Anyone who has ever watched a crime show has heard the term homicide. But what is that? Homicide is the unlawful killing of another, but there are varying degrees of this class of crimes. The degrees depend upon on the jurisdiction and the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged incident. By far, the most talked about homicide crime is that of murder, which also has different definitions and degrees depending on the jurisdiction. Criminal charges and punishments often vary from state to state. Murder in South Carolina is defined as “the killing of any person with malice aforethought, either express or implied.” This is different from the South Carolina definition of manslaughter, which we will discuss in a different blog.
South Carolina murder charges
- Unlike most other states, South Carolina does not seem to separate murder into first degree and second degree, and therefore murder is treated as one charge and the punishment is determined by any aggravating factors that may exist. This is very different from North Carolina murder charges, which we discussed in another blog.
Elements of murder in South Carolina
- There are no specific elements outlined in the statute but South Carolina criminal law does specify that the act or injury inflicted by the defendant that caused the death, must have caused the death within three years of occurring.
- The only other requirement is that the “murder” was committed with malice, as previously stated.
- In this context malice is a term used to signify that the defendant intended to injury the victim. In order to have malice, the act must be voluntary and deliberate (even if death was not the specific intended outcome).
Punishment for murder in South Carolina
There are three tiers of punishment for murder in South Carolina depending on the facts and circumstances that surround the incident:
- Thirty years to life in prison
- Life in prison without the possibility of parole
- The death penalty
Sentencing for murder in South Carolina
Upon conviction or the entering of a guilty plea, a separate sentencing hearing is held to determine which of the above-required sentences will be imposed. There are several possible aggravating factors that will lead to life in prison without the possibility of parole including but not limited to:
- The murder was committed during an act of criminal sexual conduct
- The murder was committed during the course of a kidnapping
- The murder was committed during a robbery with a dangerous weapon
- The murder was committed during a burglary
These aggravating factors would have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden would be on the state of South Carolina to prove them.
The death penalty can be imposed if the State seeks it and the judge finds the aggravating factors sufficient to justify that sentence.
If you know someone who is facing a murder charge in South Carolina and needs a York Criminal defense lawyer, a Lancaster Criminal defense lawyer, or a Rock Hill criminal defense lawyer, contact us. At Gilles Law we handle criminal defense in both North Carolina and South Carolina; we handle felonies and misdemeanors, and we handle both state and federal charges.