Defending yourself against a criminal charge is not something you should take lightly, even if the actual offense you are charged with does not seem that severe. Even misdemeanor convictions can be punished with imprisonment in South Carolina, and any felony case that ends with a guilty finding will almost certainly result in at least some jail time.
Working with a dedicated criminal law attorney could be the best option you have for protecting your rights and preserving your interests in these kinds of situations. If you were arrested and charged with any kind of criminal offense recently, retaining a Beaufort criminal lawyer should be your first priority.
Two Types of Criminal Offenses in Beaufort
Criminal offenses in South Carolina are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are less severe and usually non-violent offenses. According to the South Carolina Code of Laws §16-1-10, any crime for which the maximum punishment is less than one year of imprisonment—such as marijuana possession, underage alcohol possession, and child endangerment—is considered an unclassified misdemeanor offense.
What are the Penalties for a Misdemeanor Crime?
State law establishes three categories of misdemeanors that a Beaufort resident may be charged with. Under S.C. Code §16-1-20, Class C misdemeanors are punishable by a maximum of one year in jail, while Class B misdemeanor convictions may lead to a two-year jail sentence. Repeat convictions for unclassified misdemeanors often result in subsequent offenses being prosecuted as Class C or Class B misdemeanors.
Finally, Class A misdemeanors can be punished by up to three years in jail and include offenses like shoplifting, second-degree assault, and contributing to a minor’s delinquency. A qualified misdemeanor criminal legal advisor could help a local resident reduce their charges and protect their rights.
What are the Penalties for a Felony Offense?
Compared to misdemeanors, felony offenses are prosecuted significantly more harshly in South Carolina. S.C. Code §16-1-10 establishes six classes of felony offenses, any of which could be punished with at least one year in prison, significant fines, and the loss of civil privileges such as the right to vote and the right to legally own a firearm.
Class F felonies are punishable by five years in prison at most, a maximum sentence which increases by five years for every successive class up to a potential 30-year prison sentence upon conviction for a Class A felony. In addition, especially severe offenses may be punishable by a life sentence in prison, and under specific circumstances, a murder conviction can result in the death penalty.
Anyone charged with a felony offense may have to act quickly to secure legal representation, as these charges result in extremely high bail amounts and additional restrictions on defendants’ right prior to their trial. A knowledgeable felony criminal defense representative in the area could provide crucial assistance to anyone facing allegations of a felony offense.
Speak to a Beaufort Criminal Defense Attorney about Your Charges Today
Even though they share the same classification systems, two seemingly identical offenses may be prosecuted very differently depending on the circumstances. To effectively contest your charges and defend your best interests, you will likely need help from an experienced legal professional who has successfully dealt with cases like yours before.
Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony offense, there is no substitute for practiced legal expertise if you are trying to achieve a positive resolution to a South Carolina criminal case. Call a Beaufort criminal lawyer today to discuss your legal options and start working on your defense strategy.