South Carolina protects people and their property from intruders with the state's burglary and trespass laws.
In South Carolina, burglary is defined as unauthorized entry into a structure with the intent to commit a crime therein. Penalties vary according to the type of building that the defendant entered, and other circumstances, as described below in “Degrees and Penalties.”
The two parts of the definition of burglary—entering and criminal intent—are known as the “elements” of the crime, and to be convicted of burglary, both elements of the crime must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt (or admitted to by the defendant). That is, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant actually entered the building, and entered with the intent to commit a crime therein. Without sufficient proof of each element, the prosecutor may secure a conviction for some other crime (such as trespass or attempted burglary), but not burglary.
Also notice that the intended crime (such as theft or assault) need not be completed; proof of entry and criminal intent are the only requirements for a conviction.
The first element of the crime of burglary—entering— requires that you actually entered into a structure without permission to do so.
The second element of burglary concerns the defendant’s state of mind at the time he or she entered the building. To be convicted of burglary, the defendant must have decided to commit a crime, and then entered the building for that purpose.
Burglary is broken into three categories, with increasing penalties according to severity of the crime.
Burglary in the first degree occurs when the defendant unlawfully entered a dwelling with the intent to commit a crime therein and either was armed, caused physical injury to another person (other than an accomplice), used or threatened to use a dangerous instrument, or displayed a weapon during the crime (or while fleeing the crime scene); if the defendant had two or more prior burglary convictions; or if the entry occurred at nighttime. Burglary in the first degree is punished with life imprisonment. (S.C. Laws Ann. § 16-11-311.)
Burglary in the second degree occurs when the defendant unlawfully entered a dwelling with the intent to commit a crime therein. Penalties include up to ten years in prison.
Second degree burglary also includes unlawful entry into a non-residential building with criminal intent when either the defendant was armed, caused physical injury to another person (other than an accomplice), used or threatened to use a dangerous instrument, or displayed a weapon during the crime (or while fleeing the crime scene); if the defendant had two or more prior burglary convictions; or if the entry occurred at nighttime. Penalties include up to 15 years in prison. (S.C. Laws Ann. § 16-11-312.)
Burglary in the third degree occurs when the defendant unlawfully entered a building with the intent to commit a crime therein under circumstances not included in first or second degree burglary.
Penalties include up to five years in prison for a first conviction, and up to ten years for a second conviction. (S.C. Laws Ann. § 16-11-313.)
In Rhode Island, home invasion is not a separate offense from breaking and entering, but rather a specific name for a burglary that occurs in a dwelling. Home invasion has the same elements as general burglary, and is punished as for burglary, according to the underlying circumstances of the crime (discussed above; first- or second-degree burglary).
Similar to burglary, trespass is defined as knowingly entering onto private property without the authority to do so. The difference between the two crimes is that trespass does not require that the entry be with the intent to commit a crime inside. Instead, merely entering qualifies as trespass.
Trespass onto private land, including land used for pasturing livestock, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to $100, up to 30 days in jail with hard labor on the public works of the county, or both. (S.C. Laws Ann. § 16-11-600.)
Trespass for the purpose of gathering anything growing on the land (wild or cultivated, such as fruit or wildflowers), or for hunting, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to $200, up to 30 days in jail with hard labor on the public works of the county, or both. Penalties increase for second and subsequent offenses. (S.C. Laws Ann. § 16-11-610.)
Trespass for the purpose of cultivating 25 or more marijuana plants on someone else’s land is a felony punishable by up to $5,000, up to five years in prison, or both. Cultivating fewer than 25 plants in this manner may carry a conviction for another form trespass, as described above, or some other crime relating to drug cultivation, possession, or trafficking. For more on marijuana-related laws and crimes in South Carolina, see South Carolina Marijuana Laws. (S.C. Laws Ann. § 16-11-617.)
If you have been charged with burglary, trespass, or a related crime, or if you have questions about state laws, consult a qualified local criminal defense attorney. Only an attorney can review the unique facts of your situation, and advise you on how the law will apply to your case.