Understanding Burglary Charges in South Carolina

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The impact of a burglary charge can change your life. The penalties range from multiple years in prison to life imprisonment on top of thousands of dollars in fines, depending on the degree of the felony. There’s no such thing as misdemeanor burglary charges in South Carolina, even if it’s a non-violent burglary with no weapon brandishment and no injuries.

Only experienced Greenville burglary defense lawyers can help you understand South Carolina’s often complicated degrees of burglary. It takes just one additional circumstance to take you from a third degree, first offense charge to a second degree charge gleaning much higher fines and jail time.

All degrees of burglary are felonies in South Carolina, no matter what city you live in or what degree the burglary charge falls under. There are no misdemeanor burglaries. 

South Carolina’s penalties for burglary are stiff. Burglaries fall under either a class E or a class F felony. Class E felonies carry 10 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine. Class F felonies carry a 5-year imprisonment and/or a fine of $25,000 – and, depending on what degree of burglary that you are charged with, you could be sentenced up to life in prison for burglary in the first degree.

If you’ve been charged with burglary, it’s important to know what you’ve gotten yourself into and what the consequences of your crime may be.

South Carolina’s Three Degrees of Burglary

Burglaries occur in one of three degrees with varying circumstances that can add to the defendant’s culpability. You can find these described thoroughly online at the South Carolina Legislature under Title 16, Chapter 11, Sections 311 to 313, offenses against property.

Third-Degree Burglary (Section 16-11-313)

Third-degree burglary is defined by the SC Legislature as someone who enters a building without permission, intending to commit a crime. A burglary in the third degree is the least serious of all burglary degrees. Even so, you cannot commit burglary in South Carolina and expect probation since even all burglary degrees are felonies.

First offense

The felony is punishable up to five years in prison. Sentences are often carried out in detention centers.

Second offense

You could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison if you’re convicted of a second offense.

Example of a third-degree burglary

You enter your neighbor’s garage without their consent to steal power tools.

Second Degree Burglary (Section 16-11-312)

The second-degree burglary charge is also defined as someone who enters a building without permission, intending to commit a crime. However, it goes further if at least one of the following circumstances are added to that charge:

Burglary in the second degree may be considered violent if the person has a prior record of two or more past charges or convictions of burglary. The number of former burglary charges and convictions may also influence punishment.

The Penalties for a Second Degree Burglary Conviction

  • A non-violent second degree felony conviction is punishable up to, but not exceeding, 10 years in  prison.
  • A violent second degree felony conviction is punishable up to, but not exceeding, 15 years in prison. A violent second-degree conviction is eligible for parole upon serving one-third or more of the term.

Example of a second degree, non-violent, burglary charge

You break into a home without consent, with no weapon, with the intent to steal jewelry from the homeowner.

Example of a second degree, violent, burglary  charge

You break into a home without consent, brandishing a weapon, with the intent to steal jewelry from the homeowner.

First Degree Burglary (Section 16-11-311)

A first-degree burglary charge carries the most severe penalties – including life in prison even if there is no death involved. A person or another participant in the crime may be guilty of first-degree burglary if three conditions occur:

  1. The person enters a dwelling without consent.
  2. The person has the intent to commit a crime within the dwelling.
  3. And, just one of the following must be present: armed with an explosive or other deadly weapon; or, threatening to use a weapon; or causing injury to someone not participating in the burglary; or, displaying a knife, pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun or other firearm.

Example of a first degree burglary charge

You may be charged with first degree burglary if you enter a home without consent, armed with a gun, and steal a computer.

Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining happens when the defense team and the prosecutor (known as the solicitor in South Carolina) reach a deal to lower a burglary charge. There’s a certain amount of overlap within the degrees of burglary so a skilled defense attorney may be able to reach a plea bargain.

Dismissal of Burglary Charges

A burglary charge may be dismissed if charges are dropped due to inability to prove burglary or if the person pressing charges drops the charges. This is different than expungement. Expungement means that the charges are wiped off your record completely.

Discuss Your Case With Experienced Attorneys

A South Carolina burglary conviction can leave you without rights and in prison for years. If you are faced with a burglary charge, no matter what degree, discussing your case with an experienced attorney is sound advice. At Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC, our knowledge and courtroom experience will help build a strong defense against your felony burglary charge. Contact us to begin.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between burglary, robbery, and theft?

  • Burglary: Burglary is the unlawful entry, forced or not, onto another person’s property to commit a crime. Burglary usually involves theft, but there doesn’t need to be any property taken for the offense to be considered a burglary. The crime could be assault.
  • Robbery: Robbery occurs when someone takes another person’s property forcibly or by intimidation.
  • Theft: Theft and larceny refer to a person taking another person’s property without their permission.

What is the difference between a building and a dwelling?

A building is considered any structure where people gather or where goods are stored. This could be a boat, a garage, or a vehicle. A dwelling is considered to be any structure where a person lives.

What is South Carolina’s statute of limitations for burglary?

There is no statute of limitations for criminal cases like burglary. Although you can be prosecuted at any time for burglary, most cold cases are not sought out for prosecution.

Why Choose Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey Law Firm?

With the experience to address complex family law, criminal defense, and real estate matters, our knowledgeable team of attorneys are here to advocate for you. We operate our law offices on three main principles:


We strive to establish personal trust with each and every client.


We operate with the utmost integrity when dealing with clients and the legal community.


We commit to excellence in all aspects of the legal profession.
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