The movies glamorize just about everything, especially crimes. When it comes to burglaries, most don’t involve cracking a safe with a stethoscope, decrypting security system passcodes, or scaling a 10-story building. And very few burglars, if any, have the skills of James Bond or Jason Bourne to pull such an act off.

Statistically speaking, burglary happens every day in South Carolina.

In 2013, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division recorded 41,800 reports of burglary across the state.

Burglary occurs when a person breaks into some sort of structure without permission and with the plan to commit a crime while inside. And in some cases the intent could be for fun or on a dare. Whatever the case, the owner or renter of the place has not given permission for the accused to enter. If the accused tricked the owner or renter into consenting, that does NOT mean that that person actually gave permission. In that case, it’s still burglary.

If you’ve been charged with burglary in South Carolina…

Then, you need to understand what you’re facing.

Burglary charges in South Carolina are broken down into three degrees of charges. Each has it’s own requirements prosecutors must prove, and each has different penalties.

Let’s start by looking at 1st degree charges.

Burglary, 1st Degree

Burglary in the 1st degree is the most serious burglary charge, and it has some very specific criteria, which makes it a violent crime. When the person enters a dwelling, only one of the following aggravating factors has to be met:

  • The burglar is armed with a deadly weapon or explosive.
  • The burglary causes physical injury to a person who is not a participant in the crime.
  • The burglar uses or threatens the use of a dangerous instrument.
  • The burglar displays what is or appears to be a knife or gun.

Under SC burglary law, a dwelling is “the living quarters of a building which is used or normally used for sleeping, living or lodging by a person.” Examples are houses and apartments.

But 1st degree burglaries are not limited to dwellings. Any building can be burglarized.

A building is defined in SC law as “any structure, vehicle, watercraft or aircraft.” For burglaries of buildings other than dwellings, either of these factors elevate a charge to the 1st degree:

  • The burglar has two or more convictions for burglary or housebreaking.
  • The entering or remaining occurs in the nighttime.

The penalty for 1st degree burglary is daunting:

ChargeClassificationJail Time
1st degreeFelony15 years to life

A judge must order at least 15 years in jail and can go as far as handing down a life sentence. Burglary is one of the few crimes in SC where a life sentence can be ordered without someone dying as a result of the crime.

Burglary, 2nd Degree

Behind 1st degree charges, the next most serious burglary charge is 2nd degree. These charges are further broken down into violent and nonviolent offenses.

For a 2nd degree charge to be deemed violent, the burglary must:

  • 1. be of a “building,” and
  • 2. have one of the same aggravating factors — deadly weapon, physical injury, etc. — as a 1st degree charge in a dwelling.

For a 2nd degree charge to be considered nonviolent, it must be of a “dwelling” and have no aggravating factors.

The penalties for a 2nd degree charge are harsh but not as strong as 1st degree charges:

ChargeClassificationJail Time
2nd degree, violentFelonyUp to 15 years
2nd degree, nonviolentFelonyUp to 10 years

If you’re convicted of a violent offense, you cannot be paroled until at least ⅓ of the sentence is served.

While 1st degree charges are always violent, and some 2nd degree charges are violent, all 3rd degree charges — the lowest burglary charges — are nonviolent.

Burglary, 3rd Degree

The least serious burglary charge is a 3rd degree charge. For this charge, the burglary must be of a building and have no aggravating circumstances. All 3rd degree charges are considered nonviolent; however, prior offenses for burglary and housebreaking impact the penalty:

ChargeClassificationJail Time
Burglary, 3rd degree, 2nd offenseFelonyUp to 10 years
Burglary, 3rd degree, 1st offenseFelonyUp to 5 years

No matter which degree of charge you face, you don’t want to fight the charge on your own. You need an attorney experienced with burglary charges in SC, who can help you every step of the way.

Charged With Burglary in SC? Get Help.

The lawyers at Coastal Law want to be those attorneys who stand alongside you and defend you against your burglary charge. Contact us today by phone at (843) 488-5000 or by our online form. Let us work for you.

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