MOST SERIOUS/SERIOUS OFFENSES

Some crimes are viewed as so heinous or dangerous the South Carolina Law designates them as either "Most Serious" or 'Serious.' Convictions for these crimes can subject a person to a potential life sentence even if the charge they face normally would not. In other words, if you were charged with Burglary 2nd that would normally carry a potential 15 year sentence. But if you had two prior burglary convictions you would be looking at a life sentence.

The law concerning Most Serious/Serious Offenses can be found in the South Carolina Code of Law in Section 17-25-45.

Most Serious/Serious Offenses

SECTION 17-25-45. Life sentence for person convicted for certain crimes.

(A) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, except in cases in which the death penalty is imposed, upon a conviction for a most serious offense as defined by this section, a person must be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole if that person has either:

(1) one or more prior convictions for:

(a) a most serious offense; or

(b) a federal or out-of-state conviction for an offense that would be classified as a most serious offense under this section; or

(2) two or more prior convictions for:

(a) a serious offense; or

(b) a federal or out-of-state conviction for an offense that would be classified as a serious offense under this section.

(B) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, except in cases in which the death penalty is imposed, upon a conviction for a serious offense as defined by this section, a person must be sentenced to a term of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole if that person has two or more prior convictions for:

(1) a serious offense;

(2) a most serious offense;

(3) a federal or out-of-state offense that would be classified as a serious offense or most serious offense under this section; or

(4) any combination of the offenses listed in items (1), (2), and (3) above.

(C) As used in this section:

(1) "Most serious offense" means:

16-1-40 Accessory, for any offense enumerated in this item

16-1-80 Attempt, for any offense enumerated in this item

16-3-10 Murder

16-3-29 Attempted Murder

16-3-50 Voluntary manslaughter

16-3-85(A)(1) Homicide by child abuse

16-3-85(A)(2) Aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse

16-3-210 Lynching, First degree

16-3-210(B) Assault and battery by mob, First degree

16-3-620 Assault and battery with intent to kill

16-3-652 Criminal sexual conduct, First degree

16-3-653 Criminal sexual conduct, Second degree

16-3-655 Criminal sexual conduct with minors, except where evidence presented at the criminal proceeding and the court, after the conviction, makes a specific finding on the record that the conviction obtained for this offense resulted from consensual sexual conduct where the victim was younger than the actor, as contained in Section 16-3-655(3)

16-3-656 Assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct,

First and Second degree

16-3-910 Kidnapping

16-3-920 Conspiracy to commit kidnapping

16-3-930 Trafficking in persons

16-3-1075 Carjacking

16-11-110(A) Arson, First degree

16-11-311 Burglary, First degree

16-11-330(A) Armed robbery

16-11-330(B) Attempted armed robbery

16-11-540 Damaging or destroying building, vehicle, or other property by means of explosive incendiary, death results

24-13-450 Taking of a hostage by an inmate

25-7-30 Giving information respecting national or state defense to foreign contacts during war

25-7-40 Gathering information for an enemy

43-35-85(F) Abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in death

55-1-30(3) Unlawful removing or damaging of airport facility or equipment when death results

56-5-1030(B)(3) Interference with traffic-control devices or railroad signs or signals prohibited when death results from violation

58-17-4090 Obstruction of railroad, death results.

(2) "Serious offense" means:

(a) any offense which is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment for thirty years or more which is not referenced in subsection (C)(1); (b) those felonies enumerated as follows:

16-3-220 Lynching, Second degree

16-3-210(C) Assault and battery by mob, Second degree

16-3-600(B) Assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature

16-3-810 Engaging child for sexual performance

16-9-220 Acceptance of bribes by officers

16-9-290 Accepting bribes for purpose of procuring public office

16-11-110(B) Arson, Second degree

16-11-312(B) Burglary, Second degree

16-11-380(B) Theft of a person using an automated teller machine

16-13-210(1) Embezzlement of public funds

16-13-230(B)(3) Breach of trust with fraudulent intent

16-13-240(1) Obtaining signature or property by false pretenses

38-55-540(3) Insurance fraud

44-53-370(e) Trafficking in controlled substances

44-53-375(C) Trafficking in ice, crank, or crack cocaine

44-53-445(B)(1)&(2) Distribute, sell, manufacture, or possess with intent to distribute controlled substances within proximity of school

56-5-2945 Causing death by operating vehicle while under influence of drugs or alcohol; and (c) the offenses enumerated below:

16-1-40 Accessory before the fact for any of the offenses listed in subitems (a) and (b)

16-1-80 Attempt to commit any of the offenses listed in subitems (a) and (b)

43-35-85(E) Abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in great bodily injury.

(3) "Conviction" means any conviction, guilty plea, or plea of nolo contendere.

(D) Except as provided in this subsection or subsection (E), no person sentenced pursuant to this section shall be eligible for early release or discharge in any form, whether by parole, work release, release to ameliorate prison overcrowding, or any other early release program, nor shall they be eligible for earned work credits, education credits, good conduct credits, or any similar program for early release. A person is eligible for work release if the person is sentenced for voluntary manslaughter (Section 16-3-50), kidnapping (Section 16-3-910), carjacking (Section 16-3-1075), burglary in the second degree (Section 16-11-312(B)), armed robbery (Section 16-11-330(A)), or attempted armed robbery (Section 16-11-330(B)), the crime did not involve any criminal sexual conduct or an additional violent crime as defined in Section 16-1-60, and the person is within three years of release from imprisonment.

(E) For the purpose of this section only, a person sentenced pursuant to this section may be paroled if:

(1) the Department of Corrections requests the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services to consider the person for parole; and

(2) the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services determines that due to the person's health or age he is no longer a threat to society; and

(a) the person has served at least thirty years of the sentence imposed pursuant to this section and has reached at least sixty-five years of age; or

(b) the person has served at least twenty years of the sentence imposed pursuant to this section and has reached at least seventy years of age; or

(c) the person is afflicted with a terminal illness where life expectancy is one year or less; or

(d) the person can produce evidence comprising the most extraordinary circumstances.

(F) For the purpose of determining a prior or previous conviction under this section and Section 17-25-50, a prior or previous conviction shall mean the defendant has been convicted of a most serious or serious offense, as may be applicable, on a separate occasion, prior to the instant adjudication. There is no requirement that the sentence for the prior or previous conviction must have been served or completed before a sentence of life without parole can be imposed under this section.

(G) The decision to invoke sentencing under this section is in the discretion of the solicitor.

(H) Where the solicitor is required to seek or determines to seek sentencing of a defendant under this section, written notice must be given by the solicitor to the defendant and defendant's counsel not less than ten days before trial.