree arson, but there are also some important definitions for some of the terms used in South Carolina’s arson laws. 

For example, the arson laws reference “damage” – it’s not arson unless the fire or explosion results in damage to the property that was targeted. But what is “damage?”

What is “Damage” for Purposes of Arson Laws in SC?

SC Code Section 16-11-110 provides a broad definition of damage that includes just about any change to the targeted property that was caused by the fire or explosion – any “burning, charring, blistering, scorching, smoking, singeing, discoloring, or changing the fiber or composition of” any property that is covered by arson laws in SC.

What is a “Dwelling House” for Purposes of Arson Laws in SC?

Another definition that could make a difference in some cases is “dwelling house,” which is defined by SC Code Section 16-11-10

Arson laws in South Carolina use the same definition that is used in burglary cases: any “dwelling house, any house, outhouse, apartment, building, erection, shed or box in which there sleeps a proprietor, tenant, watchman, clerk, laborer or person who lodges there with a view to the protection of property,” as well as any “houses, outhouses, buildings, sheds and erections which are within two hundred yards of it and are appurtenant to it or to the same establishment of which it is an appurtenance.”

The 3 Degrees of Arson in South Carolina

1st Degree Arson

What does the State have to prove to get a conviction for arson? 

Arson 1st degree is where a person:

1. Willfully and maliciously,

2. Causes an explosion or sets fire to,

3. A building, structure, or property,

4. Resulting in damage to the property, and

5. It results, either directly or indirectly, in death or serious bodily injury to a person.

To get a conviction, the prosecutor must prove each and all of these elements beyond any reasonable doubt. 

You don’t have to set off an explosion or start a fire yourself to be convicted of Arson 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree – you can also be convicted if you aided, counseled, or procured a burning by helping someone else set the fire. 

The types of property covered by 1st degree Arson include:

  • Dwelling houses,
  • Churches or places of worship,
  • Schools,
  • Manufacturing plants,
  • Warehouses,
  • Businesses,
  • Any institutional facilities,
  • Local and municipal buildings,
  • Any structure that is designed for human occupancy,
  • Any building or structure not listed above,
  • Railway cars,
  • Boats,
  • Ships,
  • Any type of watercraft,
  • Aircraft,
  • Automobiles or any type of motor vehicle, or
  • Personal property.

It doesn’t matter if the property belongs to the person who is accused or if it belongs to someone else – if you set fire to your own property, you can still be convicted of arson.

2nd Degree Arson

Arson 2nd degree is where a person

1.Willfully and maliciously,

2. Causes an explosion or sets fire to,

3. A building, structure, or property,

4. Resulting in damage to the property.

As with 1st degree arson, it doesn’t matter who the property belongs to and you can also be convicted if you aided, counseled, or procured a burning by helping someone else set the fire. 

The types of property covered by 2nd degree Arson include:

  • Dwelling houses,
  • Churches or places of worship,
  • Schools,
  • Manufacturing plants,
  • Warehouses,
  • Businesses,
  • Any institutional facilities,
  • Local and municipal buildings, or
  • Any structure that is designed for human occupancy.

The difference between 1st and 2nd degree arson is that no death or injury is required for a 2nd degree arson conviction, and the types of property that are covered by 2nd arson include only the first half of the list that is covered by 1st degree arson – the other types of properties that were covered by 1st degree Arson are covered by 3rd degree Arson.

3rd Degree Arson

Arson 3rd degree is where a person:

1. Willfully and maliciously,

2. Causes an explosion or sets fire to,

3. A building, structure, or property,

4. Resulting in damage to the property.

As with 1st or 2nd degree arson, it doesn’t matter who the property belongs to and you can also be convicted if you aided, counseled, or procured a burning by helping someone else set the fire. 

The types of property covered by 3rd degree arson include:

  • Any building or structure not covered by 2nd degree arson,
  • Railway cars,
  • Boats,
  • Ships,
  • Any type of watercraft,
  • Aircraft,
  • Automobiles or any type of motor vehicle, or
  • Personal property.

The difference between 3rd degree and 1st degree Arson comes down to whether a person was killed or injured, and the difference between 3rd degree and 2nd degree Arson is the type of property that was affected.

Arson Laws in SC: Potential Penalties

The chart below contains the range of potential penalties for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree arson in SC:

Charge Felony or Misdemeanor Potential Prison Sentence
1st Degree Arson Felony Mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years up to life in prison
2nd Degree Arson Felony Mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years and up to 25 years in prison
3rd Degree Arson Felony Up to 15 years in prison

 

Arson, along with Murder and Burglary 1st degree, is one of the most serious criminal charges in the state of South Carolina. Note that the potential penalties for Arson 1st Degree are exactly the same as those for Murder, which is 30 years to life.

Questions About Arson Laws in SC?

If you or your loved one has been charged with arson in South Carolina, get an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side immediately who will investigate your case, prepare your defense, and engage the right expert witnesses when appropriate. 

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

Ready To Speak With An Attorney?

Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.

How to Appeal a Felony Conviction

How to Appeal a Felony Conviction

The procedures for appeals in SC are complex and unforgiving – at every stage in the process, there are strict deadlines. If a deadline is missed, your appeal could be dismissed before the appellate court even hears your case, or you could be prohibited from even filing an appeal.

To make matters worse, there are different rules and procedures for different types of appeals in SC – the rules for appealing a felony conviction in General Sessions Court are different than the rules for appealing lower court convictions, civil judgments in Common Pleas Court, post-conviction relief (PCR) proceedings, or decisions in the Administrative Courts. 

In this article, you will learn:

  • How to appeal a felony conviction from General Sessions Court,
  • What a notice of appeal is,
  • What happens after you win or lose your appeal, and
  • What other options are available for post-conviction relief.

First, let’s take a look at the basic components of an appeal from SC’s General Sessions Court.

How to Appeal a Felony Conviction

In this article, we are specifically talking about criminal convictions in SC’s General Sessions Court – the procedure for misdemeanor convictions in SC’s General Sessions Court is the same as the procedure for how to appeal a felony conviction. 

What matters is that this process, which applies to any criminal conviction in General Sessions Court, is different than the process for misdemeanor appeals from the magistrate or municipal courts.

Deadline for Notice of Appeal

The first critical deadline that you have when filing any appeal is the Notice of Appeal. If you do not file your Notice of Appeal within the deadline, your appeal will be rejected by the appellate court and they will not hear your case.

Although there are some exceptions, your Notice of Appeal must be filed within ten days of the conviction or within ten days of receipt of the trial court’s ruling on any post-trial motions that have been filed (do not file the Notice of Appeal until after the trial court rules on post-trial motions).

Who Files the Notice of Appeal?

If you contact us immediately after your conviction, we may file the Notice of Appeal on your behalf. In most cases, however, your trial attorney (or plea attorney) will file the Notice of Appeal – they are required to file the Notice when you ask them, so make sure you are clear that you want to file a Notice of Appeal and put it in writing to your attorney if possible. 

The Notice of Appeal must be filed in both the Court of Appeals and the Court of General Sessions, and the Rules require that the Notice (as well as other filings) be submitted in a specific format and served on all parties to the case.

Other Deadlines in the Appeal Process

The time limit for the Notice of Appeal is only the first in a series of deadlines that must be met during the appeal process. Other deadlines, documents that must be filed, what must be included in them, and the format in which they must be filed, are outlined in the appellate court rules, including deadlines for:

  • Ordering the transcripts of all proceedings and notifying the appellate court,
  • Notification to the court when the transcripts are received,
  • Filing of the Initial Briefs,
  • Filing of the Designation of Matter to be included in the Record on Appeal,
  • Filing the Record on Appeal, and
  • Filing of the Final Briefs.

The Procedure for a Criminal Appeal from General Sessions Court

What is the procedure for a criminal appeal? Although the process may vary slightly from case to case, the basics include:

  • Filing the Notice of Appeal,
  • Ordering the transcripts from the trial and other court proceedings,
  • Review of the transcripts and other documents and researching the legal issues that we will raise with the appellate court,
  • Drafting the Initial Brief that outlines the legal issues and why the appellate court should reverse the conviction,
  • Review of the State’s Answer to your Initial Brief and researching, drafting, and filing a Reply when appropriate,
  • Compiling and filing the Record on Appeal,
  • Filing the Final Briefs, which should be identical to the Initial Briefs except the Final Briefs will contain the proper citations to the Record on Appeal,
  • Oral arguments (although the appellate may choose to decide the case without oral argument), and
  • Waiting….

When I Appeal a Felony Conviction How Long Does It Take?

An appeal from a criminal conviction will not be resolved quickly. It could take a year or more. If the case is appealed to higher courts or if other post-conviction remedies are pursued, it could take multiple years before you have a final answer.

There is no Rule that says how long the appellate court has to make their decision – once the briefs are filed and the case has been argued, we wait.

What Issues Can I Raise When I Appeal a Felony Conviction?

In your appellate briefs, you will outline specific issues for the Court that you believe were decided wrongly in the trial court (or plea court). But what issues can you raise in a criminal appeal? 

In a direct appeal, you can only raise errors of law made by the judge. If there are mistakes that were made by the defense attorney, they have to be raised in a separate PCR action (that is usually not filed until after the appeals are finished). 

A direct appeal – an appeal from the Circuit Court (General Sessions) to the Court of Appeals – can only raise issues that relate to mistakes made by the judge. 

For example, if your attorney makes a pretrial motion to suppress a bag of cocaine found in the trunk of your car because the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights during the search, and the trial court denies your attorney’s motion, that may be an error made by the judge that you can raise on direct appeal. 

Or, if your attorney objects to a state’s witness’ testimony about your prior convictions for murder, and the trial court overrules your attorney’s objection, that may be an error made by the judge that you can raise on direct appeal. 

In PCR, or post-conviction relief proceedings – a separate lawsuit that you would ordinarily file after your direct appeal has been denied or when there are no grounds for a direct appeal, you can raise issues that relate to your attorney’s performance (ineffective assistance of counsel). 

For example, if there were grounds to suppress the bag of cocaine found in the trunk of your car, but your attorney never made the motion, you cannot raise this on direct appeal. But you may be able to allege ineffective assistance of counsel in a PCR action later. 

Or, if a state’s witness testifies about your prior murder conviction, and your attorney does not object, you cannot raise this on direct appeal. But you may be able to allege ineffective assistance of counsel in a PCR action later.

Errors committed by the trial attorney are typically only raised in PCR proceedings (or habeas review in the federal court), while errors committed by the judge are raised on direct appeal.

What Happens After the Appeal?

What happens after the appeal? 

Win or lose, is it over? It might be, but not necessarily…

If You Win Your Appeal

If the Court of Appeals agrees with you that the trial court made a mistake, that does not automatically mean that your case is over. In most cases, it also does not mean that your charges are dismissed (although it could, if directed verdict should have been granted or if the trial court must now suppress key evidence in your case). 

Depending on the facts of your case, the next steps could be:

  • The state might appeal the Court of Appeals decision to the next-higher court, in which case the process will begin again in the SC Supreme Court. Or the state might choose not to appeal the Court of Appeals’ decision.
  • If the state does not appeal further, the case might be remanded (sent back to the trial court) for a new trial, which means you return to the county jail to await a second trial unless you are granted bond. You are back at square one, and any charges that the state dismissed in consideration of the guilty verdict or guilty plea may be reinstated as well.
  • If a directed verdict was an issue on appeal, the case could be remanded with instructions to grant a directed verdict – if this happens your case is over unless you have additional charges pending.
  • If suppression of evidence was an issue on appeal, the case could be remanded with instructions to suppress the evidence – if this happens your case might be over if the evidence suppressed was critical to the state’s case, or you may be facing a retrial where the jurors do not hear about the suppressed evidence or testimony.
  • If the only issue on appeal was sentencing, your case could be remanded for resentencing only.

What happens next depends on the issues that were raised on appeal, what the appellate court orders as relief, and whether the state chooses to appeal further to the SC Supreme Court.

If You Lose Your Appeal

If you lose your criminal appeal, that is also not necessarily the end of your case. You may have multiple options that include:

  • Asking the Court of Appeals to reconsider their decision when appropriate,
  • Appealing the Court of Appeals’ decision to the SC Supreme Court,
  • Filing a post-conviction relief (PCR) action in the Court of Common Pleas, and
  • Filing a habeas petition asking the federal court to review the state courts’ decision (although federal habeas has strict requirements which include “exhaustion” of all state remedies).

The bottom line is, win or lose, there is a real possibility that your case may not be over. And, even if you win, you may have to continue the fight in the trial court.

Questions About Criminal Appeals?

If you believe that you have grounds for an appeal from a felony conviction in SC, get an experienced criminal appeals attorney on your side immediately who can help you to navigate the complex rules of SC appellate procedure.

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

Ready To Speak With An Attorney?

Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.

Burglary vs. Robbery in SC: What You Need to Know

Burglary vs. Robbery in SC: What You Need to Know

Is there a difference between burglary and robbery charges in SC?

Burglary and robbery are two separate offenses, with different elements that the state must prove to get a conviction, different penalties, and different defenses that may be available at trial. 

In this article, you will learn:

  • The elements of robbery charges in SC,
  • The elements of burglary charges in SC,
  • The potential penalties for each charge, and
  • The difference between burglary and robbery charges.

First, let’s take a look at the offenses of strong-armed robbery and armed robbery in SC.

The Basics of Robbery Charges in SC

Robbery means to take someone else’s property by force or intimidation. If there is no force or intimidation, the offense is larceny (grand larceny or petit larceny, depending on the value of the property taken). 

There are two types of robbery charges under SC law – armed robbery and strong-armed (common law) robbery.

Strong-Armed Robbery

Strong-armed robbery charges are also referred to as “common law” robbery, because the offense is defined by case law instead of by statute, although there is a statute that makes the offense a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

So, what is strong-armed robbery? Essentially, it is a robbery where no weapon is used – the elements of the crime include:

  • A taking by either force or intimidation…
  • Of property…
  • That belongs to someone else.

Strong-armed robbery requires the use of either force or intimidation to accomplish the theft, but it does not involve the use of a deadly weapon. Strong-armed robbery is considered a “lesser-included offense” of armed robbery because it includes all the elements of armed robbery except the use of a deadly weapon.

Armed Robbery

For an armed robbery conviction, the state must prove all the elements of strong-armed robbery – that you took someone else’s property by force or intimidation – plus either the use of a deadly weapon or the use of a representation of a deadly weapon. 

The statute lists some examples of deadly weapons including:

  • Pistol,
  • Dirk (a type of knife),
  • Slingshot,
  • Metal knuckles, and
  • Razors.

This is not a complete list, though – any deadly weapon would qualify under the statute (rifle, shotgun, samurai sword, flamethrower…). 

What if you just pretend to have a weapon when you commit the robbery? 

If you put your hand in your jacket pocket and point with your finger so that it looks like you are pointing a gun at someone, for example, that would be a “representation of a deadly weapon” that qualified under SC’s armed robbery statute. 

On the other hand, if you just say you have a deadly weapon, that is not armed robbery unless you also make some kind of “physical representation” that you have a weapon (pointing your finger through a jacket or using a realistic toy gun). 

For example, in State v. Muldrow, the SC Supreme Court held that it was not armed robbery where a defendant handed a note to a clerk that said, “Give me all your cash or I’ll shoot you,” because there was no physical representation as required by the statute. In Muldrow, the defendant was still convicted of strong-armed robbery, but was not subject to the enhanced penalties of armed robbery.

What are the Penalties for Robbery in SC?

Armed Robbery is a felony offense, punishable by 10-30 years in prison – there is a mandatory minimum prison sentence of ten years and the least amount of time a person must serve even with all available credits at SCDC is seven years. 

Strong-armed robbery is also a felony, but it carries a maximum sentence of 15 years with no mandatory minimum sentence.

Offense Felony or Misdemeanor Potential Prison Time Mandatory Minimum 
Strong-armed robbery Felony 15 years None
Armed robbery Felony 30 years 10 years

 

The Basics of Burglary Charges in SC

Burglary charges are different from robbery charges in SC. For example, burglary charges do not require a taking of property or the use of force. Another difference is that, unlike robbery charges, burglary charges require entry into a home or building.

To convict a person of burglary in SC, the state must prove that the person:

1. entered a building or dwelling,

2. without consent, and

3. with the intent to commit a crime in the building or dwelling.

The burglary may be first, second, or third degree depending on whether it was a building or dwelling and whether the state can prove aggravating circumstances. 

Note that burglary in SC does not require forced entry – you could walk through an open door without permission and, if you intend to commit a crime inside (assault or theft, for example), that is burglary.

Burglary Third Degree

Third-degree burglary is where a person enters a building without consent, with the intent to commit a crime inside, and there are no aggravating circumstances.

What is a building? 

It could be any structure, vehicle, or watercraft where:

  • a person lives,
  • where people assemble,
  • or where goods are stored.

In most cases, burglary third-degree is charged where someone breaks into a storage building, a business, or another structure where people do not live and sleep.

Burglary Second Degree

There are two types of second-degree burglary in SC, that are defined in SC Code Sections 16-11-312 (A) and (B)

The first (A) is where a person enters a dwelling without consent, with the intent to commit a crime inside, and there are no aggravating circumstances. 

A dwelling means a place where people live or that is “normally used for sleeping, living, or lodging by a person.” 

The second, more serious type of second-degree burglary (B) is where a person enters a building without consent, with the intent to commit a crime inside, and there are aggravating circumstances. 

It is essentially a third-degree burglary charge that is enhanced to second-degree because the state can prove one of the following aggravating circumstances:

  • While entering, while inside, or while leaving, the defendant or a co-defendant was armed with a deadly weapon, caused physical injury to someone, used or threatened to use a deadly weapon, or displayed a knife or firearm;
  • The defendant has two or more prior convictions for burglary or housebreaking; or
  • The burglary happened in the nighttime.

Burglary First Degree

First-degree burglary can only be charged where someone enters a dwelling without consent and with the intent to commit a crime inside, and there are aggravating circumstances (see above). 

It is essentially a second-degree burglary charge that is enhanced to first-degree burglary because the state can prove one of the aggravating circumstances listed above. 

In summary:

  • Third-degree burglary involves a building. If there are aggravating circumstances, it becomes second-degree burglary (B);
  • Second-degree burglary involves a dwelling. If there are aggravating circumstances, it becomes first-degree burglary.

What are the potential penalties for a burglary conviction in SC?

Penalties for Burglary Charges in SC

The potential penalties for each type of burglary charge in SC are broken down in the chart below:

Offense Felony or Misdemeanor Potential Prison Time Mandatory Minimum
Burglary third degree Felony Five years or ten years for a second offense None
Burglary second degree (A) Felony Ten years None
Burglary second degree (B) Felony 15 years None
Burglary first degree Felony Life 15 years

 

There is a difference between robbery charges and burglary charges in SC, but, in either case, you are facing the likelihood of prison time and a possible mandatory minimum sentence if you are convicted.

Charged with Robbery or Burglary in SC?

Get an experienced SC criminal defense attorney on your side immediately who can investigate your case, find the evidence to prove your innocence when possible, negotiate with the state, and try your case to a jury when necessary. 

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

Ready To Speak With An Attorney?

Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.

Assault and Battery in SC: Charges and Penalties

Assault and Battery in SC: Charges and Penalties

When most people think of assault and battery charges, they picture someone punching another person. That’s definitely assault and battery, unless the punch was justified by something like self-defense, but did you know that assault and battery covers a much wider range of conduct? 

Depending on the allegations, assault and battery charges could result in a misdemeanor conviction that carries up to 30 days in jail, or a 20-year felony conviction if someone was seriously injured. 

How is assault and battery defined and what are the different degrees of assault and battery under SC law?

What is Assault and Battery?

To understand what assault and battery means under SC law, it helps to know the history of assault and battery charges. 

Although we call it “assault and battery” now, it used to be two separate charges – “assault” and “battery.” 

Assault means to threaten someone with harm with the present ability to carry out the threat. For example, if I draw back my fist as if to punch you in the face – and there is nothing stopping me from punching you in the face – I have committed an assault, even if I don’t follow through and no one is hurt. 

Battery is an unwanted touching – it could mean grabbing hold of someone, pinching someone as I walk by their desk at work if they do not want to be touched, or, as in the above example, it could mean my fist connecting with someone’s face as I punch them.

Under SC law today, the separate offenses of “assault” and “battery” have been combined into the single offense of “assault and battery,” which, in most cases, covers either 1) threatening harm, 2) causing harm (or an unwanted touching), or both.

Examples of Assault and Battery

Many offenses that are assault, battery, or both may also be charged as a separate offense (for example, pointing and presenting a firearm or attempted murder), but, for purposes of illustration, let’s look at the actions that could be considered assault and battery.

Assault could include:

  • Threatening to hurt someone (with the intent to follow through and the present ability to do it),
  • Pointing a gun at someone,
  • Throwing something at someone (even if it doesn’t hit them),
  • Raising your fist or swinging at someone, or
  • Spitting at someone.

Battery could include:

  • Punching a person or striking them with an object or weapon,
  • Shooting a person with a gun,
  • Slapping, pushing, pinching, or kicking someone,
  • Touching a person sexually without their permission, or
  • Touching a person in any way that is unwanted.

Under SC law today, however, assault and battery have been combined into a single criminal offense. What are the specific acts that SC assault and battery laws prohibit?

What are the Different Types of Assault and Battery in SC?

Assault and battery laws in SC are divided into three degrees – first, second, and third degree – and the most serious charge of ABHAN, or assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. 

Note that there are other related charges that may result in even more severe penalties, such as murder, attempted murder, or sexual assault charges.

Third-Degree Assault and Battery

Assault and battery third degree is the simplest form of assault and battery charges in SC with the least severe penalty. It essentially combines the former common law assault and common law battery offenses into one charge – for a conviction, the state must prove either:

  • You injured another person, or
  • You threatened to injure another person.

Third-degree assault and battery covers minor injuries like bruises, cuts, scrapes, or burns that do not require extensive medical care, while more serious injuries would result in a person being charged with a second- or third- degree assault and battery. 

It is a misdemeanor offense, ordinarily heard in the magistrate or municipal court, that carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 days in jail.

Second-Degree Assault and Battery

Assault and battery second degree is when you either 1) injure someone or 2) threaten to injure someone and:

  • Moderate bodily injury resulted or could have resulted, or
  • It involved touching a person’s private parts, whether or not the person was injured.

“Moderate bodily injury” means the person lost consciousness, there was temporary disfigurement or loss of a bodily member or organ, the injury required the use of anesthesia during treatment, or it resulted in a fracture or dislocation. 

Second-degree assault and battery is a misdemeanor offense, heard in the General Sessions Court, that carries up to three years in prison.

First-Degree Assault and Battery

Assault and battery first degree is a bit more complicated – it could mean injuring someone or threatening someone, depending on the conduct. 

If the alleged victim is injured (battery only), assault and battery first degree covers:

  • Touching someone’s private parts without consent and with lewd intent (note that you can be convicted of second-degree assault and battery even if there is no lewd intent), or
  • Injuring someone during the commission of a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft.

If you threaten or attempt to injure someone (assault only), assault and battery first degree covers situations where:

  • The assault would have caused great bodily injury or death, or
  • The threat or attempt to injure was made during the commission of a robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or theft.

“Great bodily injury” means that there was a substantial risk of death or the attack caused “serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.” 

First-degree assault and battery is a felony offense, heard in the General Sessions Court, that carries up to ten years in prison.

ABHAN – Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature

While assault and battery first degree covers threats or attempts to injure someone that would have resulted in great bodily injury, ABHAN covers situations where the alleged victim is actually injured (battery only) and either:

  • Great bodily injury resulted, or
  • The attack was likely to cause death or great bodily injury, even if it did not.

Assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature is a felony, heard in General Sessions Court, that carries up to 20 years in prison.

A Few More Examples

Let’s look at a few more examples of assault and battery offenses, with the statutory language in mind this time:

  • I point a gun at someone: first-degree assault and battery, because I threatened them and, if I had followed through, the attack is likely to have caused great bodily injury or death.
  • I shoot someone, but the bullet hits their foot and does not kill them: ABHAN, because the attack was likely to cause death or great bodily injury, even though it did not.
  • I punch someone, knock them out, and break their nose: second-degree assault and battery, because I caused moderate bodily injury.
  • I punch someone, causing permanent damage to their eye and loss of vision: first-degree assault and battery, because I caused great bodily injury.
  • I slap someone, causing a bruise on their cheek: third-degree assault and battery.
  • I slap a convenience store clerk as I am robbing him, causing a bruise on his cheek: first-degree assault and battery, because it happened during the commission of a robbery.

As you can see, SC’s assault and battery laws are complex and cover a wide range of conduct. The details of how the alleged assault or battery happened and what type of injuries resulted can make a difference, even if there is a conviction, because each assault and battery offense is a lesser-included offense of the level above it, and ABHAN is a lesser-included offense of attempted murder. 

This means that, if a jury finds that the facts are not as serious as the prosecutor has claimed – the injuries were not as severe, there was no robbery or burglary, the intent was not lewd and lascivious – then the potential prison sentence for the charged offense could be reduced significantly.

Charged with Assault and Battery in SC?

Get an experienced SC assault and battery defense attorney on your side immediately who can investigate your case, find the evidence to prove your innocence when possible, negotiate with the state, and try your case to a jury when necessary. 

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

Ready To Speak With An Attorney?

Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.

Criminal Sexual Conduct in SC: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Degree

Criminal Sexual Conduct in SC: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Degree

Criminal sexual conduct in SC, also called CSC or rape, is among the most serious criminal charges in our state and can carry as much as 30 years in prison if a person is convicted. 

Whether a person is convicted and how long their potential sentence could be depends on many different factors – the severity of the charges can also turn on the definitions of legal terms like “sexual battery,” “mental incapacitation,” “aggravated force,” or “aggravated coercion.” 

In this article you will learn:

  • The different degrees of criminal sexual conduct in SC, 
  • Some definitions of key terms that could decide the outcome of a CSC case, and 
  • The potential penalties for a rape conviction in SC. 

What is Criminal Sexual Conduct in SC? 

Criminal sexual conduct (aka CSC or rape) is separated into 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree charges depending on the seriousness of the allegations. 

All CSC charges require the commission of a sexual battery, but the degree of the charge depends on how the sexual battery was committed. 

Three Degrees of Criminal Sexual Conduct

CSC 1st Degree

First-degree criminal sexual conduct is the most serious type of rape allegation in SC. Under SC Code Section 16-3-652, a person can be convicted of CSC 1st degree if they commit a sexual battery and:

1. The person used aggravated force,

2. The alleged victim was also the victim of kidnapping, forced confinement, human trafficking, robbery, burglary, extortion, or a similar offense, or

3. The person caused the alleged victim to become mentally incapacitated or physically helpless by giving them alcohol or drugs. 

SC Code Section 16-3-651 defines some of the terms that could make the difference between a conviction for CSC 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree:

  • Sexual battery means “sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person’s body,” excluding medical procedures.
  • Aggravated force means “physical force or physical violence of a high and aggravated nature” or threats to use a deadly weapon. 
  • Mentally incapacitated means a person is “temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling his or her conduct” and includes incapacitation by drugs or alcohol. 
  • Physically helpless means someone “is unconscious, asleep, or for any other reason physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.” 

These are very specific meanings for legal “terms of art” that apply in rape cases. For example, “physically helpless” does not mean “unable to defend yourself.” It means “unable to say ‘no’ due to your physical condition.” 

Note that the third type of CSC 1st degree only applies when the accused causes the alleged victim to become mentally incapacitated, for example by giving them alcohol or drugs, whereas the second type of CSC 3rd degree (below) applies whether or not the accused provided the alcohol or drugs. 

CSC 2nd Degree

Second-degree criminal sexual conduct, or CSC 2nd, is when a person commits a sexual battery using aggravated coercion

Unlike the first type of CSC we discussed, 1st degree, which requires the use of aggravated force, you can be convicted of CSC 2nd degree simply by threatening to use “force or violence of a high and aggravated nature” or even by threatening to retaliate against the alleged victim in the future

CSC 3rd Degree

Third-degree criminal sexual conduct, or CSC 3rd, involves commission of a sexual battery and:

1. Force or coercion was used, or

2. The alleged victim was “mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless and aggravated force or aggravated coercion was not used to accomplish sexual battery.”

Force or coercion means physical force or the threat of force where the force used or threatened was not “of a high and aggravated nature” and did not involve the use of a deadly weapon. 

Mentally defective means that the alleged victim “suffers from a mental disease or defect which renders the person temporarily or permanently incapable of appraising the nature of his or her conduct.” In other words, they were incapable of giving consent due to their mental state. 

CSC with a Minor is a Separate Offense

If a person is charged with criminal sexual conduct against an alleged victim who is younger than 16, they are charged with the separate offense of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, which has different elements that must be proven and carries different potential penalties than adult rape charges.  

What are the Penalties for Rape in SC?

All CSC charges in SC are felony offenses, and the potential penalties range from ten years to as much as 30 years in prison:

Charges Felony or Misdemeanor Maximum Prison Term
CSC 3rd degree Felony Ten years
CSC 2nd degree Felony 20 years
CSC 1st degree Felony 30 years

 

In addition to the potential prison sentence, there are other collateral consequences to a rape conviction in SC, which could include:

  • Sex offender registration,
  • GPS monitoring, 
  • Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) classification (which could result in indefinite civil commitment at the SC Department of Corrections), 
  • A permanent record as a sex offender, 
  • Difficulty finding meaningful employment, and
  • The stigma of being labeled a sex offender. 

Defenses to CSC in SC

How do you defend against allegations of rape? 

The answer depends on the facts of your case, but the most common defense is consent – if the alleged victim consented to have sex, there was no rape. Even in cases where an alleged victim is severely intoxicated or “mentally defective,” it comes down to whether they were capable of giving consent.  

It is a fact that many women (and men) are raped every day in our country. Some report the rape to the police but many do not. It is also a fact that many women (and men) falsely report rape – an allegation that can destroy a person’s reputation and follow them for the rest of their life even if they are not convicted. 

In far too many cases, an alleged victim has consensual sex – consensual until they are confronted with the reality of an angry boyfriend or suspicious family members. “Buyer’s remorse” has caused many innocent people to lose their freedom, their jobs, their families, and their reputations as they were forced to defend against false rape allegations. 

Charged with CSC in SC? 

Get an experienced CSC defense attorney on your side immediately who can investigate your case, find the evidence to prove your innocence when possible, negotiate with the state, and try your case to a jury when necessary. 

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you. 

Ready To Speak With An Attorney?

Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.