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What Are The Charges For Criminal Sexual Conduct in SC?
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What Are The Charges For Criminal Sexual Conduct in SC?

Charges for criminal sexual conduct in South Carolina are nothing to play with.

Sometimes abbreviated as CSC, criminal sexual conduct is a sexual crime involving some sort of actual penetration versus fondling or touching. CSC goes beyond sexual harassment or groping. For charges to be brought against you, "sexual battery" has to have occurred.

Sexual battery refers to unwanted intercourse or any intrusion, however slight, by any object into the openings of another person’s body. In plain speak, this means a person was raped.

Even if the rape is not completed, a CSC charge can be filed. Attempted CSC is charged and punishable the same as if the crime was committed. This may sound unfair, but this is the law in SC. CSC offenses are taken very seriously here.

While it may sound obvious, a CSC charge involves two people: the “actor” and the “victim.” The actor is the person accused of the crime, and the victim is the person against whom the crime is said to have been committed. For a CSC charge the two people can’t be spouses, unless they are living apart, and the charge is in the 1st or 2nd degree. This is because CSC-type charges involving spouses usually fall under Domestic Violence laws. The exception for spouses that are separated exists to cover cases that are particularly violent (1st and 2nd degree CSC) and because when spouses separate we begin to treat them as not married.

CSC charges come in three degrees. The charges range in severity from a 1st degree charge at the highest severity to a 3rd degree charge at the lowest. No matter which degree prosecutors choose to assign to your charge, a CSC charge is a serious legal matter.

Let’s look at each one of the three degrees of CSC charges.

Criminal sexual conduct, 1st degree

CSC, 1st degree, is when the accused, or the “actor” as described in SC law, engages in sexual battery with the victim and if one of the following circumstances are proven:

  • The actor used “aggravated force” to accomplish the sexual battery;.
  • Aggravated force means that the actor uses physical force or the threat of a deadly weapon to accomplish the battery. The victim submits to sexual battery when forcibly confined, kidnapped, trafficked, robbed, extorted, while burglarized during a housebreaking, or the like; or
  • The actor causes the victim to become mentally incapacitated or physically helpless by giving the victim a controlled or intoxicating substance without the victim’s consent. Examples of these substances include alcohol, cocaine, LSD, rohypnol (“roofies”), ketamine and GHB.

If the prosecutor cannot establish at least one of these circumstances, the prosecutors file a lower charge. The next charge available to them is CSC, 2nd degree.

Criminal sexual conduct, 2nd degree

CSC, 2nd degree, occurs when the actor uses “aggravated coercion” to accomplish sexual battery. “Aggravated coercion” means the actor threatens to use force or violence of a high and aggravated nature to overcome the victim or another person. The victim must also reasonably believe the actor actually has the ability to carry out the threat either at the current time or in the future.

If prosecutors do not believe they can make a 2nd degree charge stick, they settle for a 3rd degree charge.

Criminal sexual conduct, 3rd degree

CSC, 3rd degree, happens when the actor engages in sexual battery with the victim and either of the two following circumstances are proven:

  • The actor uses force or coercion to accomplish the sexual battery in the absence of “aggravating circumstances;” or
  • The actor knows or has reason to know the victim is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless; and aggravated force or aggravated coercion was not used to accomplish sexual battery.

Aggravating circumstances push what would be a lower charge to a higher level. For CSC, aggravating circumstances would elevate what would be a 3rd degree charge to a 2nd or 1st degree charge.

But what exactly counts as an aggravating circumstance?

Penalties for CSC Charges

The potential penalties for CSC charges should not be taken lightly.

The jail time can be serious!

Also, it is important to notice that ALL 3 degrees of charges are considered felonies in SC.

Note: All jail time below is in the judge’s discretion. That means that it is up to the judge to determine your sentence within the range given.

Here is an idea of what you could be facing:

Jail Time
CSC, 1st degree Felony 0-30 years
CSC, 2nd degree Felony 0-20 years
CSC, 3rd degree Felony 0-10 years

Aggravating circumstances for CSC

Aggravating circumstances are when one of the following things are true about the CSC case:

  • The victim’s resistance was overcome by force;
  • The victim couldn’t resist because the actor was armed with a dangerous weapon;
  • The victim couldn’t resist because of credible threats of great and immediate bodily harm;
  • The victim couldn’t resist because the victim suffers from a physical or mental condition preventing his resistance;
  • The crime was committed by a person with a prior conviction for murder;
  • The actor committed the crime for himself or another person to receive money or other thing of value;
  • The actor caused or directed another to commit CSC as an agent or employee of another person;
  • The crime was committed against more than one person at a time; and/or
  • The crime was committed during the commission of burglary, kidnapping or trafficking in persons.

While one or more of these aggravating circumstances may be part of your case, this does not mean you are defenseless. CSC charges can be beat in some cases, and judges can express leniency when certain factors are apparent in the case.

Defenses against CSC charges

While there are as many ways to defend a case as there are cases to defend, lawyers use some strategies more than others. For CSC, one of the most common defenses is that the sexual activity was consensual. If the activity was consensual, rape is not possible.

Even if you are convicted, there is still a chance to receive a light punishment. Judges can consider “mitigating circumstances” to lighten the penalty. Some examples are:

  • Your criminal history is free or nearly free of violent acts;
  • You were mentally or emotionally disturbed when you committed the CSC;
  • You were an accomplice to the crime, and your role was minor;
  • You acted under the domination of another person; and
  • Your ability to understand the criminality of your act was substantially impaired.

So even if you can’t beat the charge before being convicted, you might still have something favorable happen to you in your sentencing.

Someone on your side

You don't want to go into the fight against a CSC charge on your own. You need an experienced attorney like Lori Murray helping you every step of the way. Contact her by phone at (803) 779-4472 to discuss your case.

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