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In this article, you’re going to learn about verbal assault law in South Carolina.

  • The criminal charges and penalties associated with verbal assault crimes
  • 3rd degree assault and battery
  • 2nd degree harassment
  • Threatening the life of a public official

Name-calling, making threats, and using words to hurt another person sound like actions you’d witness in any grade school.

Have you ever stopped to think if those behaviors may have consequences for adults?

Enter verbal assault — a legal term that classifies behaviors like making threats and delivering insults as criminal acts.

If you’re charged and convicted, you’ll receive a criminal record, and a judge will sentence you to pay a fine, serve time in jail, or possibly both. Your best chance at beating this charge is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your case.

Although verbal assault isn’t a named charge in South Carolina law, three criminal charges can apply to acts of verbal assault.

Assault and battery in the 3rd degree

You don’t have to physically assault or harm another person to commit the criminal act of assault and battery. If you have the ability to hurt a person, just “offering” to injure someone by way of making threats is enough for the State to bring charges against you.

This criminal offense is a misdemeanor. A conviction can result in a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail or both a financial penalty and a jail sentence.

Harassment in the 2nd degree

Threatening others isn’t the only form of verbal assault. Insulting another person, name-calling and generally using your words to hurt or upset them can be considered harassment under South Carolina law.

Harassment may take place in person, over the phone or through the written word, including on the internet. Your actions may count as harassment under the following circumstances:

  • You initiate contact with the victim
  • You maintain contact with the target
  • You repeatedly contact the victim
  • Your communication is intentional
  • Your interaction creates a substantial and unreasonable intrusion into the target’s life
  • The victim suffers mental or emotional distress as a result of your behavior

Harassment in the 2nd degree is a misdemeanor. In most cases, the penalties for 2nd-degree harassment are a fine of up to $200, a jail sentence up to 30 days or both jail time and a fine.

However, if you have a previous conviction for harassment or stalking within the last 10 years — or if you violate a court order prohibiting harassment at the time of your offense — then you face harsher consequences: a fine of up to $2,000, up to one year in jail or both.

Threatening the life of a public official/employee

The final form of verbal assault in South Carolina law has a specific focus — public officials and public employees. Aiming your verbal threats at a public official, a public employee or someone related to a public official or employee is a much more severe criminal offense.

The law protects the following groups of individuals:

  • Officials elected to public office
  • Public employees
  • Teachers
  • Principals
  • Family members of the above groups

For this charge to apply to your behavior, you must knowingly and willfully deliver a written or spoken communication that contains a threat. Your statement has to include a threat to take life or inflict bodily harm on the public figure or a member of his or her family.

The penalties for threatening the life of a public figure depend on who your target is.

Penalties for threatening the life of a public official

Threatening a public official, teacher, principal or one of their family members is a felony charge. If you’re convicted, your punishment will be:

  • A fine of up to $5,000
  • A jail sentence of up to five years
  • Both a fine and jail time

Penalties for threatening the life of a public employee

Threatening a public employee or a family member of a public employee is a misdemeanor offense. A conviction carries the following penalties:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • A jail sentence of up to 30 days
  • Both jail time and a fine

Did your words get you in trouble? Let us help you out.

Facing charges and the possibility of penalties for your actions can be a stressful time. The experienced team at Kent Collins Law Firm is here for you. Let us be a useful resource and reassuring partner in your journey through the criminal court system.

Call 803-808-0905 to schedule a free in-person consultation or click here to send us an email.

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