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In June 2016, Brock Turner, a Stanford University swimmer, was convicted of raping an unconscious woman in California. The case drew national attention and sparked heated emotions about Turner’s sentence, which many people felt was too short: six months in jail with probation. Angry posts flooded social media and over 191,000 people signed a petition to have the judge presiding over the case removed. Clearly, rape is a sensitive and emotional subject.

Rape charges can be extremely emotional and personal for both the accuser and the accused. Even if you’re not sure that you will be charged, it can affect every aspect of your life. You may find that people treat you differently regardless of whether you are found guilty. If you are facing rape charges in South Carolina or think it’s a possibility, here’s what you need to know.

Rape Charges: The Basics

Rape is different from sexual assault in South Carolina.

Sexual assault falls under “assault and battery” laws and is essentially attempted rape without penetration. For a crime to be considered rape, penetration must be involved, and this charge falls under “criminal sexual conduct” (CSC).

There are three levels of CSC charges in the South Carolina Code of Laws and all three are felonies. Before we review each level, here are some terms you need to know.

CSC Terms and Definitions

Understanding the details of CSC charges can be difficult. So we’ve put together a list with meanings of some key terms used to describe CSC charges. (The “actor” is the person accused of CSC; the “victim” is the accuser.)

  • Aggravated coercion: The actor threatens to use intense force or violence to overpower the victim.
  • Aggravated force: The actor uses intense force or violence to overpower the victim or threatens to use a dangerous weapon.
  • Mentally defective: A person is unable to understand the nature of his or her conduct due to a mental disorder.
  • Mentally incapacitated: A person is temporarily unable to understand or control his or her conduct due to illness, a disorder or the influence of a substance.
  • Sexual battery: Sexual intercourse or the penetration of a victim’s genital or anus using any part of a person’s body or an object.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the terms associated with CSC charges, let’s go into detail about the charges themselves.

CSC: 1st Degree Charge and Penalties

You can be charged with 1st degree CSC if you commit sexual battery against another person and at least one of the following can be proved:

  • You used aggravated force.
  • The victim submitted to sexual battery while also being the victim of kidnapping, human trafficking or other similar offenses.
  • You caused the victim to be mentally incapacitated (without the victim’s consent) through the use of drugs or alcohol.

Conviction of 1st degree CSC can result in up to 30 years of jail time. The court will use “judicial discretion” to determine the sentence, which means that the judge will consider several factors that may influence the length of the sentence. Examples of these factors are listed in the sentencing section of this article.

ChargeJail Time
1st degree CSCUp to 30 years

CSC: 2nd Degree Charge and Penalties

You would receive a 2nd degree CSC charge if you used aggravated coercion to commit sexual battery. If you’re convicted of 2nd degree CSC, you could face up to 20 years of jail time based on the judicial discretion of the court.

ChargeJail Time
2nd degree CSCUp to 20 years

CSC: 3rd Degree Charge and Penalties

3rd degree CSC is similar to the 1st degree CSC charge. You can be charged with it if one or more of the following incidents are true:

  • You used aggravated force or aggravated coercion.
  • You knew or could reasonably suspect that the victim was mentally defective, mentally incapacitated or physically helpless, and no aggravated force or aggravated coercion occurred.

A charge of 3rd degree CSC is punishable by up to 10 years of jail time. The sentence length is determined based on the judicial discretion of the court.

ChargeJail Time
3rd degree CSCUp to 10 years


If you’re convicted of CSC in any degree, the judge will decide the length of your sentence (judicial discretion) based on specific factors. These factors are called “statutory aggravating circumstances” and “mitigating circumstances.” Some (but not all) of these circumstances are listed below.

Statutory aggravating circumstances

  • The victim’s resistance was overcome by force.
  • The victim was incapable of resisting the act due to a physical or mental illness.
  • The actor had a prior conviction for murder.
  • The crime was committed against two or more persons.

Mitigating circumstances

  • The defendant has no significant history of violent crimes against others.
  • The defendant was mentally or emotionally disturbed when the crime was committed.
  • The defendant was forced by another person to commit the crime.
  • The defendant was under the age of 18 when the crime was committed.

Fighting CSC Charges

If you are facing CSC charges, the argument your lawyer presents could mean the difference between one year or 10 years in jail. Don’t leave your future to chance. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to build your case and will help you understand your options for defending against these kinds of offenses.

Call the Kent Collins Law team at 803-808-0905 or email us to schedule a free consultation.

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