Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct

Previously Known as "Lewd Act on a Minor" in South Carolina

Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor is a South Carolina Child Molestation law. Previously this offense was known as Lewd Act on a Minor. It is always prosecuted in the Court of General Sessions by the Solicitor's Office. This is codified in S.C. Code § 16-3-655. Sometimes you will see criminal sexual conduct abbreviated as simply CSC. Anyone who is convicted of this offense will be placed on the South Carolina Sex Offender Registry. Additionally, they face a possible sentence of up to fifteen years to be served in the Department of Corrections.

In order to be convicted, the government must prove the following:

  1. That the defendant (the one accused) is over fourteen years of age;
  2. That the alleged victim (the one who was touched) is under sixteen years of age;
  3. That the defendant acted with a lewd or lascivious intent (sexual motive);
  4. That the defendant intentionally did or attempted to touch the alleged victim's body.

This is a molestation "catch all" offense. It does not require any type of intercourse or penetration. It does not require that the touching be under the clothes, or include any type of contact with genitals. For example, the following examples would constitute this offense in the third degree:

  • A fourteen year old girl is "felt up" by her twenty year old boyfriend at her request.
  • A man allows his twelve year old step-daughter to touch his penis.
  • A step-father gives a sensual massage to his fifteen year old step-daughter.
  • An adult woman "makes out" with a thirteen year old boy.

The following would not violate this law:

  • A man is falsely accused of touching his eleven year old daughter's breasts.
  • A woman helps her son's eight year old friend change his clothes.
  • A fourteen year old boy hugs his teacher.
  • A man kisses his five year old daughter good night.

How to Fight a Child Molestation Conviction in Lexington, SC

What evidence is required before someone can be arrested or convicted?
If I have been accused, what should I do?
If the child says it happened, am I definitely going to jail?
What if I am not offered a plea bargain that keeps me out of jail?
If I deny it, is that enough to keep me from being arrested or convicted?
What types of defenses can be used?
Does the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC use expert witnesses?
What is the statute of limitations on this offense?
If I have no prior criminal record, can I still be prosecuted as a child molester?
Do the police need DNA evidence in order to arrest or convict someone?
What is the difference between other child molestation laws?
What are the odds going to be in my case?
How do I arrange an attorney consultation?

What evidence is required before someone can be arrested or convicted?
The only evidence required is the child's story. In the event that the child is too young to testify or to have been aware of the circumstances, then another witness' account could also be sufficient. Frequently, the police will make a case based only on the minimum amount of evidence legally required. The role of a criminal defense attorney is to help the court require more than a minimum. Outside of the alleged victim's testimony, the other most common evidence police gather are confessions from the accused. This is why it is important to not speak with the police and to retain an attorney as soon as possible during any investigation.

If I have been accused, what should I do?
Do not agree to meet with or talk to the police. Do not agree to meet with or talk to DSS. Do not talk to anyone else about the allegations (including your spouse or other family members). Do not be alone with the accusing child, or any other children until your case is resolved. Contact our office for a free consultation as early in the process as possible.

If the child says it happened, am I definitely going to jail?
Not necessarily. There are many reasons why a child might give a false or unfair statement. Our job is to help show that those possibilities exist and should result in a "not guilty" verdict at trial. Once the prosecutor knows you are planning a defense they may be more likely to offer you a reduced charge or a probationary sentence.

What if I am not offered a plea bargain that keeps me out of jail?
If you are not offered a suitable reduced charge or plea bargain (as determined by you), then we will fight the allegations against you in court. All court services are included as part of our standard retainer.

If I deny it, is that enough to keep me from being arrested or convicted?
Usually not. Most everyone who is accused of being a child molester denies the accusation. It is in fact very rare for someone to admit to abusing children. The prison is full of people who continue to deny that they are guilty even years into their sentence.

What types of defenses can be used?
There are many types of possible defenses. The exact defenses to be raised are different in every case but can include the following:

  • Police Misconduct and Faulty Investigations
  • Miranda Violations and Coerced Confessions
  • Witnesses are making false allegations
  • The alleged victim is mentally ill and imaged an ordeal
  • Alibi Defense (you were somewhere else at the time of alleged illegal conduct)
  • The alleged victim has been coached or pressured to make up a story
  • A delay in reporting
  • Insufficient or non-corroborated evidence
  • The alleged victim keeps changing the story

We regularly see child molestation cases arise out of situations in which the alleged abuser and the child's parent are going through some sort of conflict. This can involve a situation where there is a divorce or separation. Sometimes the conflict can be between the child's parents, but the allegations can be raised against a step-parent. These allegations can also be brought to try to win a Family Court custody case.

Does the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC use expert witnesses?
Yes. We believe very strongly that partnering with expert witnesses can be a critical part of our client's defense. Possible experts include private investigators, forensic psychologists, experts in child interviewing, or social workers. We will help identify the most appropriate experts for use in our cases to help fight the allegations made by the police and the prosecutor. Frequently the prosecution will have its own experts, so this can be a critical component to be included in the defense.

What is the statute of limitations on this offense?
There is no statute of limitations on any South Carolina child abuse law. A delay in reporting can however be a defense against the charges. If the allegations are very old it may lessen the likelihood that an arrest will occur, but there is no time frame by which charges must be brought. Once someone has been arrested there is also no limit on when the case must go to court. Some cases last only a few months, some go on for years.

If I have no prior criminal record, can I still be prosecuted as a child molester?
Yes. Many accused child molester have no prior criminal history. This alone will not be a sufficient defense against the charge.

Do the police need DNA evidence in order to arrest or convict someone?
No. Because CSC w/ a minor 3rd degree does not require sexual battery, sexual intercourse, or any exchange of bodily fluids, DNA is not required. For example a criminal sexual conduct with a minor 3rd degree charge could come from an allegation that a man grabbed a twelve year old girl's breasts and fondled them through her clothes. That type of incident wouldn't be expected to leave any DNA or any type of medical or other forensic evidence. If the facts of a specific case however call for DNA evidence, then any evidence (or the lack of) may become relevant.

What is the difference between other child molestation laws?
The main difference between 3rd degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor in South Carolina is that the 2nd and 1st degree require sexual battery. A sexual batter is an intrusion into the child's body, including the anal or vaginal openings. 1st degree is punishable by 25 years to life, and 2nd degree is up to twenty years.

What are the odds going to be in my case?
The ultimate result in any case is going to be determined by many factors. It is impossible to ever know for sure what will happen in any given case on "day one." As a responsible and ethical criminal defense law office we also do not make promises or guarantees to prospective (or current) clients about how their cases will be resolved. There are however several things you can do that can help you increase the chances of a good result for your case:

  • Don't meet with the police or answer questions unless your lawyer tells you it is ok
  • Do not talk about your case with others (including family members)
  • Hire a lawyer as soon as you can
  • Do not lie about or downplay what happened when you talk to your lawyer
  • Cooperate with your lawyer and provide the information that he needs.
  • Stay away from the alleged victim and other children while the allegations or your case is pending (you should talk to your lawyer before you are alone even with your own children)
  • If you have been arrested follow any orders given to you in bond court

How do I arrange an attorney consultation?
Please call our office at the number listed on this website. We offer free consultations for those facing any South Carolina criminal charge or police investigation. Appointments are held at our office located in downtown Lexington, South Carolina. We do accept cases throughout South Carolina and do not charge extra for travel or mileage. When you come for your appointment please bring any paperwork you might have received from an arrest or court process.

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