In South Carolina, murder consists of the killing of any person with “malice aforethought”, either expressed or implied. Now, this is a complicated phrase, so we should look at how specific terms are understood:

  • Under South Carolina law malice is a willful or intentional doing of a wrongful act, without just cause or excuse.
  • Aforethought refers to the time when the evil intent is conceived.

In other words, if you intentionally kill another person with the evil intent to do so, you can be charged with murder.

Premeditation Can Occur in an Instant

However, it is a common misconception that premeditation must occur some distant time before the act of murder. One need not spend days or weeks in advance, devising a plan to kill another to be charged with murder. Premeditation can occur in an instant.

Penalties for Murder Under South Carolina Law

If one is convicted of or pleads guilty to murder, South Carolina law says he must be punished by death or by mandatory minimum imprisonment of 30 years to life. In most cases, the state does not seek the death penalty unless certain aggravating circumstances exist. If the state does seek the death penalty, they must notify the defendant of the intent to do so a certain period of time before the trial.

There is no parole for life sentences.

Being Accused of a Violent Crime Does Not Mean You Will Be Convicted

There are certain defenses to murder. Some of the most common examples of defenses that have been used successfully are:

  • The Castle Doctrine, or South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law
  • Self-defense or the defense of others
  • It was an accident
  • The accused has an alibi or claims the crime was not committed by him

There are also lesser included offenses, such as manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. In some cases, a defense attorney may be able to negotiate to have charges reduced to one of these lesser offenses.

If you have been charged with murder or any other serious crime, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Holland & Usry, PA  toll-free at 888.230.1841. When you are charged or being investigated with a crime like murder, the stakes are high and it is critical that you act quickly to obtain an attorney. Your future and your freedom may depend on your defense team.


John Holland
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John Holland is a Spartanburg Family law attorney, practicing since 2012.