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What is the difference between 2nd and 3rd degree sexual exploitation of a minor?

What is the difference between 2nd and 3rd degree sexual exploitation of a minor?

What is the difference between 2nd and 3rd degree sexual exploitation of a minor?

Sexual Exploitation of a Minor is a South Carolina criminal statute that makes it illegal to possess or distribute illegal images or videos of children. These types of pictures are also now called CSAM or Child Sexual Abuse Material.

Although historically most criminal prosecutions for these types of offenses was handled by the federal court system, recent technological developments such as widespread Internet use and social media, have vastly increased the number of arrests and prosecutions.

For this reason, most cases originating from South Carolina are now handled in State court, applying our state rules and penalties. These cases are prosecuted in a type of court called General Sessions, and are almost always prosecuted by the Attorney General’s office. This is different than most all other offenses in General Sessions that are handled by the local Solicitor’s office (Solicitor is the South Carolina term for “District Attorney”).

2nd and 3rd degree charges are the most common for this offense. It is also not uncommon for a defendant to be charged with both type of offenses at the same time. You would know if this applies to you if you have more than one warrant, and at least one says 2nd degree and at least one says 3rd degree.

This article is next going to talk about possible penalties. The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, is a defense law firm based in South Carolina, that helps their clients try to avoid these penalties by fighting for dismissal or reduction of charges. You only face these penalties listed below if you plead guilty or are found guilty by the court. If your charges are dismissed or you are found not guilty you would not face these penalties. Additionally, if your charges are reduced or you obtain a favorable agreement with the prosecutor then the penalties would be reduced. We have significant experience in helping our clients face these charges through South Carolina. 

In a 2nd degree charge the allegation is that someone distributed or shared these materials. This may be by emailing through the Internet, or uploaded to a social media or other similar type of account. In a 3rd degree charge the allegation is limited to simply possessing illegal images or videos.

2nd degree is a felony and carries a possible penalty of 2-10 years. This means that if you are convicted you must be sentenced to at least two years in prison up to a maximum of ten years. Everyone convicted of a 2nd degree charge will also be required to register as a sex offender.

3rd degree is a felony and carries a possible penalty of up to 10 years. This means that unlike 2nd degree, which requires at least a two-year sentence, there is no prison time required. Instead, if you are convicted the judge has the option of requiring prison time up to 10 years, or may instead only require probation. Convictions at this level also require sex offender registration.

If you are charged, what should you do?

Everyone facing a serious South Carolina criminal charge, such as sexual exploitation of a minor, has important legal rights that can help them obtain a more favorable resolution of these case. We recommend everyone charged to reach out to our office for a free consultation. During this time you will be able to meet confidentially and privately with an attorney to review the exact circumstances of your case. The attorney will be able to describe for you exactly what the court process will look like for you, as well as what steps can be taken to help you fight for a dismissal or reduction in charges or sentencing.


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