While there are many different types of sexual crimes, perhaps the biggest is Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC), more commonly known as rape.

What pushes up a crime from sexual assault to criminal sexual conduct is some sort of penetration. Even if the penetration is attempted and not achieved, the accused can still be charged with CSC.

And if you didn’t already know, the penalties for CSC are very harsh.

While many crimes allow a judge to impose a fine, CSC does not give judges that option. The law only allows for jail time as punishment.

Judges and prosecutors take CSC very seriously, and if you’re charged, you should as well. In addition to jail time, a CSC conviction can negatively affect many aspects of your life, such as:

  • Loss of your current job
  • Difficulty in finding a new job
  • Breakdown of your family
  • Inclusion in sex offender registration
  • Permanent mark on your criminal background check

CSC charges come in three degrees — 1st degree being the most serious, 3rd degree the least serious, and 2nd degree is in between.

Let’s briefly examine each one:

CSC, 1st degree

Remember, all CSC charges say the accused sexually penetrated the victim. What makes a CSC charge a 1st degree charge is when one of the following circumstances is a fact of the case:

  • “Aggravated force” is used. Aggravated force means that the accused uses physical force or the threat of a deadly weapon.
  • The victim gives into sexual battery when forcibly confined, kidnapped, trafficked, robbed, extorted, or while being burglarized.
  • The accused causes the victim to become mentally incapacitated or physically incapacitated by drugging the victim with a controlled or intoxicating substance. For instance, the accused puts a “roofie” in the victim’s drink.

CSC, 1st degree, carries the following penalty:

Charge Classification Penalty
CSC, 1st degree Felony Up to 30 years in jail

The judge has discretion in sentencing and can order 30 years, no years or somewhere in between. When deciding the sentence in a particular case, the judge can consider “aggravating circumstances” and “mitigating circumstances.”

Aggravating circumstances are situations within the case that motivate the judge to proscribe a harsher penalty.

Examples include:

  • the vulnerability of the victim,
  • prior murder convictions of the accused and/or
  • the number of victims involved in the incident.

Mitigating circumstances are factors that influence the judge to give a lighter sentence. For instance, the lack of a violent criminal history can persuade the judge to hand down a sentence more lenient than usual.

After a 1st degree charge, the next most serious CSC charge is CSC in the 2nd degree.

CSC, 2nd degree

To garner a 2nd degree charge, the person accused of CSC threatens to use force or extreme violence to overcome the victim or another person. The victim reasonably believes the accused has the ability to carry out the threat either during the act or in the future.

If convicted of CSC 2nd degree, you could be punished in the following way:

Charge Classification Penalty
CSC, 2nd degree Felony Up to 20 years in jail

Again, the judge considers aggravating and mitigating circumstances when determining where on the scale from 0 to 20 years to pinpoint the jail sentence.

Below 1st and 2nd degree charges, prosecutors can charge someone with 3rd degree CSC.

CSC, 3rd degree

To be charged with CSC in the 3rd degree instead of one of the two more serious degrees:

  • 1. There must be no aggravating circumstances in the case, and
  • 2. The accused must not have used aggravated force or aggravated coercion on a victim who is mentally defective, incapacitated or physically helpless.

This is the penalty for a CSC, 3rd degree conviction:

Charge Classification Penalty
CSC, 3rd degree Felony Up to 10 years in jail

Common questions about CSC charges

No matter which degree of charge prosecutors have set upon you, you’re bound to have questions about what is going to happen to you.

When we meet with our clients, they have a lot of questions. We’re happy to answer each and every one of them, but to save you some time, here are answers to the questions our clients ask us the most about CSC charges.

Will I go to jail if I am convicted of CSC?

Most likely, yes. With lower level charges, probation may be on the table. But it’s completely in the court’s discretion. The most probable outcome will be jail time, but this all depends on the facts of your case.

Do I really need an attorney if charged with CSC?

Yes! The penalties are stiff for these charges. And you need someone on your side who can walk you through the legal process with the goal of obtaining the best possible outcome for you.

Do the penalties explained above apply to CSC charges with minors?

No. CSC with a minor is a separate charge with different penalties. Those charges are taken very seriously in South Carolina, and if you are facing them you need legal representation as soon as possible.

If I am found guilty of CSC, is there anything that can be done to help my sentencing go better?

Yes. The judge will consider the mitigating circumstances in your case. On the flip side, the judge will also look at the aggravating circumstances. Your attorney can help you devise a sentencing phase strategy that highlights the mitigating circumstances.

Is there a fine I will have to pay if convicted of CSC?

No, there isn’t a fine for CSC convictions. Jail time is the only penalty South Carolina law allows.

Someone to walk you through

Any criminal charge is a scary thing to face. But when you have an attorney by your side, the journey through the legal process is a little less frightening. If you don’t have a lawyer now, you need to think about talking to one right away.

Give us a call at (843) 488-5000 or use our online form, and let us walk you through this tough time in your life.

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