Understanding Unlawful Carry of a Firearm SC

If you find yourself facing charges related to unlawful carrying of a firearm in South Carolina, understanding the legal implications and your rights is crucial. Both state and federal law govern the possession and carrying of firearms in South Carolina. South Carolina has specific laws governing the possession and carrying of firearms, and violations can lead to serious consequences.

Whether you’re a resident or visitor, navigating the complexities of firearm laws is daunting without proper guidance. This blog aims to provide clarity on what constitutes unlawful carry, the potential penalties involved, and essential steps to take if you’re charged. By knowing your rights and legal options, you can make informed decisions to protect your interests during this challenging time. Understanding these legal implications can also affect prosecution pursuant to state and federal laws.

Unlawful Firearm Sitting

What Constitutes Unlawful Carry and Possession

In South Carolina, understanding what constitutes unlawful carry of a firearm is crucial for anyone facing charges or seeking to avoid legal pitfalls. According to state law, it is illegal to carry a handgun openly or concealed without a valid concealed weapons permit.

This applies to both residents and non-residents alike, and specific legal provisions related to concealed weapon permits are outlined in Article 4, Chapter 31, Title 23. Additionally, carrying a firearm in certain prohibited locations, such as schools, government buildings, and establishments serving alcohol, can lead to charges of unlawful carry.

Carrying a handgun is allowed if the person has a valid concealed weapon permit pursuant to the provisions of Article 4, Chapter 31, Title 23.

South Carolina law also mandates that firearms must be transported properly in vehicles. Failure to adhere to these regulations, including not securing a firearm in a closed compartment or a locked container, may result in charges.

Furthermore, individuals convicted of certain crimes or subject to restraining orders are prohibited from possessing firearms under federal and state laws. Being unaware of these restrictions does not exempt one from legal consequences.

Navigating the nuances of firearm possession laws in South Carolina can be challenging without legal guidance. Whether you’re facing charges or seeking to understand your rights, consulting with a knowledgeable attorney is essential to ensure you receive proper counsel and protection under the law.

Types of Firearm Offenses in South Carolina

Facing charges related to firearms in South Carolina can be daunting due to the various types of offenses defined under state law. Understanding these offenses is crucial for anyone involved in a legal matter concerning firearms. Here are some common types of firearms offenses in South Carolina:

  1. Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun: It is illegal to carry a handgun openly or concealed without a valid permit in South Carolina. However, regular, salaried law enforcement officers, reserve police officers, and retired commissioned law enforcement officers are exceptions to this rule. Violations can result in misdemeanor charges for first offenses, escalating to felony charges for subsequent violations or under certain circumstances.
  2. Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon: Individuals convicted of a felony in South Carolina are prohibited from possessing firearms unless their rights have been legally restored. A person convicted of certain crimes is prohibited from possessing firearms under both state and federal laws. Individuals convicted of a violent crime are prohibited from possessing firearms under both state and federal laws. Possessing a firearm as a convicted felon can result in serious felony charges.
  3. Carrying a Firearm in Prohibited Places: South Carolina law prohibits carrying firearms in certain locations, such as schools, government buildings, and establishments that serve alcohol. Violations of these restrictions can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the circumstances.
  4. Improper Transportation of Firearms: Firearms transported in vehicles in South Carolina must be secured in a closed compartment or a locked container. Failing to transport firearms properly can result in charges of unlawful carrying or improper storage.
  5. Illegal Possession of a Firearm by Minors: Minors under the age of 18 are generally prohibited from possessing firearms in South Carolina, except under specific circumstances such as supervised use during lawful activities like hunting. Unlawful possession of firearms by minors can lead to severe penalties.

Navigating these firearms offenses requires a clear understanding of South Carolina’s laws and potential consequences. If you are facing charges related to firearms, seeking legal counsel from an experienced attorney is essential to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

Kid with firearm

Penalties for Unlawful Carry

If you are charged with unlawful carry of a firearm in South Carolina, it is important to understand the potential penalties you may face. The consequences of a conviction can be severe and may have long-lasting effects on your life.

Misdemeanor Penalties

For first-time offenders, unlawful carrying of a handgun without a permit is typically classified as a misdemeanor. The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction can include:

  • Fines: You may be required to pay a fine, which can range up to $1,000.
  • Jail Time: A misdemeanor conviction can result in a jail sentence of up to one year.
  • Probation: Instead of or in addition to jail time, the court may impose a probation period during which you must comply with certain conditions.

In addition to fines and jail time, confiscated firearms may be forfeited as part of the penalties.

Felony Penalties

Certain circumstances can elevate the charge to a felony, such as repeated offenses or carrying a firearm in a prohibited location. The penalties for a felony conviction are more severe and can include:

  • Higher Fines: Felony convictions may result in significantly higher fines, often exceeding $1,000.
  • Lengthy Prison Sentences: Felony charges can lead to prison sentences ranging from one to five years or more, depending on the specifics of the case.
  • Probation and Parole: Extended probation or parole periods may be imposed, requiring strict compliance with various conditions.

Additionally, felony convictions can result in the confiscation of firearms involved in the offense.

Additional Consequences

Beyond the immediate legal penalties, a conviction for unlawful carry of a firearm can have other far-reaching consequences:

  • Criminal Record: A conviction will result in a permanent criminal record, which can impact your employment opportunities, housing applications, and more.
  • Loss of Firearm Rights: Convicted felons are generally prohibited from owning or possessing firearms, which can severely restrict your Second Amendment rights.
  • Impact on Reputation: A criminal conviction can harm your personal and professional reputation, affecting relationships and future prospects.

Aggravating Factors

Several factors can aggravate the penalties for unlawful carry, including:

  • Previous Convictions: A history of prior offenses can lead to harsher sentencing.
  • Use of Firearm in a Crime: If the firearm was used in the commission of another crime, additional charges and penalties may apply.
  • Location of the Offense: Carrying a firearm in sensitive locations like schools or government buildings can result in more severe penalties.

Mitigating Factors

On the other hand, certain mitigating factors may help reduce the penalties, such as:

  • Lack of Prior Criminal History: A clean record may result in more lenient sentencing.
  • Cooperation with Law Enforcement: Demonstrating cooperation and remorse can sometimes lead to reduced charges or lighter penalties.

If you are facing charges for unlawful carry, it is critical to seek the advice and representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you understand your rights, explore possible defenses, and work to mitigate the penalties you may face.

Arrest After Illegal Firearm

Legal Defense for Unlawful Carry Charges

Being charged with unlawful carry of a firearm in South Carolina can be a daunting experience. However, it’s important to remember that being charged does not automatically mean you will be convicted. There are several legal defenses that may be available to you, depending on the circumstances of your case. Here are some common defenses that an experienced attorney might explore:

Invalid Search and Seizure

Law enforcement agencies must follow strict protocols during searches and seizures to ensure the evidence is admissible in court. Each law enforcement agency is responsible for adhering to these guidelines to maintain the integrity of the legal process.

Lack of Knowledge or Intent

One possible defense is to demonstrate that you were unaware that you were carrying the firearm or that you did not intend to carry it unlawfully. For instance, if the firearm belonged to someone else and you were unaware of its presence, this might be used as a defense.

Invalid Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the firearm was discovered as a result of an illegal search, your attorney might be able to argue that the evidence should be excluded from the case. This could occur if law enforcement did not have a valid warrant or probable cause to search you or your property.

Possession of a Valid Concealed Weapon Permit

If you have a valid concealed carry permit, you may legally carry a firearm in South Carolina. If you were charged despite having a permit, providing proof of your permit can be a strong defense. Additionally, if your permit was expired but you were in the process of renewing it, this might also be considered.

Transportation Exception

South Carolina law allows for the transportation of firearms under specific conditions, such as when the firearm is secured in a closed glove compartment, console, trunk, or in a closed container in the luggage compartment. If you were transporting the firearm in compliance with these regulations, this could be a valid defense.


In situations where you were carrying a firearm for self-defense, particularly if you were under immediate threat, this might be a viable defense. South Carolina recognizes the right to self-defense, and your attorney can argue that carrying the firearm was necessary for your protection.

Mistake of Fact

If there was a genuine and reasonable mistake of fact, such as believing you had the right to carry the firearm in a certain location, this could be used as a defense. For example, if you mistakenly believed that you were allowed to carry your firearm in a public building that was actually restricted, this might mitigate the charges.

Constitutional Challenges

In some cases, your attorney might challenge the constitutionality of the laws under which you are charged. This is a complex and less common defense, but it can be relevant in certain circumstances, especially if there have been recent changes in firearm legislation or interpretations by higher courts.

Negotiating Lesser Charges

If the evidence against you is strong, your attorney may negotiate with the prosecution to reduce the charges or penalties. This can result in lesser charges, such as a misdemeanor instead of a felony, or reduced fines and probation instead of jail time.


Steps to Take if Charged with Unlawful Carry

Being charged with unlawful carry of a firearm in South Carolina is a serious matter that requires prompt and informed action. Here are the steps you should take to protect your rights and build a strong defense:

1. Remain Calm and Compliant

When approached by law enforcement officers, it is crucial to remain calm and compliant. Avoid making any sudden movements or statements that could be misinterpreted. Complying with the officer’s instructions can help prevent the situation from escalating.

2. Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

You have the right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. Exercise this right to avoid inadvertently saying anything that could be used against you in court. Politely inform the officers that you wish to remain silent until you have legal representation.

3. Request Legal Representation

Immediately request to speak with an attorney. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can provide you with essential guidance on how to proceed. Do not answer any questions or sign any documents until you have consulted with your attorney.

4. Document the Incident

As soon as possible, write down everything you remember about the incident. Include details such as the time, location, and interactions with law enforcement. This information can be valuable for your attorney when building your defense.

5. Gather Evidence

Collect any evidence that may support your case. This could include photographs, video recordings, witness contact information, and any relevant documents, such as a concealed carry permit if applicable. Ensure this evidence is safely stored and shared with your attorney.

6. Avoid Discussing the Case

Do not discuss the details of your case with anyone other than your attorney. This includes friends, family, and especially social media. Anything you say or post could potentially be used against you in court.

7. Attend All Court Appearances

It is crucial to attend all scheduled court appearances. Failing to do so can result in additional charges and penalties. Your attorney will guide you on what to expect and how to prepare for each appearance.

8. Follow Your Attorney’s Advice

Your attorney is your best resource during this time. Follow their advice closely, whether it pertains to gathering additional evidence, behavior in court, or any other aspect of your case. Their expertise is vital in navigating the legal process and achieving the best possible outcome.

9. Explore Legal Defenses

Work with your attorney to explore all possible legal defenses. Depending on the circumstances, defenses might include lack of intent, improper search and seizure, or possession of a valid permit. Your attorney will help you understand which defenses are applicable to your case.

10. Stay Informed

Stay informed about your case and the legal proceedings. Ask your attorney to explain any legal terms or procedures you do not understand. Being knowledgeable about your case can help you feel more in control and prepared.

Criminal Defense for Firearms

Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing charges for unlawful carry of a firearm in South Carolina, one of the most critical steps you can take is hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. Navigating the complexities of firearm laws and legal proceedings requires professional expertise and strategic planning. Here’s what you need to know about hiring the right attorney for your case:

Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney

Expertise in Firearm Laws

A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney understands the intricacies of South Carolina’s firearm laws and can effectively interpret how they apply to your specific case. This expertise is crucial in identifying potential defenses and navigating the legal system. An experienced attorney will also be familiar with recent legislation such as the Open Carrying with Training Act of 2021.

Protecting Your Rights

An attorney will ensure that your constitutional rights are protected throughout the legal process. They will safeguard against unlawful searches and seizures, ensure proper legal procedures are followed, and prevent self-incrimination by guiding your interactions with law enforcement and the prosecution.

Building a Strong Defense

Your attorney will thoroughly investigate your case, gather evidence, and develop a robust defense strategy tailored to your situation. They will identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, challenge evidence obtained through illegal means, and explore all possible defenses to reduce or dismiss the charges against you.

How to Choose the Right Attorney

Experience and Specialization

When selecting a criminal defense attorney, look for someone with substantial experience in handling firearm-related cases. Specialized knowledge in this area can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. An attorney with experience in handling cases involving the usual or ordinary course of business related to firearms can be particularly beneficial. An attorney with experience in dealing with the State Law Enforcement Division can be particularly beneficial.

Track Record of Success

Consider the attorney’s track record in successfully defending clients against similar charges. A history of favorable outcomes demonstrates their capability and effectiveness in court.

Personalized Attention

Choose an attorney who offers personalized attention and is dedicated to understanding the unique aspects of your case. You want someone who will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and keep you informed throughout the legal process.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is essential. Your attorney should clearly explain legal terms, procedures, and your options. They should also be a strong advocate for you in negotiations and in court.

What to Expect from Your Attorney

Initial Consultation

During your initial consultation, the attorney will review the details of your case, assess its strengths and weaknesses, and discuss potential strategies. This meeting is also an opportunity for you to evaluate whether the attorney is a good fit for you.

Investigation and Evidence Gathering by Law Enforcement Agencies

Your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation, including reviewing police reports, witness statements, and any available video footage. They will also gather evidence that supports your defense, such as alibis, character witnesses, or documentation of lawful firearm possession.

Legal Strategy and Defense

Based on the investigation, your attorney will develop a defense strategy. This might involve challenging the legality of the search and seizure, demonstrating that you had a valid permit, or proving that you were unaware of the firearm’s presence.

Negotiation and Trial

Your attorney will negotiate with prosecutors to seek a reduction or dismissal of charges. If a favorable plea deal cannot be reached, they will prepare to vigorously defend you at trial, presenting evidence and arguments to achieve the best possible outcome.

Illegal Firearms

Conclusion: Know your Rights and Responsibilities

Facing charges for unlawful carry of a firearm in South Carolina can be a complex and overwhelming experience. Understanding your rights and responsibilities is crucial in navigating this challenging time. By knowing what constitutes unlawful carry, the potential penalties, and the available legal defenses, you can make informed decisions about your case.

Remember, the importance of seeking experienced legal counsel cannot be overstated. A skilled criminal defense attorney will protect your rights, build a strong defense, and guide you through the legal process. At Baldwin Law Firm, we are dedicated to providing the support and expertise you need to achieve the best possible outcome. If you find yourself charged with unlawful carry, take immediate action to secure professional legal assistance and protect your future.

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