The criminal penalty for murder in South Carolina ranges from a minimum of thirty years up through the death penalty. The difference between a murder that only carries the potential for prison time versus one that carries a potential for execution is whether or not a statutory aggravating factor is found.
The factors for the Court to consider are contained in S.C. Code § 16-3-20. Examples of aggravating factors include:
- A victim under 11
- Rape or torture of the victim
- A prior conviction for murder
- Multiple victims
If after a trial the State has proven existence of an aggravating factor the defendant must be sentenced to either life imprisonment or death. If the State has proven murder, but not an aggravating factor, then the defendant may be sentenced from 30 years up through life imprisonment.