What’s the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony in South Carolina?

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you may have been informed that it’s either a misdemeanor or felony. The differences between these two broad categories of crimes are substantial. Being charged and convicted of any crime in South Carolina will have consequences that will negatively impact your life.

You will need experienced legal counsel to protect your rights and freedom. Criminal defense attorney Erika Baldwin is ready to serve you.

Understanding Misdemeanor Charges

In general, misdemeanors are less serious than felonies. But contrary to popular belief, they can lead to jail time and should therefore not be taken lightly.

Depending on the misdemeanor, a conviction in South Carolina can land a person in jail for up to three years. You could also be facing a criminal fine of up to $5,000. The punishments don’t necessarily end there and may also include:

  • Paying restitution to the victim
  • Community service
  • Required counseling, e.g. anger management
  • Loss of licensing privileges such as a driver’s license

There are four types of misdemeanors in South Carolina: Class A misdemeanors, Class B misdemeanors, Class C misdemeanors, and Exempt misdemeanors.

Class A Misdemeanors

These are punishable by up to three years in jail plus a fine of up to $3,000. Examples include:

  • Shoplifting (first offense)
  • Receiving stolen goods of a certain value
  • Trespassing at a domestic violence shelter
  • Second-degree assault and battery

Class B Misdemeanors

Being convicted of a Class B misdemeanor can lead to 2 years in jail and a $5,000 fine. The following are examples:

  • Possession of a controlled substance (first offense)
  • Using a firearm while intoxicated
  • Animal cruelty, third or subsequent offense

Class C Misdemeanors

You could be sent to jail for a year and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. These are a few examples of Class C misdemeanors:

  • Unlawful operation of a gaming device
  • Assault with a concealed weapon
  • Stealing cable television
  • Prostitution (third or subsequent offenses)

Exempt Misdemeanors

Exempt misdemeanors don’t fall under the above classes, and a conviction can result in under 12 months in jail. However, the fines could be substantial. Included in this category are:

  • Alcohol possession by someone under age 21
  • Marijuana possession
  • Child endangerment
  • Failing to register as a sex offender
  • Unlawfully passing a stopped school bus and causing great bodily injury

Felonies are serious crimes like murder

What Is a Felony in South Carolina?

A felony conviction is usually reserved for far more serious crimes, and it therefore typically carries a harsher criminal penalty. The fine could be upwards of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Additional punishments may include:

  • Losing the right to vote
  • Losing the right to possess a firearm
  • For certain sex crimes, being required to register as a sex offender

There are six levels of felonies in South Carolina.

Class A Felony

If convicted of a Class A felony, a defendant faces up to 30 years in prison. Some examples are:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Carjacking with great bodily injury
  • Robbery using a deadly weapon
  • Bank robbery

Class B Felony

You may be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for these crimes:

  • Second-degree arson
  • Money laundering
  • Drug trafficking
  • DWI that results in a death
  • Failure to stop after a fatal car accident

Class C Felony

Up to 20 years in prison is possible for these offenses:

  • Aggravated assault and battery
  • Inflicting great bodily injury to a child
  • Robbing a person at an ATM
  • Sexual exploitation of a minor

Class D Felony

A Class D felony can lead to a 15-year prison sentence. These are a few examples:

  • Abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult that results in great bodily injury
  • Stalking within 10 years of a conviction of harassment or stalking
  • Second-degree burglary
  • Common law (also known as “strong arm”) robbery

Class E Felony

A conviction may result in up to 10 years in prison for:

  • First-degree assault and battery
  • Spousal sexual battery
  • Malicious injury to animals, personal property, or real property
  • Receiving stolen goods
  • Blackmail
  • Bribing a public official

Class F Felony

  • Finally, a Class F felony can result in up to 5 years in prison. Examples include:
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Stalking
  • Voyeurism (second or subsequent offense)
  • Grand larceny (value over $2,000 and up to $10,000)
  • Filing a false tax return

A Strong Legal Defense Can Help You Avoid the Most Serious Penalties

Remember, being charged with a crime isn’t the same as being convicted of one. It’s possible to beat the charges or have them reduced in a plea bargain. Many factors beyond the charges themselves will affect the outcome of your case, including the strength of your legal defense.

If you have been arrested in the Upstate area, call Greenville defense attorney Erika Baldwin today.

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