Punishments for sex crimes are typically harsh in South Carolina, with some of these offenses carrying sentences on par with those given for crimes like manslaughter or attempted murder. However, “sex crimes” is a broad term that could refer to a misdemeanor or a felony, including anything from indecent exposure to bigamy to rape.
Under South Carolina law, sex crimes are grouped together as “Offenses Against Morality and Decency.” They include:
- Criminal sexual conduct — This crime involves an instance of sexual battery without the victim’s consent, or in which the victim was coerced or forced. Criminal sexual conduct can be a first, second or third-degree felony, depending on the circumstances of the crime. An offender found guilty of a first-degree offense may be sentenced to as long as 30 years in prison.
- Criminal sexual conduct with a minor — A minor must be at least 16 years old to be able to legally consent to sex in South Carolina. An adult who commits or attempts to commit a lewd or lascivious act, or sexual battery, upon a minor can be charged with this crime. Sexual battery of a child under the age of 11 can draw a minimum 25-year prison sentence.
- Sexual exploitation of a minor — Anyone who produces a visual representation of a minor involved in sexual activity, or who permits or encourages a minor to engage in sexual activity for a live performance or visual representation, can be charged with this first degree felony. Sharing or trying to obtain child pornography online is a second-degree felony. Possessing any visual representation depicting a minor engaged in sexual activity is a third-degree felony. A conviction for a single count of sexual exploitation of a minor can result in a lengthy prison sentence.
- Prostitution — It is illegal to engage in prostitution on either side, whether as a sex worker or customer. Prostitution is a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction for a first offense can result in a fine of up to $200 and a prison sentence of up to 30 days. Repeat offenders face harsher consequences.
- Indecent exposure — This Class A misdemeanor charge applies when a person willfully and maliciously exposes his body in a public place, on the property of others, or on his own property to the view of any person on any street or highway. An offender may face a fine and up to three years in prison.
The harsh punishments that can be imposed for violations underscore South Carolina’s zero-tolerance attitude toward sex-related offenses. An allegation of any of these crimes must be met with a well-prepared and skillful defense.
Jack B. Swerling, Attorney at Law fights vigorously on behalf of individuals who have been accused of committing sex crimes. If you or a loved one faces charges in South Carolina, call our Columbia office at 800-701-0599 or contact us online.