When shown in Hollywood movies, burglary seems like a glamorous crime. Well-dressed men and women with underground criminal connections coordinate to pull off heists of banks, Las Vegas casinos, or high-end art museums. The reality isn’t quite so glamorous because most burglars and would-be thieves get caught. So it should come as no surprise that facing burglary charges in SC can and often does lead to prison time.

Interestingly, you don’t have to steal something to be charged with burglary. This is a common misconception because theft often goes hand in hand with burglary. There are several different “degrees” of burglary charges. Generally speaking, burglary means to break into or enter a place without permission while planning to commit a crime—any crime—once inside.

The decision to burgle can have an adverse impact on your future. If you’re arrested on burglary charges, both your freedom and reputation are at stake.

We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions about burglary charges to help you prepare for your conversation with a lawyer.

Questions about burglary charges in SC

1. What is the definition of burglary?

There are 3 degrees of burglary, and each one has its own requirements. The basic definition of “burglary” is:

    The act of entering a dwelling (house), building, motor vehicle, watercraft (boat) or aircraft without consent and with the intent to commit a crime, usually theft.

The important phrase associated with burglary charges is “without consent.” This is because absence of consent is a requirement for ALL burglary charges in South Carolina.

Entering any of the places mentioned above without consent means an individual enters without obtaining permission from the person who has lawful possession, AKA the person who owns it or lives there. Of course, tricking or deceiving the person into granting consent is also illegal.

2. How are burglary and related offenses classified?

Burglary and related offenses are classified as “offenses against property” in South Carolina law. These include:

  • Criminal trespassing
  • Housebreaking
  • Robbery
  • Safecracking
  • Train robbery

3. What is burglary 1st degree?

First-degree burglary involves entering a dwelling — a place where people live—without consent and with the intent to commit a crime. In addition to breaking and entering, 1st degree burglary involves at least one of the following conditions:

  • Breaking in during the nighttime
  • Causing physical injury to a victim of the crime
  • Possessing a deadly weapon or burglary tools
  • Using or threatening to use a weapon

Someone who has two or more prior convictions for burglary (of any degree) can also be charged with 1st degree burglary.

4. What is burglary 2nd degree?

Second-degree burglary occurs when someone enters a dwelling or building with the intent to commit a crime. This charge is broken down by 2 classifications: “violent” or “nonviolent.” It is also important whether the burglary was of a “dwelling” or of a “building.”

Nonviolent: The accused individual breaks into a dwelling without consent, intending to commit a crime inside. (None of the conditions listed under first degree burglary will be present or then it would be a first degree burglary charge.)

Violent: When breaking in or fleeing from the burglary of a building, the accused individual does one of the following:

  • Displays what is or what appears to be a knife or firearm
  • Possesses a deadly weapon or burglary tools
  • Uses or threatens to use a dangerous weapon
  • Injures a person who is not an accomplice (a bystander or victim)

5. What is burglary 3rd degree?

Third-degree burglary happens when someone enters a building without consent and with intent to commit a crime inside. Remember, the law defines “building” as any structure in which people assemble or where goods are stored, including the following:

  • Buildings
  • Motor vehicles
  • Watercraft (boat)
  • Aircraft

6. Is burglary a felony?

Yes, all 3 degrees of burglary are felonies in South Carolina, which means a conviction could lead to serious penalties. Your strongest defense against burglary charges rests in the hands of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

7. Can burglary be a misdemeanor?

No, burglary is not considered a misdemeanor in South Carolina. Burglary charges are always felony charges no matter what degree you are charged with.

8. Will I go to jail if convicted of burglary 1st degree?

If you’re found guilty of 1st-degree burglary, then you will likely serve time in a detention center. The punishment for burglary in the 1st degree is 15 years to life in prison. A judge has the discretion to sentence you within the guidelines, but some sort of prison sentence is a sure thing.

9. Will I go to jail if convicted of burglary 2nd degree?

You may serve time in prison if found guilty of 2nd-degree burglary. The length of your sentence depends on whether your charge was violent or not. As above, the judge will have the power to sentence you within the guidelines below.

Violent: The punishment is a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 15 years in prison. There is a chance for parole after at least one-third of the sentence is served.

Nonviolent: The punishment is a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 10 years in prison.

10. Will I go to jail if convicted of burglary 3rd degree?

If convicted of third-degree burglary, you may serve time in prison. The punishment is as follows:

  • First offense: Minimum of 0, maximum of 5 years of incarceration
  • Second offense: Minimum of 0, maximum of 10 years of incarceration

11. What is the difference between burglary vs. robbery?

Burglary occurs when an individual enters a building/dwelling with the intent to commit a crime inside. The crime is often theft but could include any crime, such as assault and battery.

Robbery occurs when an individual uses force or intimidation to steal something from another person.

12. What is the difference between burglary vs. larceny?

As previously stated, burglary consists of unlawful entry with the intent to commit a crime inside the building or structure.

Larceny occurs when an individual steals personal property, such as possessions or money. “Petit larceny” refers to the theft of less than $2,000 worth of property. “Grand larceny” refers to the theft of more than $2,000 worth of property.

13. What is the difference between burglary vs. theft?

Burglary is breaking and entering into a building without consent to commit a crime inside.

In South Carolina, theft and larceny refer to the same offense as defined in question 12 above.

14. Can burglary charges be expunged?

Burglary charges cannot typically be expunged. However, there are a few circumstances in which an individual can apply for expungement:

  • If the case is dismissed
  • If the accused is found not guilty
  • If the case is “nol-prossed,” which is Latin for “will no longer prosecute,” meaning the case is dropped

15. Can aggravated burglary be expunged?

South Carolina does not have an aggravated burglary charge, so expungement does not apply.

16. Can burglary charges be reduced?

Yes, burglary charges can be reduced through plea bargaining. This means that your lawyer must negotiate with the prosecuting attorney—called the “solicitor” in South Carolina. Sometimes the defense team and solicitor reach a deal on reduced charges to either a lesser degree of burglary or a less severe charge.

17. Can a burglary charge be dropped?

Yes, burglary charges can be dropped in some cases. Your defense attorney would negotiate with the solicitor to make this happen.

18. Can a burglary charge be dismissed?

Yes, burglary charges can be dismissed. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can wade through the facts of your case, examining every aspect. If the police, the sheriff’s office or even the prosecutor made a mistake, there’s a chance the court could dismiss your case.

Getting Help With Your Case

Facing burglary charges can be scary because you don’t know what will become of your future. For the best chance at a good outcome, it’s important to speak to an attorney about the details of your case. An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows what you’re up against and can assist you in building a strong defense against the felony charges.

To discuss your case dial (843) 488-5000, or use our online form.

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