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Under South Carolina law, burglary is the act of entering a building or dwelling without permission with the purpose of committing a crime. A home break-in would be a familiar example.

It is important to point out that the burglar must not have permission to enter AND the intention of committing a crime inside the home or building to satisfy any burglary charge.

Burglary is essentially going somewhere you aren’t invited with criminal intent–a felony under SC law. If you add aggravating circumstances, like carrying a deadly weapon or injuring someone, the burglary is considered violent. SC violent crimes tend to have longer jail sentences and heftier fines.

Jail time associated with each burglary charge

If you’re facing a SC burglary charge, you need to know the degree of your charge and whether the prosecution considers it a violent or nonviolent offense. These two factors–along with how many past burglary convictions you have–are very important because they determine the maximum sentence a judge can give you if you’re convicted.

Charge Jail Time
Burglary, 1st Degree 15 years to life
Burglary, 2nd Degree, violent Up to 15 years
Burglary, 2nd Degree, nonviolent Up to 10 years
Burglary, 3rd Degree, 2nd offense Up to 10 years
Burglary, 3rd Degree, 1st offense Up to 5 years

South Carolina only allows for jail sentences as punishment for burglary. There’s no getting off with a fine or other administrative penalty. So what does it take to be charged with each of these crimes?

Burglary, 1st Degree

Burglary in the 1st degree is the most serious burglary charge under SC criminal law. It’s considered a violent crime, which means it carries a stiff sentence. In fact, it carries the potential of a life sentence, which is incredibly rare for offenses not involving someone’s death. The minimum sentence is 15 years.

Certain situational factors must be present for the burglary to merit a 1st degree designation. First and foremost, the burglary must be of a dwelling–a place where people live. Other buildings do not count. Beyond that, one of the following three conditions, called “aggravating circumstances,” must be met.

  1. The burglar or other participant in the crime …
    1. is armed with a deadly weapon or explosive,
    2. causes physical injury to a person who is not a participant in the crime
    3. uses or threatens the use of a dangerous instrument, or
    4. displays what is or appears to be a knife or firearm.
  2. The burglar has two or more burglary or housebreaking convictions.
  3. The burglar entered or remained at night.

Again, only one of these aggravating circumstances must be met to satisfy a 1st degree charge. Lesser charges have different requirements.

Burglary, 2nd Degree

The 2nd degree burglary charge is less serious than a 1st degree charge and more serious than a 3rd degree charge. SC law breaks down 2nd degree charges into violent and nonviolent crimes.

For a 2nd degree charge to be deemed violent, the burglary must be of a building (but not a dwelling), and there must be an aggravating circumstance listed below.  This charge is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

The aggravating circumstances are:

  1. The burglar or other participant in the crime …
    1. is armed with a deadly weapon or explosive,
    2. causes physical injury to a person who is not a participant in the crime
    3. uses or threatens the use of a dangerous instrument, or
    4. displays what is or appears to be a knife or firearm.
  2. The burglar has two or more burglary or housebreaking convictions.
  3. The burglar entered or remained at night.

For a 2nd degree charge to be nonviolent, the place burglarized must be a dwelling, but there are no aggravating circumstances present. This crime has a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Burglary, 3rd Degree

Burglary in the 3rd degree is the lowest level burglary charge. It’s the burglary of a building without aggravating circumstances. Because there are no aggravating circumstances, there is no need to differ between violent and nonviolent 3rd degree charges. They’re all nonviolent.

A first offense is punishable by up to five years in jail. A second offense can get you up to 10 years in jail.

Again, this charge can only be brought for burglarizing a building. Burglary of a dwelling is at least a 2nd degree charge.

Sorting out your case

As you can see, burglary charges can be very confusing. If you’ve been charged with burglary, you need an experienced criminal attorney like Kent Collins to help you through the legal process. Contact Kent by phone at 803-808-0905 or use this form to set up your free, no-obligation consultation.

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