Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor  

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In South Carolina, criminal sexual conduct is the legal term designed to describe child molestation.  If an individual is accused of having an inappropriate physical relationship with a child, and it appears that facts exist supporting the allegation, then that person will likely be charged and prosecuted for criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
Criminal sexual conduct with a minor includes three specific offenses: criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree, criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the second degree, and criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the third degree.  The degree of offense depends on the age of the parties and the type of conduct the accused is alleged to have committed.

What is Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor in the First Degree?

Criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree is the offense designed to address the most severe forms of child molestation in South Carolina.  It can be divided into two subcategories.  Each category has different elements and different potential punishments.
The first category is of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree is governed by South Carolina Code Section 16-3-655(A)(1).  Section 16-3-655(A)(1) criminalizes a sexual battery committed on a victim less than eleven years of age.  This offense has two elements.  First, there must be a sexual battery.  A sexual battery is penetration of the victim, however slight, or oral sex.  Second, the victim must be less than eleven years of age when the sexual battery occurs.
The second category of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree is governed by South Carolina Code Section 16-3-655(A)(2).  Section 16-3-655(A)(2) criminalizes a sexual battery on a victim less than sixteen years of age who has previously been convicted of a sex crime as defined by South Carolina Code Section 23-3-430 or who is on the sex offender registry pursuant to that code section.

How is Criminal Sexual Conduct in the First Degree Punished?

Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree pursuant to Section 16-3-655(A)(1) is punishable by a minimum of twenty-five (25) years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.  No parole or probation can be granted.  If a person has been previously convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a minor less than eleven years of age and is again convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a minor less than eleven years of age, then the punishment is automatically life in prison.
Section 16-3-655(D)(1) also provides that violators of 16-3-655(A)(1) can be punished by death if they have been previously convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a minor less than eleven years of age.  However, in Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407 (2008), the United States Supreme Court limited the death penalty to crimes resulting in the death of the victim or crimes against the State, like treason.  So, while Section 16-3-655(D)(1) prescribes death as a potential penalty for repeat offenders, the United States Supreme Court has deemed death in those circumstances to be unconstitutional as violative of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments.
If and when an offender is released from prison after being convicted of a violation of this section, he will be required to register as a sex offender and comply with South Carolina’s electronic monitoring requirements.
Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree pursuant to Section 16-3-655(A)(2) is punishable by a minimum sentence of ten (10) years in prison and a maximum of thirty (30) years in prison.  No parole or probation can be granted.  This offense also requires sex offender registry and active electronic monitoring.

What is Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor in the Second Degree?

Criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the second degree also addresses child molestation.  However, the penalties, while substantial, are less severe than criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree.  Like first degree, second degree can be divided in to two distinct categories, each with different elements.
Criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the second degree pursuant to Section 16-3-655(B)(1) punishes the commission of a sexual battery on a child less than fourteen but at least eleven years of age.  So, there are two elements to this crime.  The perpetrator must commit a sexual battery, and the child must be less than fourteen and at least eleven years of age.
The second class of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the second degree is governed by Section 16-3-655(B)(2).  This section criminalizes the commission of a sexual battery upon a minor at least fourteen years old but less than sixteen years old.  A conviction under this section requires not only that the child be between fourteen and sixteen years old, but that the actor be older than the victim or in a position of authority over the child.

How is Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor in the Second Degree Punished?

Regardless of the subsection of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the second degree, a conviction is punished by a period of imprisonment of up to twenty (20) years.  In addition to potential penal time, per S.C. Code Section 23-3-430(C)(5), a conviction for criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the second degree necessitates registration as a sex offender (with one notable exception).  It may also require electronic monitoring.

What is Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor in the Third Degree?

Criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the third degree addresses a different type of conduct than criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the first degree and criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the second degree.  S.C. Code Section 16-3-655(C) outlines the elements for criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the third degree.  Formerly known as lewd act, the elements of third degree are that there must be an inappropriate touching of a minor child less than sixteen years of age, by a person over the age of fourteen, and the touching must have been committed with lewd or lascivious intent.  In other words, if someone inappropriately touches a child with the intent of arousing themselves or the child, then they are guilty of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the third degree.  Sexual battery is not a requirement of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the third degree.

How is Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor in the Third Degree Punished?

Criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the third degree carries a maximum penal sentence of fifteen years.  A conviction of criminal sexual conduct with a minor in the third degree requires registration as a sex offender pursuant to S.C. Code Section 23-3-430(C)(6).

How will the Prosecutor Approach my Case?

Understand that sexual crimes against minors are some of the most serious crimes addressed by South Carolina’s criminal justice system.  Because of that fact, most Circuit Solicitors assign their top assistant solicitors to prosecute sex crimes.  The prosecutor assigned to your case will likely consider the age of the alleged victim, the circumstances surrounding the alleged abuse, and any circumstances of aggravation or mitigation in determining the appropriate way to handle your case.
Ultimately, as a society, we have a vested interest in protecting our children.  So, to those ends, the legislature and prosecuting agencies want to ensure that crimes harming children are quickly and severely punished.  The punishment is designed to serve a dual function:  First, it functions as a retributive form of justice.  In other words, it punishes a serious wrong with a serious sentence.  Second, it is designed to serve as a deterrent.  The potential penal time is geared at preventing individuals who are otherwise inclined from harming children.

What if I have been Wrongfully Accused?

If you are accused of committing criminal sexual conduct with a minor, and you did not commit the crime with which you have been charged, then you need to seek the aid of an attorney immediately.  From a prosecutor’s standpoint, these are priority cases.  When the Solicitor’s Office triages its warrants, these charges are given a great deal of priority, so do not assume that your case will await prosecution for years.  You need an attorney to begin investigating your case immediately, as the police will have already investigated the case for the prosecution.  To delay hiring an attorney until shortly before trial could be a costly mistake.  Sam Tooker and David R. Price, Jr. are skilled trial attorneys, familiar with the seriousness of these charges and prepared to thoroughly investigate and litigate your case.  If you have been accused of a violation of one of the above crimes, then call the attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A.  We will aggressively protect your rights.

 

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