Pepper Spray Laws – South Carolina

South Carolina is friendly towards citizens carrying and using pepper spray and other defensive sprays for personal protection. There is no restriction whatsoever on typical formulations of such sprays, however, due to the wording of one definition and its exception in particular, citizens might be courting trouble if they carry any defensive spray with a capacity of greater than 50 cc’s.

We will talk about that and quite a bit more and the remainder of this article, and have included the statute in question along with other relevant statutes for your convenience at the very end. Keep reading and you’ll learn everything you need to know about South Carolina’s pepper spray laws.

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Fast Facts

  • South Carolina does not restrict citizens from carrying any common formula of defensive spray. Pepper spray and tear gas formulations are both permitted, as are blends.
  • South Carolina may have a de facto capacity restriction thanks to the wording of a specific statute. Any common defensive spray device with a capacity greater than 50 cc’s may be classified as a poisonous gas. See discussion below.
  • Defensive sprays may not be possessed by anyone who is a convicted felon.

Overview

South Carolina is a generally friendly state towards citizen ownership, carry and use of defensive sprays with one notable, probable, exception.

First things first, South Carolina does not restrict defensive spray formulation in any way so long as it is a product designed to inflict no substantial injury or to cause lasting harm. This means you’ll be able to choose from OC, or pepper spray, and CN or CS tear gas formulations. Blends of any or all of the above are also permitted.

However, where we run into trouble is the way that South Carolina defines “poisonous gas” along with its noted exceptions.

A “poisonous gas” is a weapon or dangerous substance that does not fall under most provisions of self-defense in the state. South Carolina defines a poisonous gas as “a toxic chemical or its precursors that through its chemical action or properties on life processes, causes death or injury to human beings or other living organisms.”

Well, we should be in the clear, right? Defensive sprays don’t cause death as a (general) rule and any injury they do cause is minor and very temporary so we are okay, right?

Maybe, maybe not: The definition above in the statutes then specifically states what a poisonous gas is not.

Exact text follows with my emphasis added on the most salient part: “riot control agents, smoke and obscuration materials, or medical products which are manufactured, possessed, transported, or used in accordance with the laws of this State or the United States; (also)tear gas devices designed to be carried on or about the person which contain not more than fifty cubic centimeters of the chemical;”

To summarize, any tear gas device, and specifically any defensive spray device, likely, that carries more than 50 cubic centimeters of the active chemical is classified as a poison gas.

Whether it is or not in effect, poison gas weapons fall under the category of destructive device, with illegal possession rating substantial felony charges and penalties.

In all probability, this means you should never carry a self-defense spray unit for personal protection that holds a payload of more than 50 cc’s of solution. 50 cc’s is a little less than 1 ¾ oz.

This is unfortunate, but that is what the law says. Whether or not the state is prosecuting violations of this statute is another story, and beyond the confines of this article.

Other than that unfortunate regulation pretty much anyone can carry a defensive spray in the state of South Carolina so long as they are not a convicted felon or someone else with a criminal record that has been debarred from possessing weapons.

Furthermore defensive sprays may be freely bought and sold inside the state and both citizens and visitors may have otherwise legal defensive sprays shipped to them from out of state.

Conclusion

South Carolina is a generally friendly state when it comes to civilian possession of defensive sprays. Any common defensive spray formula is permitted but the state has a notable and likely restriction on the capacity of any carried spray.

Carrying a quantity greater than 50 cc’s will likely see your defensive spray classified as a poisonous gas which falls under the regulations governing destructive devices, something you definitely don’t want to mess with. Other than this unfortunate hang-up concerning capacity South Carolina is generally amenable to the purchase and possession of defensive sprays.

Relevant State Statutes

Section 16-23-710. Definitions.

For purposes of this article:

(…)

(2) “Bomb” includes a destructive device capable of being detonated, triggered, or set off to release any substance or material that is destructive, irritating, odoriferous, or otherwise harmful to one or more organisms including, but not limited to, human beings, livestock, animals, crops or vegetation, or to earth, air, water, or any other material or substance necessary or required to sustain human or any other individual form of life, or to real or personal property.

(…)

(4) “Building” means any structure, vehicle, watercraft, or aircraft:

(a) where any person lodges or lives; or

(b) where people assemble for purposes of business, government, education, religion, entertainment, public transportation, or public use or where goods are stored. Where a building consists of two or more units separately occupied or secured, each unit is considered both a separate building in itself and a part of the main building.

(5) “Device” means an object, contrivance, instrument, technique, or any thing that is designed, manufactured, assembled, or capable of serving any purpose in a bomb, destructive device, explosive, incendiary, or weapon of mass destruction.

(6) “Detonate” means to explode or cause to explode.

(7) “Destructive device” means:

(a) a bomb, incendiary device, or any thing that can detonate, explode, be released, or burn by mechanical, chemical, or nuclear means, or that contains an explosive, incendiary, poisonous gas, or toxic substance (chemical, biological, or nuclear materials) including, but not limited to, an incendiary or over-pressure device, or any other device capable of causing damage, injury, or death;

(b) a bacteriological weapon or biological weapon; or

(c) a combination of any parts, components, chemical compounds, or other substances, either designed or intended for use in converting any device into a destructive device which has been or can be assembled to cause damage, injury, or death.

(…)

(9) “Distribute” means the actual or constructive delivery or the attempted transfer from one person to another.

(…)

(14) “Over-pressure device” means a container filled with an explosive gas or expanding gas or liquid which is designed or constructed so as to cause the container to break, fracture, or rupture in a manner capable of causing death, injury, or property damage, and includes, but is not limited to, a chemical reaction bomb, an acid bomb, a caustic bomb, or a dry ice bomb.

(15) “Parts” mean a combination of parts, components, chemical compounds, or other substances, designed or intended for use in converting any device into a destructive device.

(16) “Poisonous gases” mean a toxic chemical or its precursors that through its chemical action or properties on life processes, causes death or injury to human beings or other living organisms. However, the term does not include:

(a) riot control agents, smoke and obscuration materials, or medical products which are manufactured, possessed, transported, or used in accordance with the laws of this State or the United States;

(b) tear gas devices designed to be carried on or about the person which contain not more than fifty cubic centimeters of the chemical; or

(c) pesticides, as used in agriculture and household products.

(17) “Property” means real or personal property of any kind including money, choses in action, and other similar interest in property.

(18) “Terrorism” includes activities that:

(a) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of this State;

(b) appear to be intended to:

(i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(c) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of this State.

(19) “Weapon of mass destruction” means:

(a) any destructive device as defined in item (7);

(b) any weapon that is designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals, or their precursors;

(c) any weapon involving a disease organism; or

(d) any weapon that is designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life.

Section 16-23-405. Definition of “weapon”; confiscation and disposition of weapons used in commission or in furtherance of crime.

(A) Except for the provisions relating to rifles and shotguns in Section 16-23-460, as used in this chapter, “weapon” means firearm (rifle, shotgun, pistol, or similar device that propels a projectile through the energy of an explosive), a blackjack, a metal pipe or pole, or any other type of device, or object which may be used to inflict bodily injury or death.

(B) A person convicted of a crime, in addition to a penalty, shall have a weapon used in the commission or in furtherance of the crime confiscated. Each weapon must be delivered to the chief of police of the municipality or to the sheriff of the county if the violation occurred outside the corporate limits of a municipality. The law enforcement agency that receives the confiscated weapon may use it within the agency, transfer it to another law enforcement agency for the lawful use of that agency, trade it with a retail dealer licensed to sell pistols in this State for a pistol or other equipment approved by the agency, or destroy it. A weapon may not be disposed of until the results of all legal proceedings in which it may be involved are finally determined. A firearm seized by the State Law Enforcement Division may be kept by the division for use by its forensic laboratory.

Section 16-23-460. Carrying concealed weapons; forfeiture of weapons.

(A) A person carrying a deadly weapon usually used for the infliction of personal injury concealed about his person is guilty of a misdemeanor, must forfeit to the county, or, if convicted in a municipal court, to the municipality, the concealed weapon, and must be fined not less than two hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not less than thirty days nor more than ninety days.

(B) The provisions of this section do not apply to:

(1) A person carrying a concealed weapon upon his own premises or pursuant to and in compliance with Article 4, Chapter 31 of Title 23; or

(2) peace officers in the actual discharge of their duties.

(C) The provisions of this section also do not apply to rifles, shotguns, dirks, slingshots, metal knuckles, knives, or razors unless they are used with the intent to commit a crime or in furtherance of a crime.

Section 16-3-600. Assault and battery; definitions; degrees of offenses.

(A) For purposes of this section:

(1) “Great bodily injury” means bodily injury which causes a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.

(2) “Moderate bodily injury” means physical injury that involves prolonged loss of consciousness, or that causes temporary or moderate disfigurement or temporary loss of the function of a bodily member or organ, or injury that requires medical treatment when the treatment requires the use of regional or general anesthesia or injury that results in a fracture or dislocation. Moderate bodily injury does not include one-time treatment and subsequent observation of scratches, cuts, abrasions, bruises, burns, splinters, or any other minor injuries that do not ordinarily require extensive medical care.

(3) “Private parts” means the genital area or buttocks of a male or female or the breasts of a female.

(…)

(D)(1) A person commits the offense of assault and battery in the second degree if the person unlawfully injures another person, or offers or attempts to injure another person with the present ability to do so, and:

(a) moderate bodily injury to another person results or moderate bodily injury to another person could have resulted; or

(b) the act involves the nonconsensual touching of the private parts of a person, either under or above clothing.

(2) A person who violates this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than two thousand five hundred dollars, or imprisoned for not more than three years, or both.

(3) Assault and battery in the second degree is a lesser-included offense of assault and battery in the first degree, as defined in subsection (C)(1), assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, as defined in subsection (B)(1), and attempted murder, as defined in Section 16-3-29.

(E)(1) A person commits the offense of assault and battery in the third degree if the person unlawfully injures another person, or offers or attempts to injure another person with the present ability to do so.

(2) A person who violates this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisoned for not more than thirty days, or both.

(3) Assault and battery in the third degree is a lesser-included offense of assault and battery in the second degree, as defined in subsection (D)(1), assault and battery in the first degree, as defined in subsection (C)(1), assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, as defined in subsection (B)(1), and attempted murder, as defined in Section 16-3-29.

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