Misdemeanor vs. Felony Theft in South Carolina

In South Carolina’s criminal justice system, theft charges hold significant weight. Yet, the severity of these charges hinges on a fundamental distinction: whether the offense is classified as misdemeanor or felony theft.

Comprehending this distinction is crucial for anyone residing in or visiting the state, as the consequences can drastically alter the course of one’s life. Here are a few critical distinctions and key tips from a Greenville, South Carolina defense attorney.

Understanding Misdemeanor Theft: Petit Larceny

Petit larceny, as defined by South Carolina Code § 16-13-30, occupies the realm of misdemeanor theft. It encompasses the unlawful taking of personal property valued at less than $2,000. This seemingly low threshold can have serious consequences.


  • Maximum Incarceration: Up to 30 days in jail. While seemingly brief, this incarceration can disrupt employment, childcare arrangements, and personal well-being.
  • Fines: Up to $1,000. This financial penalty can add significant stress and burden to the individual and their family.
  • Criminal Record: A conviction for petit larceny remains on your record for 10 years. This can negatively impact employment opportunities, housing applications, and professional licensing.

Impact Beyond the Immediate

While the immediate penalties may seem manageable, the long-term consequences of a petit larceny conviction can be far-reaching. The presence of a criminal record can hinder educational pursuits, limit housing options, and restrict access to certain professional licenses. This can significantly impact one’s ability to build a stable and successful future.

Navigating the Labyrinth of Felony Theft: Grand Larceny

When the value of stolen property ascends beyond the $2,000 threshold, the legal landscape shifts dramatically, falling under grand larceny. This classification carries a far heavier weight, with penalties that can drastically alter the course of one’s life.


  • $2,000 to $8,000: Up to 5 years in prison. This incarceration can have a devastating impact on personal relationships, employment, and overall life trajectory.
  • $10,000 or More: Up to 10 years in prison. The potential for a decade-long incarceration paints a stark picture of the severity of grand larceny charges.
  • Fines: At the court’s discretion. The potential for significant financial penalties adds another layer of hardship to the already severe consequences.
  • Permanent Criminal Record: A grand larceny conviction remains on your record indefinitely, casting a long shadow on future opportunities.

theft takes many forms in the legal classification

Beyond the Monetary Threshold

While the value of stolen property dictates the initial classification, aggravating and mitigating circumstances can influence the charge and potential sentence.

Aggravating Circumstances

  • Force or Threats: Employing force or threats of violence during the theft significantly increases the severity of the offense.
  • Vulnerable Victims: Stealing from individuals considered particularly vulnerable, such as the elderly or children, can trigger harsher penalties.
  • Restricted Locations: Committing the theft in a protected area, such as a place of worship or school, carries additional legal repercussions.
  • Prior Criminal Record: A history of criminal activity, especially theft-related offenses, can lead to enhanced penalties.

Mitigating Circumstances

  • Restitution: Taking responsibility for the theft and offering restitution to the victim can demonstrate remorse and potentially influence the judge’s decision.
  • Clean Record: A lack of prior criminal history can be a mitigating factor, highlighting the isolated nature of the offense.
  • Extenuating Circumstances: Underlying factors such as financial hardship or desperation may be considered by the court, potentially leading to a more lenient sentence.

Seeking Legal Guidance

When facing potential felony theft charges, consulting with an experienced Greenville criminal defense attorney at Boatwright Legal is crucial. A skilled attorney can:

  • Protect Your Rights: Ensure your legal rights are upheld throughout the process.
  • Develop a Defense Strategy: Craft a strategic defense tailored to the specific circumstances of your case.
  • Negotiate with Prosecutors: Work to seek a favorable outcome, potentially leading to reduced charges or lighter sentences.
  • Guide You Through the Process: Provide invaluable guidance and support throughout the legal proceedings.

Contact us at 864-745-9758 to schedule your initial consultation.

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