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In the State of South Carolina, sexual offenses involving children are some of the most disturbing, and as result, some of the most severely punished. In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What constitutes child pornography
  • How the legal system views possession and trafficking of children for sexual purposes
  • The legal definition of “sexual exploitation of a minor”

At Kent Collins, we understand that when you’re accused of a severe crime like child pornography, there’s little to no room for error in your legal representation. At the Kent Collins Law Firm, you’ll find experienced attorneys, ready to represent you in court with an eye on protecting your best interests at all times.

SC Sexual Exploitation of a Minor Charges

You might have heard of someone being arrested for “child pornography,” but in South Carolina child porn actually falls under a charge titled “sexual exploitation of a minor,” a term with a much broader application than just making, possessing, or distributing sexual content featuring one or more individuals under the age of 18.

One news story from January 2020 is a perfect example of how charges in this particular part of the SC legal code can stack up. After a Summerville man allegedly texted, attempted to meet up with, and exchanged pornographic images depicting a minor with this person (also a minor), he was hit with 13 charges in total. 10 of them — related to his possession of child pornography — were sexual exploitation of a minor in the third degree.

Child porn charges in SC are actually called “Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.

“Sexual exploitation of a minor” is a single crime that contains three tiers. The offenses that fall into these tiers are separated by the severity of the crime. As it pertains to child pornography, the “degrees” are broken down by involvement.

SC Child Porn Charge Basics

1st Degree

If a person is producing child porn in the role of the “facilitator”, they’re charged with sexual exploitation of a minor in the first degree. This is the most severe of the charges under this law, carrying the harshest penalties.

2nd Degree

For the “sexual exploitation” charge to fall under the second degree, the person arrested must be caught distributing it or otherwise producing the material in question.

3rd Degree

Sexual exploitation of a minor in the third — the least severe — degree would be the charge when a person is found in possession of sexually explicit materials (like photographs or videos) depicting a minor. It’s important to note here, that while explicit cartoons and drawings of minors don’t fall under the umbrella of a “sexual exploitation” charge in South Carolina, they may still be illegal under a federal obscenity law.

Breakdown of Penalties for SC Child Pornography Charges

Charges and penalties for sexual exploitation of a minor can be found in Sections, 16-15-395, 16-15-405, and 16-15-410 of the SC Code.

1st Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

According to SC law, in order to have this charge (as well as a 2nd or 3rd-degree charge) brought against you, you must have knowledge of the “character or content of the material or performance.” In simple terms, it means that you must have knowledge of your role in the process. This crime in the 1st degree applies to offenders who physically participate in the production of child pornography.

There are 4 primary ways to do this:

  • You coerce or persuade a minor to engage in sexual activity or pornography
  • You let a minor for whom you’re responsible engage in sexual activity or pornography
  • You transport a minor or participate in the financing of this activity or pornography
  • You personally film or photograph a minor engaging in sexual activity or pornography for profit

It should be noted that, even if you weren’t aware of the age of the person in question, charges still apply. This is true of all 3 degrees of sexual exploitation and it’s a common defense — although, it probably won’t hold up in court.

Penalties:

  • This charge (and all charges under this law) is a felony
  • It carries a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 20 years in jail
  • The minimum jail term can’t be suspended and convicts aren’t eligible for parole until after the 3-year minimum has been served.
  • If charged with multiple counts, or another charge in the same section, jail time must be consecutive — sentences cannot overlap. This means you can’t serve multiple sentences at the same time. You finish one and then start the next.

2nd Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

In order to have a 2nd-degree charge, you have to be found to have done the following:

  • You create, film, or photograph a minor engaging in sexual content without the intent to sell it
  • You transport or sell child pornography without taking part in the creation of it

Basically, if you’re found trafficking or distributing sexually explicit content involving one or more underage individuals, the lowest charge you’ll probably get is sexual exploitation of a minor in the 2nd degree, unless a plea deal is reached between your defense attorney and the prosecutor.

Penalties:

  • This charge (and all charges under this law) is a felony
  • It carries a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 10 years in jail
  • The minimum jail term can’t be suspended and convicts aren’t eligible for parole until after the 2-year minimum has been served.
  • If charged with multiple counts, or another charge in the same section, jail time must be consecutive — sentences cannot overlap.

3rd Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

Sexual exploitation of a minor in the 3rd-degree is the least severe of the three charges, but it’s still a serious felony. All it takes to have this charge levied against you is the possession of any photos, videos, or other content featuring a real underage person engaging in sexual or pornographic behaviors.

Penalties:

  • This charge (and all charges under this law) is a felony
  • It carries a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 10 years in jail

Sex Offender Registry

It is very important to note that all degrees of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor require biannual sex offender registry FOR LIFE. This means you are expected to go through the process twice a year forever!

You can find out everything you need to know about the sex offender registry here.

Even the lowest level child porn charge, 3rd degree, is a felony in South Carolina.

 

Representation You Can Trust

No matter what charge you might be facing, you deserve experienced representation in the face of severe penalties. The attorneys at The Kent Collins law firm have represented clients charged with a great number of different crimes and have protected the best interests of our clients in countless cases.

Want to get started with a case review? Contact the Kent Collins team today.

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