Weapons charges in South Carolina cover a broad range of criminal offenses based on the unlawful possession or unlawful use of firearms.
If you are a gun owner, you should know South Carolina’s gun laws – even a simple mistake involving carrying a firearm in the wrong manner or firing it in the wrong place could result in weapons charges, potential jail time, and the loss of your right to own and carry a firearm.
Below, we will cover some of the more common weapons charges that we see in South Carolina, including:
- Unlawful carry – carrying or storing your firearm in the wrong place,
- Unlawful possession – possession of a firearm by someone who is prohibited,
- Pointing or presenting – just showing your firearm in a threatening manner can be a crime, and
- Discharging a firearm at or into a home or vehicle.
Criminal Weapons Charges in South Carolina
When and where can you carry a handgun in South Carolina? When and where can you shoot your handgun in South Carolina?
There are very specific laws regarding the answers to these questions. Keep reading to find out what you can’t do.
South Carolina Weapons Charges: Unlawful Carry and Unlawful Possession
As a starting point, it is a crime in South Carolina to carry a handgun, whether it is concealed or openly carried, unless you fall within one of the statutory exceptions.
What are the exceptions?
Unlawful Carry Charges in South Carolina
SC Code Section 16-23-20 lists the circumstances when someone can carry a handgun in South Carolina, including:
- Law enforcement officers when they are carrying out their official duties,
- Members of the armed forces when they are on duty,
- Members of gun clubs and their guests when authorized by law to purchase or receive firearms for the purpose of target shooting or gun collecting when they are at or traveling to or from target practice, shows, or exhibits,
- Licensed hunters or fisherman while hunting or fishing or while traveling to or from the place where they are hunting or fishing,
- Persons “regularly engaged in the business of manufacturing, repairing, repossessing, or dealing in firearms” when they are “possessing, using, or carrying a handgun in the usual or ordinary course of the business,”
- Guards who are authorized by law to carry handguns while protecting US government property,
- Military or civil organizations while parading or traveling to and from meeting places, and
- Prison guards while on duty.
Can you carry a handgun in your home?
You can possess or carry a handgun in your home, on your property, or on someone else’s property if you have the property owner’s permission.
Can you carry a handgun in your car?
You can have a handgun in your car, but, if you do not have a concealed weapon permit (CWP), the handgun must be in a:
- Closed glove compartment,
- Closed console,
- Closed trunk, or
- Closed and secured container in the luggage compartment.
To simplify things even further, the handgun MUST be in a latched container unless you have a CWP.
You are also allowed to carry a handgun from your vehicle to another place where it is legal to have it, like your home, a firing range, or your business.
Can you carry a handgun on your motorcycle?
You can carry your handgun on a motorcycle if it is secured in the saddlebags or another closed accessory container attached to the motorcycle.
What if I have a concealed weapon permit?
If you have a CWP, you can carry a firearm, whether concealed or openly carried (see South Carolina’s Open Carry with Training Act that went into effect August 15, 2021), in all locations that are not otherwise prohibited by South Carolina law.
In a vehicle, your CWP also allows you to secure your weapon under a seat or in any open or closed container in the passenger compartment.
What are the Penalties for Unlawful Carry?
SC Code Section 16-23-50(A)(2) makes unlawful carry a misdemeanor punishable by one year in prison and/or a fine of up to one thousand dollars.
Unlawful Possession of a Handgun
Weapons charges in South Carolina include the possession of a handgun by someone who is prohibited, and it is also a crime to “knowingly sell, offer to sell, deliver, lease, rent, barter, exchange, or transport for sale into this State” a handgun to a prohibited person.
This includes anyone who:
- Has been convicted of a crime of violence,
- Is a fugitive from justice,
- Is a habitual drunkard, drug addict, or has been “adjudicated mentally incompetent,”
- Is a member of a subversive organization,
- Is under the age of eighteen (but this does not apply to minors under the supervision of a parent or adult instructor), or
- Has been declared unfit to carry a firearm by order of a circuit court judge or county court judge.
Unlawful possession weapons charges also apply to the possession of guns “from which the original serial number has been removed or obliterated.”
Unlawful possession of a weapon in South Carolina is a felony that carries up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to two thousand dollars.
South Carolina Weapons Charges: Pointing or Presenting and Illegal Discharge
There are several other weapons charges in South Carolina – two of the more common charges we see are pointing and presenting and illegal discharge (or drive-by shooting).
Pointing or Presenting Charges in South Carolina
SC Code Section 16-23-410 states if you “present” (display) a firearm to someone, or if you point a firearm at someone, it is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine at the court’s discretion.
It doesn’t matter if the firearm is loaded or unloaded, but you cannot be convicted of pointing or presenting if you were acting in self defense or if you were pointing or presenting the firearm as part of a theatrical performance. However, that does not mean you cannot be charged for such.
The South Carolina law that covers “drive-by shootings,” SC Code Section 16-23-440(A), makes it a crime to fire a gun (or cause the gun to be fired) at or into:
- A “dwelling house, other building, structure, or enclosure regularly occupied by persons,” or
- A “vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or other conveyance, device, or equipment while it is occupied.”
In either case, illegal discharge of a firearm is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and/or a fine of up to one thousand dollars.
Questions About Weapons Charges in South Carolina?
If you own a firearm, make sure you know the gun laws in South Carolina. And, if you have been charged with a weapons charge in South Carolina, get an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side immediately who can begin preparing your defense, work to get your case dismissed, negotiate on your behalf, 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.
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