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It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that sex crimes have some of the most severe penalties in South Carolina. Under the umbrella of “sex crimes,” however, exists an even more serious group of charges, sex crimes involving minors.

Whether fair or not, as we’ll discuss later, some of the crimes we will look at here are considered to be less serious when the alleged victim is an adult, but often come with much harsher penalties when the victim is a child.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What some common sex crimes involving minors are in SC
  • The penalties handed down for various sex crimes involving minors in SC
  • Possible defenses for certain types of sex crimes involving minors, and why it’s important to have an experienced attorney if you’re accused of one

Sex Crimes Involving Minors in SC: An Overview

In this piece, we’ll discuss four common sex crimes, all of which inherently involve victims who are underage:

  • Permitting a Minor to Engage in an Unlawful Sex Crime
  • Criminal Solicitation of a Minor
  • Disseminating Obscene Material to Minors>
  • Disseminating Harmful Materials to Minors

In order for each charge to be levied against the accused, two things have to be true:

  • The accused cannot be a minor themselves — they must be over the age of 18.
  • The accused has to have knowledge of their behavior, or, a reasonable expectation of knowledge.

While, like any crime, different cases carry different penalties based on the severity of the crime and other extenuating circumstances, these sex crimes are all considered to be felonies in every case and may carry significant jail time, fines, or both.

Permitting a Minor to Engage in a Sex Crime

Detailed in Section 16-15-335, of the SC Legal Code, permitting a minor to engage in a sex crime prohibits anyone who is over 18 from hiring, using, or explicitly permitting a minor under the age of 18 to take part in anything considered to be “obscene.”

In this case, the accused has to not only have knowledge of the act, but also that the situation in question involves obscenity, which brings up the question — What makes something “obscene?”

Defining Obscenity

Most states use a concept called the Community Standard for determining obscenity. Basically, if the average person from the community where the crime occurred would reasonably see something as highly offensive or graphic, the court is likely to agree with the assertion.

The other key criteria that come when something is considered to be obscene are:

  • The content is of a sexual nature
  • It lacks redeeming value as art, literature, or science
  • It is not specifically protected by the U.S. Constitution

Even still, whether something is or isn’t within the confines of obscenity is up for interpretation. This makes permitting a minor to engage in an unlawful sex crime a common charge added to other sex crimes involving a minor in SC.

Penalties for Permitting a Minor to Engage in a Sex Crime

As mentioned, this is always a felony charge, but in comparison to similar charges, it is one of the least severe. With that being said, people who are convicted of this charge still face 0-10 years in jail.

Criminal Solicitation of a Minor

Covered in Section 16-15-342, criminal solicitation of a minor involves contacting, persuading, enticing, or coercing a minor to take part in any unlawful behavior involving sexual activity.

This charge is likely the sex crime involving a minor that people are most familiar with, in part due to the success of TV programs like “To Catch a Predator.” When an adult entices a child, engages in explicit chat, or something similar, the most common charge levied by law enforcement is solicitation of a minor.

In the case of a law enforcement group or task force posing as a child, the accused can still be convicted because the accused thought they were engaging with an underage person.

However, there are possible defenses — one is consent. Since the age of consent is 16 in South Carolina, the accused can assert that the victim consented to the criminal behavior.

Penalties for Solicitation of a Minor

If convicted of solicitation of a minor in SC, the person charged would become a felon and face up to 10 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Disseminating Obscene Material to a Minor

This sex crime involving a minor in South Carolina is actually split into two sections of the State Code — Sections 16-15-345 and 16-15-355 — depending on the age of the victim.

The crime itself involves providing obscene material, including pornography and other explicit material to a minor, but it’s looked at much more severely when the minor in question is under 12 years of age rather than when they are between the ages of 12 and 18.

Penalties for Disseminating Obscene Material to a Minor

In both cases, the crime is a felony. If the victim is under the age of 18 but over the age of 12, the accused faces up to 10 years in jail. If the victim is under 12, the potential sentence goes up to 15 years.

Disseminating Harmful Material to Minors

Covered by Section 16-15-385, disseminating harmful material, is similar to disseminating obscenity. The only difference is that the content in question doesn’t meet the standards for being classified as obscene, but is still considered to be damaging for the exposed child.

The elements of the crime involve selling, presenting, or otherwise providing a person under 18 with the knowledge of sexually graphic or violent imagery or performance. A good example would be a movie theatre:

  • If a ticket attendant doesn’t check a minor’s ID when they attempt to enter an R-Rated movie, they could be in violation of the law.

The only case in which the accused can use the defense that they thought the victim was older than they are is if the victim presents a fake ID or other evidence that provides the reasonable belief that they are a certain age.

Penalties for Disseminating Harmful Material to a Minor in SC

The penalties for being convicted of this crime are, once again, a felony charge, as well up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Employing a Minor to Appear Nude in Public

Covered by Code Section 16-15-387, it is illegal in South Carolina to employ someone under the age of 18 where their job would consist of appearing nude in a public place.

Penalties for Employing a Minor to Appear Nude in Public

You can’t argue that you thought your employee was older than they actually are. If you’re convicted of employing a minor to appear nude in public you could be facing some serious penalties. This is called “mistake of age.”

A conviction for this charge is a felony and carries up to 10 years in jail, up to a $5,000 fine, or both.

Need Help Involving a Sex Crime in SC?

If you are accused of a sex crime involving a minor in the State of South Carolina, you can’t afford to wait to get started on your defense strategy. Contact the Kent Collins Law Firm for a case review.

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