If you have been charged with a crime in South Carolina, you may have been told that it is either a misdemeanor or a felony. If you have ever been questioned by police, they may have told you that you faced felony charges to impress you with the deep trouble you were in.
Regardless of whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges, a conviction will put a stain on your record. To avoid the problems a criminal record can cause when you apply for a job or college, seek a loan or simply interact among your peers, you need to have experienced legal representation.
The criminal defense attorneys of McKinney, Tucker & Lemel in Rock Hill, SC, have deep experience that enables our firm to successfully handle a wide range of felonies and misdemeanors. What happens to you, matters to us. Contact us about fighting for your rights and your future.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a lesser criminal charge. Many people incorrectly believe a misdemeanor cannot lead to jail time. It surely can – particularly for a defendant who makes the mistake of going to court without a lawyer or who does not have strong legal representation.
A misdemeanor conviction in South Carolina can result in up to three years in jail, depending on the crime. A conviction may also bring a fine of up to $3,000 or $5,000. Other punishments may include any combination of paying restitution, community service, mandatory counseling sessions (such as alcohol assessment or anger management) or loss of a regular legal privilege associated with the crime such as losing a driver’s license for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction.
South Carolina classifies misdemeanors at four levels:
Class A Misdemeanors – Punishable by up to 3 years in jail and a fine up to $3,000. Examples include:
- Shoplifting, first offense
- Receiving stolen goods (value over $2,000 up to $10,000)
- Graffiti vandalism, third offense
- Trespassing on the grounds of a domestic violence shelter
- Assault and battery (second degree)
- Contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Class B Misdemeanors – Punishable by up to 2 years in jail and a fine up to $5,000. Examples include:
- Possession of a narcotic controlled substance (first offense)
- False statement or representation about income to a public housing agency
- Use of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
- Cruelty to animals, third or subsequent offense.
Class C Misdemeanors – Punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine up to $5,000. Examples include:
- Slander or libel
- Unlawful possession or operation of gaming devices
- Assault with a concealed weapon
- Failure to report abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult
- Theft of cable television service
- Prostitution (third or subsequent offenses).
Exempt Misdemeanors – punishable by less than 12 months in jail. Examples include:
- Possession of alcohol under age 21
- Possession of marijuana
- Failure to register as a sex offender
- Unlawfully passing a stopped school bus and causing great bodily injury
- Child endangerment.
What is a Felony?
Felonies are serious crimes. They include murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery. A felony conviction typically carries a harsher penalty than a misdemeanor. The most egregious crimes can be punished by life in prison. Capital homicide (murder in connection with certain other crimes or circumstances) may be punished by the death penalty. This is known as “capital punishment.”
Felony convictions can include fines of thousands of dollars. The fines are defined in the statute for individual crimes and not according to classification of the crime. Additional punishment may include loss of certain privileges such as the right to vote or to possess a firearm or, depending on the crime, being required to register as a sex offender.
South Carolina classifies felonies at six levels:
Class A Felony – Punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Examples include:
- Criminal sexual conduct, first degree (Rape)
- Carjacking (with great bodily injury)
- Robbery while armed with a deadly weapon
- Bank robbery.
Class B Felony – Punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Examples include:
- Arson (second degree)
- Money laundering
- Drug trafficking
- DWI resulting in a death
- Failure to stop after a fatal car accident.
Class C Felony – Punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Examples include:
- Aggravated assault and battery
- Inflicting great bodily injury upon a child
- Robbing a person at an ATM
- Sexual exploitation of a minor
- Unlawful driving by habitual offender resulting in death.
Class D Felony – Punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Examples include:
- Abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in great bodily injury
- Stalking within 10 years of a conviction of harassment or stalking
- Burglary (second degree)
- Common law (“strong arm”) robbery.
Class E Felony – Punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Examples include:
- First degree assault and battery
- Spousal sexual battery
- Malicious injury to animals and personal property (value $10,000 or more)
- Malicious injury to real property (value $10,000 or more)
- Receiving stolen goods (value $10,000 or more)
- Bribing a public official, or accepting a bribe.
Class F Felony – Punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Examples include:
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Violation of a restraining order if order imposed due to a felony
- Voyeurism (second or subsequent offense)
- Perjury and subordination of perjury
- Grand larceny (value over $2,000 up to $10,000)
- Carrying weapons on school property
- Filing a false tax return.
How Does a Felony or Misdemeanor Charge Affect Your Case?
Felony violations of the law bring harsher punishment upon conviction. Still, regardless of the charge, you are innocent in the eyes of the law unless and until you have been convicted. Similarly, the defense attorneys of McKinney, Tucker & Lemel seek the best possible outcome for each of our clients regardless of the charges they face.
Your case is as important to us as it is to you. Our attorneys have decades of experience handling cases in which our clients’ liberty was on the line. We fight with every client’s future in mind.
If you face any criminal charge in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, or elsewhere in York County, South Carolina, please contact McKinney, Tucker & Lemel as soon as you are able to do so. Schedule a consultation and let us get to work protecting your rights.
Gary C. Lemel is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Wake Forest University School of Law who has deep background as a criminal defense attorney in Rock Hill. Over the course of his career, he has handled everything from traffic violations to death penalty litigation. His current practice spans multiple counties and focuses on cases involving driving under the influence, drug charges and high-level felonies. He also serves on the board of the South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and as a member of the South Carolina Bar’s Judicial Qualifications Committee and Public Defender Standards Committee.