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Manhattan Institute

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Overcriminalizing the Palmetto State: A Primer and Possible Reforms for South Carolina

issue brief

Overcriminalizing the Palmetto State: A Primer and Possible Reforms for South Carolina

January 7, 2016
Legal ReformOvercriminalization

Executive Summary

In South Carolina, residents face a bewildering array of criminal laws covering ordinary business practices and personal conduct, often placing individuals in legal jeopardy for unknowingly violating seemingly innocuous rules. South Carolina’s criminal law, due to its size and complexity, also threatens to divert scarce resources away from the enforcement of serious violent and property crimes while increasing the risk that prosecutions will vary markedly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Key Findings

  • South Carolina’s penal code contains 557 sections—almost five times the number of the Model Penal Code.
  • South Carolina has created, on average, 60 crimes annually over the last six years; 86 percent of these fell outside the penal code.
  • 41 percent of these newly created crimes fall into the fish and wildlife code; only five of 243 criminal statutes in South Carolina’s fish and game laws contain any requirement of criminal intent.

READ FULL REPORT

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Read more about MI's Overcriminalizing America project

James R. Copland is a senior fellow and director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute.

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