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Kent Collins – What are Sex Crimes in SC?

What does it mean to be charged with a sex crime in SC? As it turns out, the grounds for certain types of sex crimes in South Carolina aren’t always the clearest — there are several vague standards for these charges to apply.

In this article, we’ll discuss these questions:

  • Which crimes fall under the definition of sex crimes?
  • Which sex crimes are viewed as more severe by the South Carolina justice system?
  • What are the penalties for various sex crimes?

Sex Crimes in SC: An Overview

The term “sex crimes” isn’t a legal term, but is frequently used as a blanket to describe any offenses that are sexual in nature. In this article we’ll talk about four charges — Disseminating Obscenity, Indecent Exposure, Criminal Sexual Conduct, and Sexual Assault. This list doesn’t mean that these are the only charges that make up the category of sex crimes. For example, there are also a variety of charges that cover unlawful sexual conduct with or involving people who are underage.

Disseminating Obscenity

Obscenity laws vary between states, but one thing tends to remain consistent across the country: many rulings about what is obscene and what isn’t come down to the opinions of a few individuals — they are very rarely based on objective facts. Famously, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, when asked to define “hardcore pornography” in clear terms, responded: “I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.”

Disseminating Obscenity is covered by Section 16-15-305 in the SC State Code. The law makes it illegal to play a role in the creation or delivery of obscene material.

What Is Obscene Material?

The state’s definition of “obscene material” is fairly broad and is defined by four standards, each of which must be met:

  • The material in question is not protected by the U.S. Constitution
  • The average person would find the material offensive
  • The average person would find the material to involve sexual conduct
  • The average person must view the material as lacking in any sort of value (i.e. educational, artistic, or otherwise)

These last three are standards set by a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case that established the “community standard.” Basically, evidence has to be considered through the eyes of the average member of a community in order to meet a legal definition.

So, What Does It Mean to Disseminate Obscenity?

Dissemination of obscenity means creating, selling, delivering, or distributing obscene material, including videos, writings, drawings, and even theatrical performances of content that is sexual in nature and has no redeeming value.    The most common property that meets this standard is pornography.

If a person is arrested for Disseminating Obscenity in SC, law enforcement will seize the obscene material as contraband. If found guilty, the accused is charged with a felony, and could face up to five years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Indecent Exposure

Most people know,  more or less,  what indecent exposure is, governed under Section 16-15-365 of the State Code. This charge can be levied when someone is caught exposing his or her private parts in a lewd (sexual) manner.

The law applies to the following:

  • The person who knowingly exposed their private parts in the presence of another person

The law should be clear by the language, but what many people don’t know is that anyone found to be a participating actor in the case of lewd public exposure can also be charged. For example:

  • Any person who aids or abets the act
  • Any person who hires, persuades, or coerces someone to perform the act
  • Any person who is the owner, manager, lessee, director, promoter, agent, who knowingly hires, leases, permits the land, building, premises where the act was committed, as long as that person was aware of the act

The last point means that if, for example, you owned a bar where you knowingly allowed a patron to expose themselves in such a manner, you could be charged with indecent exposure in a South Carolina court.

Those guilty of indecent exposure face up to 6 months in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both.

Sexual Assault

If you’re interested in learning more about sexual assault, we published an entire article about it. Sexual assault actually falls under Assault and Battery, Section 16-3-600 in the State Legal Code. Sexual assault is charged when there is a sexual component to an Assault and Battery offense.

There are two very similar degrees of sexual assault in this part of the law.

  • First-degree sexual assault involves non-consensual touching of the victim’s private parts with lewd intent — it carries a felony charge and up to 10 years in prison.
  • Second-degree sexual assault includes the same language as 1st degree sexual assault, but also includes attempts or offers to perform sexual assault. It’s classified as a misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $2500 and up to 3 years in jail.

Criminal Sexual Conduct

Criminal Sexual Conduct is commonly known as CSC or rape. We published an entire article about CSC in South Carolina if you’d like to learn more about it. Rape is broken down into three degrees, and the severity of the crime depends on the circumstances in play when the rape occurred

Rape necessarily involves “sexual battery,” which describes sexual contact with an element of force involved.

1st-Degree: involves “sexual battery” with aggravated force, kidnapping, human trafficking, or a victim drugged by the accused when the event occurred. This is charged as a felony, with up to 30 years in jail.

2nd-Degree: involves “sexual battery” with aggravated coercion — i.e. the victim was threatened with violence to make them comply. This is also a felony, but a marginally less severe one. Someone convicted of second-degree Criminal Sexual Conduct faces up to 20 years in jail.

3rd-Degree: involves “sexual battery” with either force or coercion. CSC also falls in the third degree if the victim is incapacitated or mentally handicapped. This is the least severe of rape charges in SC but is still a felony with a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

What’s the difference between sexual assault and rape? It’s not always obvious. Let the team at the Kent Collins Law Firm help you decipher the differences.

Experienced Sex Crimes Lawyers

Sex crimes in SC are broadly defined and in some cases, difficult to understand. The attorneys at the Kent Collins Law Firm have experience representing clients against a variety of charges. Contact us today for a case review.

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