South Carolina Trespassing Laws: What You Need to Know

https://www.survivalsullivan.com/south-carolina-trespassing-laws/

South Carolina: Fast Facts on Trespassing

Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, Dwellings, Land
Crime Class: Misdemeanor; Felony under special circumstances
Fencing Required?: No.
Signage Required?: Yes, serves as prior notice.
Verbal Notice Required?: Yes, in some circumstances if no signage posted.

flag of South Carolina

South Carolina Trespassing Law Overview

  • South Carolina trespass laws are easy to understand, but there are many, small statutes.
  • The majority of trespassing violations result in misdemeanor charges.
  • Prior notice is required in some situations for trespassing charges to apply, either directly or by posting signage.

Relevant South Carolina State Statutes

  • 16-11-600. Entry on another’s pasture or other lands after notice; posting notice
  • 16-11-610. Entry on another’s lands for various purposes without permission
  • 16-11-617. Entry on another’s land for purpose of cultivating marijuana
  • 1-620. Entering premises after warning or refusing to leave on request; jurisdiction and enforcement
  • 16-11-625. Public library trespass; warning; appeal; penalties.
  • 16-11-630. Refusing to leave certain public premises during hours when they are regularly closed
  • 16-11-640. Unlawful entry into enclosed places
  • 16-11-660. Traveling outside of road on cultivated lands
  • 16-11-680. Altering and removing landmarks.
  • 16-11-760. Parking on private property without permission; removal of vehicles; lien for towing and storage; sale of vehicles; penalty for violation
  • 16-11-780. Prohibition on entering certain lands to discover, uncover, move, remove, or attempt to remove archaeological resource; definitions; penalty; exception

South Carolina is another state without a specific definitions section for their trespass laws and any relevant terms are assumed to have their common meaning or meaning established through legal precedent if the pertinent section does not define it.

We will get started with 16-11-600, a short section on entry on to pasture land or other lands after notice:

16-11-600. Entry on another’s pasture or other lands after notice; posting notice.

Every entry upon the lands of another where any horse, mule, cow, hog or any other livestock is pastured, or any other lands of another, after notice from the owner or tenant prohibiting such entry, shall be a misdemeanor and be punished by a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars, or by imprisonment with hard labor on the public works of the county for not exceeding thirty days.

When any owner or tenant of any lands shall post a notice in four conspicuous places on the borders of such land prohibiting entry thereon, a proof of the posting shall be deemed and taken as notice conclusive against the person making entry, as aforesaid, for the purpose of trespassing.

A simple, short section, and the first that gives us an example of SC’s posting requirements for signage. This law only applies if a person trespasses onto pasture land (or any other land) after receiving notice that they are prohibited from entering.

The last sentence clearly states that posting signs in four conspicuous places along the borders of the property is deemed adequate as prior notice in this case.

If there is a “no trespass” sign, you better not trespass. Otherwise, you are not trespassing until such time as you are notified by the owner of the land.

The next section is similar:

16-11-610. Entry on another’s lands for various purposes without permission.

Any person entering upon the lands of another for the purpose of hunting, fishing, trapping, netting; for gathering fruit, wild flowers, cultivated flowers, shrubbery, straw, turf, vegetables or herbs; or for cutting timber on such land, without the consent of the owner or manager, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall, for a first offense, be fined not more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days, for a second offense, be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days and, for a third or subsequent offense, be fined not less than five hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than six months or both. (…)

Entering the lands of another for any purpose of collection, hunting, trapping, etc. without permission is a misdemeanor. Note that no posted signage is required as notice, nor is prior direct notification; the illicit activity on land while lacking permission is enough.

Speaking of illicit plants:

16-11-617. Entry on another’s land for purpose of cultivating marijuana.

It is unlawful for a person to enter on the land of another for the purpose of cultivating or attempting to cultivate marijuana. The provisions of this section are cumulative to other provisions of law. To constitute a violation of this section, a minimum of twenty-five marijuana plants must be cultivated. A person violating the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than five years and fined not more than five thousand dollars.

Surreptitiously entering upon someone else’s land for the purposes of growing pot is not a good idea, and growing 25 or more marijuana plants under this section will constitute felony charges, and earn you up to 5 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.

16-11-620. Entering premises after warning or refusing to leave on request; jurisdiction and enforcement.

Any person who, without legal cause or good excuse, enters into the dwelling house, place of business, or on the premises of another person after having been warned not to do so or any person who, having entered into the dwelling house, place of business, or on the premises of another person without having been warned fails and refuses, without good cause or good excuse, to leave immediately upon being ordered or requested to do so by the person in possession or his agent or representative shall, on conviction, be fined not more than two hundred dollars or be imprisoned for not more than thirty days.

(…)

The provisions of this section shall be construed as being in addition to, and not as superseding, any other statutes of the State relating to trespass or entry on lands of another.

If you are upon the land or premises of another or inside any building or dwelling and, without having been given prior notice to stay away, are asked to leave by the owner or the owner’s authorized agent and you refuse, you can be fined $200 or be imprisoned for up to a month.

Next, another one of SC’s strangely specific trespass laws, this one concerning libraries:

16-11-625. Public library trespass; warning; appeal; penalties.

(A)(1) A person who enters a public library, without legal cause or good excuse, after having been warned not to do so by the library director, the branch manager, or the acting branch manager of the library in consultation with the library director is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than two hundred dollars or be imprisoned not more than thirty days.

(2) A copy of the warning provided for by subsection (A)(1) must be given to the person in writing, in the presence of a law enforcement officer, authority provided by Section 4-9-37(b);and must state:

(…)

(C) The provisions of this section must be construed as in addition to, and not as superseding, another statute relating to trespass or unlawful entry on lands of another.

Entering a public library after having been warned not to do so and after having been served the appropriate official notice in the presence of a law enforcement officer is a misdemeanor, one with another $200 fine or up to 30 days in the county jail.

Refusing to leave public spaces after authorized public access hours can constitute trespassing on its own:

16-11-630. Refusing to leave certain public premises during hours when they are regularly closed.

Any person who, during those hours of the day or night when the premises owned or occupied by a state, county or municipal agency are regularly closed to the public, shall refuse or fail, without justifiable cause, to leave those premises upon being requested to do so by a law enforcement officer or guard, watchman or custodian responsible for the security or care of the premises, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction, be fined not more than one hundred dollars or be imprisoned for not more than thirty days.

Simple enough; if it is after hours and you refuse to leave when requested to do so by authorized personnel you can be charged under this section and fined up to $100 or imprisoned for a month.

16-11-640. Unlawful entry into enclosed places.

It shall be unlawful for any person not an occupant, owner or invitee to enter any private property enclosed by walls or fences with closed gates between the hours of six P.M. and six A.M. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any justifiable emergency entry or to premises which are not posted with clearly visible signs prohibiting trespass upon the enclosed premises.

The provisions of this section are supplemental to existing law relating to trespass and punishment therefor. Any person who violates the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days.

This is an interesting statute: assuming a property is fenced or otherwise enclosed in such a way to exclude intruders and also has posted signs forbidding trespass it is illegal to even set foot on the property between the hours of 6 PM and 6 AM, barring an emergency.

This section does not apply to said properties without posted signs. Breaking this law is a $25 fine or up to 30 days in jail.

Leaving the designated road or path on cultivated lands is another trespassing crime:

16-11-660. Traveling outside of road on cultivated lands.

It shall be a misdemeanor for any person wilfully to walk, drive or ride or to allow his team to travel outside of the road on the cultivated lands of another, punishable as provided in Section 16-11-650; provided, that in case any person charged with this misdemeanor be brought before or reported to a magistrate he may discharge himself from any further proceedings therein by paying such fine within the above limits as the magistrate may impose.

Nothing to it: stay to the roads on any cultivated land, or you face a fine. Failure to pay the fine in person means misdemeanor charges. Another vehicle-related statute next:

16-11-760. Parking on private property without permission; removal of vehicles; lien for towing and storage; sale of vehicles; penalty for violation.

(A) It is unlawful for a person to park a vehicle, as defined in Section 56-5-5630, on the private property of another without the owner’s consent. If the property is for commercial use, the owner must post a notice in a conspicuous place on the borders of the property near each entrance prohibiting parking. Proof of the posting is considered notice conclusive against the person making entry.

(…)

(D) A person violating the provisions of subsection (A) is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than one hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days. This punishment is in addition to the other remedies authorized in this section.

Parking your vehicle on private property without permission, or on any commercial property in disregard of posted prohibitions is a misdemeanor charge, not merely a violation, and will cost you up to $100 and potentially 30 days in jail.

The last section we will look at is a bit of a surprise; a trespassing statute that prohibits the entering of lands to search for and remove any archaeological resources. This is an extremely lengthy section that I have abridged to give you the highlight reel.

Suffice it say you had better not ever trespass on to lands not belonging to you with the hope of digging up some Civil War artifacts:

16-11-780. Prohibition on entering certain lands to discover, uncover, move, remove, or attempt to remove archaeological resource; definitions; penalty; exception.

(A) As used in this section:

(1) “Archaeological resource” means all artifacts, relics, burial objects, or material remains of past human life or activities that are at least one hundred years old and possess either archaeological or commercial value, including pieces of pottery, basketry, bottles, weapons, weapon projectiles, tools, structures or portions of structures, rock paintings, rock carving, intaglios, graves, or human skeletal materials.

(4) “Cost of restoration and repair” means the sum of the costs incurred for emergency restoration or repairs to an archaeological resource, plus those costs projected to be necessary to complete restoration and repair, which may include, but need not be limited to, the costs of the following: (…)

(5) “Posted lands” means lands where the State has complied with the notice or warning requirement which must either be posted or given to an offender pursuant to Section 16-11-600.

(B) The court may call upon the Office of the State Archaeologist to provide evidence to assist in determining, calculating, or computing archaeological value, commercial value, or the cost of restoration and repair of an archaeological resource.

(C) It is unlawful for a person to wilfully, knowingly, or maliciously enter upon the lands of another or the posted lands of the State and disturb or excavate a prehistoric or historic site for the purpose of discovering, uncovering, moving, removing, or attempting to remove an archaeological resource. Each unlawful entry and act of disturbance or excavation of a prehistoric or historic site constitutes a separate and distinct offense.

(D) For a first offense, a person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined, imprisoned, or both, pursuant to the jurisdiction of magistrates as provided in Section 22-3-550.

(E) For a second offense for violating this section on the same property as the first offense or on another posted property, a person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than one thousand dollars or more than three thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

(F) For a third or subsequent offense for violating this section on the same property as the first offense or on another posted property, a person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Exorbitant fees and lengthy prison sentences accompany initial violations of this section even for misdemeanors! Subsequent violations mean felony charges and potentially 5 years in prison or a $5,000 fine. South Carolina is serious about protecting any artifacts of relevance!

Conclusion

South Carolina has many smaller, simple statutes covering trespassing spread across the criminal procedure chapter, with a few standout laws covering the illicit growing of marijuana on someone else’s land, or trespassing onto the land of another with the intention of searching for or removing archaeological artifacts.

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