Criminal sexual conduct in SC, also called CSC or rape, is among the most serious criminal charges in our state and can carry as much as 30 years in prison if a person is convicted. 

Whether a person is convicted and how long their potential sentence could be depends on many different factors – the severity of the charges can also turn on the definitions of legal terms like “sexual battery,” “mental incapacitation,” “aggravated force,” or “aggravated coercion.” 

In this article you will learn:

  • The different degrees of criminal sexual conduct in SC, 
  • Some definitions of key terms that could decide the outcome of a CSC case, and 
  • The potential penalties for a rape conviction in SC. 

What is Criminal Sexual Conduct in SC? 

Criminal sexual conduct (aka CSC or rape) is separated into 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree charges depending on the seriousness of the allegations. 

All CSC charges require the commission of a sexual battery, but the degree of the charge depends on how the sexual battery was committed. 

Three Degrees of Criminal Sexual Conduct

CSC 1st Degree

First-degree criminal sexual conduct is the most serious type of rape allegation in SC. Under SC Code Section 16-3-652, a person can be convicted of CSC 1st degree if they commit a sexual battery and:

1. The person used aggravated force,

2. The alleged victim was also the victim of kidnapping, forced confinement, human trafficking, robbery, burglary, extortion, or a similar offense, or

3. The person caused the alleged victim to become mentally incapacitated or physically helpless by giving them alcohol or drugs. 

SC Code Section 16-3-651 defines some of the terms that could make the difference between a conviction for CSC 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree:

  • Sexual battery means “sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person’s body,” excluding medical procedures.
  • Aggravated force means “physical force or physical violence of a high and aggravated nature” or threats to use a deadly weapon. 
  • Mentally incapacitated means a person is “temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling his or her conduct” and includes incapacitation by drugs or alcohol. 
  • Physically helpless means someone “is unconscious, asleep, or for any other reason physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.” 

These are very specific meanings for legal “terms of art” that apply in rape cases. For example, “physically helpless” does not mean “unable to defend yourself.” It means “unable to say ‘no’ due to your physical condition.” 

Note that the third type of CSC 1st degree only applies when the accused causes the alleged victim to become mentally incapacitated, for example by giving them alcohol or drugs, whereas the second type of CSC 3rd degree (below) applies whether or not the accused provided the alcohol or drugs. 

CSC 2nd Degree

Second-degree criminal sexual conduct, or CSC 2nd, is when a person commits a sexual battery using aggravated coercion

Unlike the first type of CSC we discussed, 1st degree, which requires the use of aggravated force, you can be convicted of CSC 2nd degree simply by threatening to use “force or violence of a high and aggravated nature” or even by threatening to retaliate against the alleged victim in the future

CSC 3rd Degree

Third-degree criminal sexual conduct, or CSC 3rd, involves commission of a sexual battery and:

1. Force or coercion was used, or

2. The alleged victim was “mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless and aggravated force or aggravated coercion was not used to accomplish sexual battery.”

Force or coercion means physical force or the threat of force where the force used or threatened was not “of a high and aggravated nature” and did not involve the use of a deadly weapon. 

Mentally defective means that the alleged victim “suffers from a mental disease or defect which renders the person temporarily or permanently incapable of appraising the nature of his or her conduct.” In other words, they were incapable of giving consent due to their mental state. 

CSC with a Minor is a Separate Offense

If a person is charged with criminal sexual conduct against an alleged victim who is younger than 16, they are charged with the separate offense of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, which has different elements that must be proven and carries different potential penalties than adult rape charges.  

What are the Penalties for Rape in SC?

All CSC charges in SC are felony offenses, and the potential penalties range from ten years to as much as 30 years in prison:

Charges Felony or Misdemeanor Maximum Prison Term
CSC 3rd degree Felony Ten years
CSC 2nd degree Felony 20 years
CSC 1st degree Felony 30 years


In addition to the potential prison sentence, there are other collateral consequences to a rape conviction in SC, which could include:

  • Sex offender registration,
  • GPS monitoring, 
  • Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) classification (which could result in indefinite civil commitment at the SC Department of Corrections), 
  • A permanent record as a sex offender, 
  • Difficulty finding meaningful employment, and
  • The stigma of being labeled a sex offender. 

Defenses to CSC in SC

How do you defend against allegations of rape? 

The answer depends on the facts of your case, but the most common defense is consent – if the alleged victim consented to have sex, there was no rape. Even in cases where an alleged victim is severely intoxicated or “mentally defective,” it comes down to whether they were capable of giving consent.  

It is a fact that many women (and men) are raped every day in our country. Some report the rape to the police but many do not. It is also a fact that many women (and men) falsely report rape – an allegation that can destroy a person’s reputation and follow them for the rest of their life even if they are not convicted. 

In far too many cases, an alleged victim has consensual sex – consensual until they are confronted with the reality of an angry boyfriend or suspicious family members. “Buyer’s remorse” has caused many innocent people to lose their freedom, their jobs, their families, and their reputations as they were forced to defend against false rape allegations. 

Charged with CSC in SC? 

Get an experienced CSC defense attorney on your side immediately who can investigate your case, find the evidence to prove your innocence when possible, negotiate with the state, and try your case to a jury when necessary. 

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you. 

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