South Carolina Code § 16-23-20(9)(a): Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun in a Vehicle
Carrying a handgun in a vehicle under South Carolina Code § 16-23-20 is a misdemeanor criminal charge involving allegations that the defendant possessed a handgun (concealed or not) in their vehicle that does not comply with the exceptions specified by statute regarding carrying a handgun.
In order to be convicted of this crime, the prosecutor for State of South Carolina (also referred to as the “solicitor” by defense lawyers and other legal professionals) must prove the elements of the offense “beyond a reasonable doubt” in court.
To prove that a defendant unlawfully carried a handgun in their vehicle, the solicitor must generally prove:
- The Defendant was in a vehicle in the State of South Carolina
- Within the jurisdiction of the Court
- A handgun was in the vehicle or on the Defendant
- The handgun was not secured in a secured/closed compartment
The most common areas that people keep handguns that violate this section are under the seat, in pockets of the car door or seat, and between a console and seat.
*If the person has a valid Concealed Weapon Permit, they are permitted to store a handgun under a seat within the vehicle, in open or closed compartments of the vehicle’s passenger area, or on their person. Concealed Weapon Permits are covered under South Carolina Code § 4-31-23.2. Examples of Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun in a Vehicle
The Defendant is stopped by law enforcement for speeding on Gold Hill Road in Fort Mill. When the Officer approaches the vehicle, he notices a gun handle sticking up between the center console and the driver seat. The Defendant wasn’t aware the gun had to be secured in South Carolina. The Officer seizes the handgun and the Defendant may be charged with speeding and Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun (in a vehicle), a Misdemeanor Offense. Conviction of weapons offenses may ultimately result in the revocation and/or rescission of a Concealed Carry Permit, even if issued in another state like North Carolina.
The Defendant is pulled over by South Carolina Highway Patrol in Chester County for running a red light. The SC Trooper determines the Defendant is impaired and arrests him for DUI. Before exiting the vehicle, the Trooper observes the Defendant appear to hide something in the floorboard or seat area of the vehicle. The Trooper determines there is Probable Cause to search and conducts a search of the vehicle. The Trooper finds a pistol located underneath the driver seat. The Defendant does not have a valid concealed weapon permit. The Trooper may seize the pistol and charge the Defendant with Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun (in a vehicle), and DUI in South Carolina, both misdemeanor charges in SC.
The Defendant is stopped for a traffic violation in Indian Land, SC. The Defendant is from Charlotte, North Carolina where handguns must be openly visible in the interior of the vehicle. The Defendant takes his gun out of the glovebox and puts it on the dashboard, thinking that’s what he is supposed to do. When the Officer approaches the driver window, the Defendant immediately notifies him of the gun and points to the dashboard. The Officer may seize the pistol and charge the Defendant with Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun (in a vehicle), a Misdemeanor Offense.3. Related Offenses
Other related crimes offenses include:
- South Carolina Code Ann. 16-23-20: Unlawful Carrying of Handgun
- South Carolina Code Annotated 16-11-330: Robbery and Attempted Robbery While Armed with a Deadly Weapon (Felony)
- South Carolina Code Annotated 16-17-530: Public Disorderly Conduct (Misdemeanor)
- South Carolina Code Annotated 56-5-2930: Operating Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
- South Carolina Code Annotated 56-5-2945: Felony Driving Under the Influence (Felony DUI)
A Defendant can challenge the offense of Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun in a Vehicle by disputing the elements of the charge. For example, if the Defendant can show that the gun was in an area authorized under the SC Criminal Laws or as otherwise permitted consistent with a valid Concealed Carry Permit.5. Penalties
Unlawfully carrying of a handgun is a Misdemeanor offense defined by SC Code § 16-23-50(A)(2). If convicted, a defendant may face up to 1 year in prison, a fine up to $2,000.00, or both.
Additionally, the handgun must be confiscated by Law Enforcement. However, it cannot be disposed of until the case is resolved in court. SC Code § 16-23-50(B).6. Criminal Defense for Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun in a Vehicle
If you or someone you know has been charged with Unlawful Carrying of a Handgun in a Vehicle, it’s important to consult with a criminal defense attorney.
Attorney Chris Beddow at Powers Law Firm offers free consultations for criminal charges in upstate South Carolina.
CALL NOW: 803-504-6686
Mr. Beddow is the sole attorney licensed to practice law in the South Carolina and is responsible for all website content regarding South Carolina legal matters.