You’ve seen TV commercials advertising home security systems. You’ve heard news reports about people being attacked by dangerous individuals. You’re thinking about ways to protect yourself, your family or even your home if faced with danger. Maybe you’re thinking about getting a handgun—but do you know whether it’s even legal for you to have one?
Before getting a handgun, it’s important for you to know the answer to that question, because unlawful possession of a handgun carries serious criminal penalties in South Carolina. After reading this article, if you still have questions, be sure to consult with a criminal defense attorney in SC.
Read on to understand the basics and penalties of an unlawful handgun possession charge in South Carolina, as well as to learn answers to commonly asked questions.
Unlawful Possession: The Basics
What is a handgun?
South Carolina state code defines a handgun as “any firearm designed to expel a projectile and designed to be fired from the hand.” This definition does not include any firearm classified as an antique or collector’s item or any firearm that does not fire fixed cartridges (ammunition that is permanently attached to the firearm).
“Unlawful Possession of a Handgun” in South Carolina
It is illegal for certain persons to possess or acquire handguns in South Carolina. The list of these persons is given in the next section. It is also illegal to possess a handgun that is known to be stolen or a handgun that has had the original serial number removed or obliterated.
Persons Not Allowed to Possess a Handgun in SC:
A person who falls into one of the following categories cannot legally obtain or possess a handgun in South Carolina:
- Persons convicted of violent crimes by any court in the United States
- Persons convicted of domestic violence
- Persons prohibited under federal law due to certain convictions including misdemeanor domestic violence
- Fugitives from justice (people with warrants out for their arrest)
- Habitual drunkards
- Drug addicts
- Persons judged to be mentally incompetent
- Members of subversive organizations
- Persons under the age of 18
- Those ordered by a circuit or county judge to be unfit to carry or possess a firearm
Penalties for Unlawful Possession Convictions
Unlawful possession of a handgun is almost always a felony in South Carolina. There are, however, rare instances in which possession may be treated as a misdemeanor, such as when the violator is a police officer, a licensed hunter or a member of a target shooting club. The penalties for unlawful possession include fines, jail time, or both.
|Felony||Up to $2,000||Up to 5 years|
|Misdemeanor||Up to $1,000||Up to 1 year|
Keep in mind that a person who is caught selling or delivering a handgun (such as a gun dealer) to another person who is not allowed to possess a handgun may also be charged with unlawful possession. For example, if you let a friend borrow your handgun but your friend is not permitted by law to carry a gun, both you and your friend could be charged with unlawful possession even though you’re legally allowed to have your handgun.
Common Questions About Handguns and Unlawful Possession
Now that you know what unlawful possession is and the penalties you could face if convicted, you may still have questions. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about handguns and unlawful possession.
1. If I was convicted of a felony in a state other than South Carolina, can I possess a firearm in South Carolina?
No. It is illegal for a person convicted of a felony in any court of the United States to have a handgun in South Carolina. This law includes courts in Washington, D.C. and in United States commonwealths, territories and possessions (such as Guam or Puerto Rico).
2. Will I go to jail if I am convicted of unlawfully possessing a handgun?
Possibly. It will be up to the judge to determine your sentence within the guidelines of the law. Your criminal record, background and other aspects of your personal life will be taken into consideration when deciding whether you’ll be required to pay a fine, serve jail time or do both.
3. Can a person under the age of 18 ever possess a handgun in South Carolina?
No, but there are a few exceptions to this general rule. Those under the age of 18 who are members of the United States Armed Forces, National Guard or R.O.T.C. may legally possess handguns while on duty or in training. Others under the age of 18 may temporarily possess a firearm while under the instruction of a parent or adult instructor.
4. If I am convicted of unlawful possession of a handgun, can I get the handgun back?
In most cases, no. The handgun will be confiscated by the chief of police or sheriff of the city or county where the violation occurred.
Ready to fight your unlawful possession charge?
If you or someone you love has been charged with unlawful possession of a handgun, you need a criminal defense attorney on your side. Kent Collins is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Lexington, South Carolina who can help you understand your options.
Dial 803-808-0905 to speak with our legal team or click here to send us an email.