Over the years, our criminal defense attorneys in Charleston, South Carolina have defended people who have been charged with burglary. In South Carolina, there are different “degrees” of burglary that have different penalties for each. Some of these burglary degrees depend on factors such as whether the burglary was committed in the nighttime or with a weapon. Other factors depend on whether the suspect has been convicted of burglary in the past. Burglary in the first degree is the most serious and Burglary in the third degree is the least serious. Knowing the factors that determine the degree of the charge is very important because sometimes a person may be charged with a more severe degree of burglary than the facts and circumstances warrant.

What is Burglary in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, burglary is defined as the “entering of a (building or dwelling) without consent and with intent to commit a crime therein.” Although there are three degrees of burglary in South Carolina, there are five possibilities regarding what type of burglary charge that a person may be prosecuted for as follows:

  1. Burglary in the first-degree
  2. Burglary in the second degree (violent)
  3. Burglary in the second degree (non-violent)
  4. Burglary in the third degree (second offense)
  5. Burglary in the third degree (first offense)

“Entering” and “criminal intent” are “elements” of the crime of burglary that a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. the first element – entering— requires that you actually enter into a structure without permission. The second element requires proof that a person had made a decision to commit a crime (such as theft) and then entered the building for that reason.

What is a “Dwelling” for Purposes of Burglary in South Carolina?

For purposes of burglary in South Carolina, a “dwelling” is:

any house, outhouse, apartment, building, erection, shed or box in which there sleeps a proprietor, tenant, watchman, clerk, laborer or person who lodges there with a view to the protection of property shall be deemed a dwelling house, and of such a dwelling house or of any other dwelling house all houses, outhouses, buildings, sheds and erections which are within two hundred yards of it and are appurtenant to it or to the same establishment of which it is an appurtenance shall be deemed parcels.

In other words, a dwelling is any type of building where someone sleeps/lives or other types of building within 200 yards of the dwelling.

What is Burglary in the First Degree in SC?

Under 16-11-311, burglary in the first degree is considered to be “violent” and “most serious.” The statute provides:

A person is guilty of Burglary in the first degree if the person enters a dwelling without consent and with intent to commit a crime in the dwelling, and either:

(1) when, in effecting entry or while in the dwelling or in immediate flight, he or another participant in the crime:

(a) is armed with a deadly weapon or explosive; or
(b) causes physical injury to a person who is not a participant in the crime; or
(c) uses or threatens the use of a dangerous instrument; or
(d) displays what is or appears to be a knife, pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, or other firearm; or

(2) the Burglary is committed by a person with a prior record of two or more convictions for Burglary or housebreaking or a combination of both; or

(3) the entering or remaining occurs in the nighttime.

(B) Burglary in the first degree is a felony punishable by life imprisonment. For purposes of this section, “life” means until death. The court, in its discretion, may sentence the defendant to a term of not less than fifteen years.

Interestingly, a person can be charged with burglary in the first degree if they are stealing a deadly weapon from the dwelling, such as a rifle, even if they did not come to the crime scene armed with a deadly weapon.

What is Burglary in the Second Degree (Violent) in SC?

Burglary in the second degree (violent) is defined under 16-11-312 that provides:

A person is guilty of Burglary in the second degree if the person enters a building without consent and with intent to commit a crime therein, and either:

(1) When, in effecting entry or while in the building or in immediate flight therefrom, he or another participant in the crime:

(a) Is armed with a deadly weapon or explosive; or
(b) Causes physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the crime; or
(c) Uses or threatens the use of a dangerous instrument; or
(d) Displays what is or appears to be a knife, pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, or other firearm; or

(2) The Burglary is committed by a person with a prior record of two or more convictions for Burglary or housebreaking or a combination of both; or

(3) The entering or remaining occurs in the nighttime.

Burglary in the second degree [violent]  . . .  is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than fifteen years, provided, that no person convicted of Burglary in the second degree pursuant to subsection (B) shall be eligible for parole except upon service of not less than one-third of the term of the sentence.

Violent burglary in the second degree is similar to burglary in the first degree except that this burglary involves a non-residential “building” instead of a residential dwelling.

What is Burglary in the Second Degree (Non-Violent) in SC?

Burglary in the second degree “non-violent” is defined under 16-11-312(A) as follows:

A person is guilty of Burglary in the second degree if the person enters a dwelling without consent and with intent to commit a crime therein.

* * *

Burglary in the second degree [non-violent] is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than ten years.

Essentially, burglary in the second degree non-violent is burglary of a dwelling without an “aggravating circumstance” such as when a person enters a house during the daytime to steal personal property.

What is Burglary in the Third Degree in SC?

The difference between burglary in the second degree non-violent and burglary in the third degree is that 3rd degree involves entering a building instead of a “dwelling” without aggravating circumstances. Under 16-11-313, burglary in the third degree is as follows:

(A) A person is guilty of Burglary in the third degree if the person enters a building without consent and with intent to commit a crime therein.

(B) Burglary in the third degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years for conviction on a first offense and for not more than ten years for conviction of a second offense according to the discretion of the Court.

Charleston Criminal Defense Attorneys for Burglary Charges

If you’ve been charged with the crime of burglary, you’re facing serious penalties depending on the degree of the charge. It is important to hire an criminal defense attorney who understands the different classifications of burglary and the differences between each. Contact the lawyers of Futeral & Nelson today for a FREE consultation.