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South Carolina Criminal Law: An Overview

Whether you’ve committed a petty, non-criminal offense like a traffic violation or a more serious kidnapping offense, you could benefit from learning a thing or two from South Carolina’s criminal laws. You can learn about the extent of your penalties and your rights as a criminal, especially with the aid of a criminal defense attorney.

Use LawInfo’s criminal law articles to help educate yourself about South Carolina’s laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with a South Carolina criminal law attorney in Charleston, Columbia, Mount Pleasant or elsewhere in the state.

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Manslaughter in South Carolina

Manslaughter is homicide without express or implied malice and is often called an accidental killing. It’s a less severely penalized homicide offense compared to murder, which can result in either lifetime imprisonment or capital punishment (i.e. the death penalty). However, the severity of the penalty for manslaughter is gauged by whether it was voluntary or involuntary.

Involuntary manslaughter is differentiated from voluntary manslaughter (which is just called manslaughter in South Carolina) by criminal negligence. A criminally negligent homicide is when the offender’s reckless behavior with a disregard for others’ safety causes the death of another person. The penalty for a criminally negligent involuntary manslaughter is up to five years of imprisonment. (See South Carolina Code of Laws Unannotated § 16-3-60.)

A manslaughter (voluntary) offense is distinguished as an accidental homicide resulting from an extreme emotional provocation. This is usually called a “heat of passion” killing, an example of which is when a spouse kills another person who was in an affair with their partner in a fit of sudden rage. Manslaughter is penalized with between two and 30 years of imprisonment. (See § 16-3-50.)

Crime Classifications in South Carolina

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. South Carolina has two main criminal offense classifications, in order of seriousness: felonies and misdemeanors.

Both of the main criminal classifications are further sub-classified based on specific ranges of imprisonment penalties. Felonies and misdemeanors are sub-classified as and penalized with imprisonment of up to:

  • Class A felonies—30 years or life imprisonment without parole for the most serious offenses, such as aggravated murder.
  • Class B felonies—25 years.
  • Class C felonies—20 years.
  • Class D felonies—15 years.
  • Class E felonies—10 years.
  • Class F felonies—Five years.
  • Class A misdemeanors—Three years.
  • Class B misdemeanors—Two years.
  • Class C misdemeanors—One year.

South Carolina Miranda Warning

In South Carolina, you can be held accountable for what you say in the presence of law enforcement officers. However, you possess the right to abstain from self-incrimination and to legal representation by an attorney. This is called your Miranda rights, which are best known and illustrated by the Miranda Warning.

You would likely recognize the Miranda Warning from hearing it on TV and in movies when the police arrest a criminal suspect. It’s a real warning that law enforcement officers are required to recite to you when you are being arrested for a formal interrogation:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Law enforcement officers are not required to recite the Miranda Warning anytime they ask you questions outside of a formal interrogation, however, so be careful of what you say.