If you are facing unlawful communication charges in South Carolina, you can have legal representation from the experienced team at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC. We represent our clients in aggressively fighting criminal charges. For a consultation and to get legal help today, call (864) 920-2709 or message our criminal defense attorneys in Greenville, SC.
Unlawful Communication in South Carolina
South Carolina Code § 16-17-430 prohibits unlawful communication by telephonic or other electronic means. It encompasses a wide range of communications that may be considered offensive or harassing.
Elements of Unlawful Communication in South Carolina
There are different ways that a person may commit the offense of unlawful communication. All offenses must involve the use of telephonic communication or other electronic methods. South Carolina prohibits communications in the following ways:
- Communicating vulgar, lewd, profane, lascivious, independent or profane things to another person.
- Communicating or conveying a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, indecent, suggestive, or immoral message.
- Threatening unlawful action to intimidate, coerce or harass another.
- Contacting someone else repeatedly, trying to annoy or harass them or their family.
- Making a call and then hanging up, with the purpose of interfering with someone else’s telephone service.
- False statements about the injury or death of a family member.
- Knowingly allowing someone else to use a telephone to communicate in a prohibited way.
A violation of South Carolina Code § 16-17-430 – unlawful telephone or other electronic communication is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $100-$500.
Can you be prosecuted under S.C. Code § 16-17-430 for text messages?
Because S.C. Code § 16-17-430 includes telephone and other electronic means, a person could be prosecuted for text messages that violate the law. A person could also be prosecuted for email, video chat, social media and online postings.
Venue and forum
A charge of unlawful communication may be prosecuted in the county where the communication originates or in the county where it is received.
Examples of Unlawful Communication in SC
- Threatening to post something online about someone that isn’t true with the intent of coercing them.
- Falsely texting that someone’s family member has been hurt in a car accident.
- Calling someone in the middle of the night and hanging up when they answer, or calling them and hanging up to interrupt business operations.
- Texting or calling someone repeatedly with the purpose of harassing them.
- Sending lewd images or texts to someone or posting them online.
- Threatening to hurt someone by phone or email.
- Giving someone your phone so that they can make unlawful communication.
Unlawful communications charges raise questions about lawfully protected speech. Even though the law prohibits speech that is lewd, obscene or profane, the law also protects free speech. Courts impose a high burden for prosecutors to show that speech rises to a level of criminality. See Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973).
Similarly, true threats against a person are not constitutionally protected. However, there is a high standard for speech to be a sincere threat. See United States v. Alkhabaz, 104 F.3rd 1492 (1997).
More serious charges – stalking and harassment
Stalking and harassment are charges that may be related to unlawful communication. They carry more serious potential penalties. Stalking is a violation of S.C. Code § 16-3-1730 and is punishable by up to five years incarceration.
Harassment is a violation of S.C. Code § 16-3-1710 or § 16-3-1720. The potential penalty varies by degree.
Defenses to Unlawful Communication Charges in South Carolina
If you are charged with unlawful communication in South Carolina, a lawyer can represent you. You may challenge the admission of evidence against you and its credibility. You have the right to a trial, to file court motions and to take other action to protect your rights.