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South Carolina Sexual Exploitation of a Minor Charges

South Carolina Sexual Exploitation of a Minor Charges

South Carolina has taken significant steps to increase the number of arrests and prosecutions for those possessing or distributing illegal computer pictures of children. The South Carolina law dealing specifically with these charges is called Sexual Exploitation of a Minor. It provides varying penalty levels depending on if the accusation is just possession, or includes elements of distribution or manufacturing.

Our lawyers are experienced in defending clients charged with this offense. We are able to represent clients in any county. 

Why are the number of these cases increasing? There are two reasons:

  1. There is a significant increase is online pornography usage, which has lead to many becoming addicted to pornography. This addiction works in much the same way as other types of addictions, such as to alcohol or gambling. Addicted individuals may seek out more and more extreme content to try to satisfy their cravings. This can eventually lead them into taboo subjects, such as illegal images of children.
  1. There are now highly organized and fully funded law enforcement efforts to make these arrests. There is coordination among all of the major technology platforms, including social media and email providers. Images shared or viewed online are frequently automatically scanned to determine if they are illegal, and questioned images are passed on to law enforcement for further investigation and arrests.

Cases are prosecuted by the South Carolina Attorney General’s office. They have a special office in Columbia just for these cases. Although the prosecutors work mainly out of Columbia, they do travel to every county in South Carolina.

Everyone who has been arrested for sexual exploitation of a minor is facing prison time along with a requirement to register as a sex offender. This is even if someone has never been arrested before, and even if all they are accused of doing is looking at pictures.

The two most common offenses are sexual exploitation of a minor 3rd degree and sexual exploitation of a minor 2nd degree. 3rd degree means that the accusation just involves possessing images or video recordings. 2nd degree means that the accusation includes distribution (this can just be uploading the images or video to another website, or sending them by email).

2nd degree charges also carry a minimum prison sentence. This means that if you plead guilty, no contest, or are found to be guilty by the court you must go to prison. It however may be possible to seek a dismissal or reduction in these charges so that no jail or prison time is required.

Part of assisting our clients with their legal defense is to help them obtain a psychological evaluation to show that they are not a threat to children or a danger to the community. It’s also often highly recommended that anyone accused begin voluntarily participating in counseling or any other necessary treatment program. This may be mental health, sex or pornography addiction, or substance abuse.

There will be a period of time between the initial arrest and when these cases go to court (the initial appearance date assigned in bond court isn’t the final court date). One of the strategies we employ is to use this time to our client’s advantage by helping them obtain the necessary evaluation and then giving them time to enter and complete counseling.


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