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Understanding Criminal Charges in South Carolina

Understanding Criminal Charges in South Carolina

Understanding Criminal Charges in South Carolina

It can be difficult to know what steps to take after being charged with a crime in South Carolina. Regardless of the severity of the charges against you, it's completely understandable for defendants to feel overwhelmed by shock, confusion, or frustration when there's a potential criminal conviction looming overhead.

Keep reading to learn more about the types of criminal offenses in South Carolina and the importance of differentiating between infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

Infractions vs. Misdemeanors vs. Felonies: What’s the Difference?

If you’re preparing for a criminal case in South Carolina, it’s important to differentiate between various criminal offenses like infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies to better understand the charges against you and get a better idea of the legal penalties attached to them.

Each type of offense carries unique penalties and implications, making it all the more vital for defendants to understand what they’re up against to make informed decisions in court and safeguard their freedom. Consider these 3 primary types of criminal charges in South Carolina:


Infractions, the least severe type of criminal offense, are generally punishable by a fine. Because these violations are non-criminal, they typically don’t carry jail time. Examples include traffic offenses and minor municipal code violations, such as:

  • Littering
  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Illegal parking
  • Running a red light
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Driving underinsured or uninsured

Because infractions don’t result in a criminal record, they generally have a limited impact on future court cases or employment opportunities. However, accumulating multiple infractions can lead to increased fines and penalties, as well as the potential for a driver's license suspension.


Misdemeanors are more serious than infractions, but less severe than felonies. These are criminal offenses punishable by up to one year in jail and/or fines. In South Carolina, misdemeanors are divided into three classes, with Class A being the most severe and Class C being the least severe.

In South Carolina, common misdemeanor offenses in these categories include:

  • Class A – Examples include charges for assault and battery; DUI with injury, and shoplifting items valued between $2,000 and $10,000.
  • Class B – Common Class B misdemeanors include trespassing, possession of marijuana (for first-time offenders), and disorderly conduct.
  • Class C – Examples of Class C offenses include public intoxication, driving without a license, and harassment.

Although less serious than felonies, convictions for misdemeanor offenses can still result in lasting consequences, including difficulty finding employment, housing, or obtaining professional licenses. Additionally, a conviction can be used against you in future cases that may result in the charges against you being enhanced due to prior convictions.


Felonies are the most serious type of criminal offense and carry the potential for at least one year in prison. There are 6 classes of felonies, with Class A being the most severe and Class F being the least severe.

In South Carolina, common examples of felony offenses in varying classes include:

  • Class AMurder; kidnapping; armed robbery
  • Class BManslaughter; arson; drug trafficking
  • Class CBurglary; grand larceny; aggravated assault
  • Class DEmbezzlement; forgery; indecent exposure
  • Class E – Identity theft; cruelty to animals; stalking
  • Class F – Failure to register as a sex offender; contributing to the delinquency of a minor; unauthorized practice of law

The legal process for felonies is similar to misdemeanors, but involves additional steps, such as a preliminary hearing and a grand jury indictment. Felony trials are typically more complex and often involve expert witnesses and extensive evidence.

Defending Against Criminal Charges in South Carolina

If you're facing criminal charges in South Carolina, it's crucial to understand your legal rights and options. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. A skilled attorney can help you navigate the legal process, build a strong defense, and potentially reduce the severity of the charges or penalties.
  • Invoke your right to remain silent. You have the right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. Exercise this right and avoid discussing your case with anyone other than your attorney.
  • Collect evidence. Gather any evidence that may support your defense, such as witness statements, documents, or surveillance footage.
  • Stay informed. Keep track of court dates and deadlines, and stay in regular communication with your attorney.

Facing criminal charges can be a daunting experience, but understanding the differences between infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies, as well as the legal process and potential consequences, can help you make informed decisions and protect your rights in the South Carolina legal system.

Secure the Strong Representation You Deserve

Our compassionate criminal defense lawyers at the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC understand firsthand how frustrating and isolating it can be to face criminal charges. For many Lexington defendants, the possibility of a conviction can loom over their heads for weeks or months, giving rise to anxiety and doubt.

It’s in life’s toughest seasons that we require the strongest advocates to stand by our sides no matter what. That’s why our seasoned firm is here to safeguard your freedom and negotiate as effectively as possible to navigate the charges against you. Reach out to our office to learn how our experienced attorneys can collaborate with you to obtain a favorable result in court.

If you’ve been charged with a crime, it’s imperative to secure aggressive representation immediately. Call (803) 359-3301 to schedule a free consultation


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