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South Carolina
Judicial Department
South Carolina Bench Book for Summary Court Judges - Traffic Section


1. Jurisdiction

Traffic offenses are offenses against the State in violation of penal law and therefore are criminal in nature. Thus the processes and procedural safeguards discussed in the CRIMINAL section apply to traffic offenses. For example, an individual charged with a traffic offense for which a prison sentence may be imposed, has the same right to due process of law including the right to counsel and right to trial by an impartial jury as one charged with assault and battery.

The statutory authority of magistrates to handle traffic offenses is S.C. Code Ann. § 22-3-550. "Magistrates have jurisdiction of all offenses which may be subject to the penalties of a fine or forfeiture not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500.00), or imprisonment not exceeding thirty days, or both." Municipal judges are granted the same jurisdiction in traffic cases as magistrates, by S.C. Code Ann. § 14-25-45 of the South Carolina Code. Magistrates and municipal judges may impose sentences within these limits singularly or in the alternative. The penalty for most violations of the motor vehicle laws that are within the jurisdiction of magistrates in all cases, except for DUI and Reckless Driving, is a fine not exceeding $500.00, plus assessments.

The summary court jurisdiction may be limited in those cases in which an offense within the jurisdiction of the summary court is included in a charge beyond the judge’s jurisdiction or when a charge of an offense within the magistrate’s jurisdiction has been joined with an offense over which the summary court judge has no jurisdiction. (S.C. Code Ann. § 22-3-540 made applicable to municipal judges by S.C. Code Ann. § 14-25-45.)

The jurisdiction of magistrates over traffic offenses is within their respective counties. Where the traffic offenses have occurred within the county of the magistrate, the magistrate has all of the power, authority, and jurisdiction as prescribed by the Code of Laws. (S.C. Code Ann. § 22-3-520 "Magistrates shall have and exercise within their respective counties all the powers, authority and jurisdiction in criminal cases herein set forth.".) However, S.C. Code Ann. 17-13-40(B) provides that when police authorities of a county are in hot pursuit of an offender for a violation of a county ordinance or statute of this State committed within the county, the authorities may arrest the offender, with or without a warrant, at a place within the county, or at a place within the adjacent county. The jurisdiction of municipal courts over traffic offenses is within the respective limits of such municipalities. Similar to above, however, S.C. Code Ann. 17-13-40(A) provides that when police authorities of a town or city are in hot pursuit of an offender for a violation of a municipal ordinance or statute of this State committed within the corporate limits, the authorities may arrest the offender, with or without a warrant, at a place within the county in which the town or city is located, or at a place within a 3 mile radius of the corporate limits.

Proceedings in traffic offenses triable in summary courts are commenced by the service of either a properly drafted arrest warrant or a Uniform Traffic Ticket. The statutory authority for the Uniform Traffic Ticket is S.C. Code Ann. § 56-7-10, which vests summary courts with jurisdiction to hear and dispose of traffic charges and certain other named non-traffic offenses, which are listed at S.C. Code Ann. § 56-7-10. The Uniform Traffic Ticket is the only official summons, other than numbered arrest warrants, on which traffic offenses may be charged. "Traffic offenses" means only those traffic offenses defined or described in Title 56. Specific non-traffic offenses which may be charged on a Uniform Traffic Ticket are listed at S.C. Code Ann. § 56-7-10. They are, as follows:

Recodefied As *
As Codefied By
Interfering with Police Officer Serving Process   § 16-5-50
Dumping Trash on Highway/Private Property   § 16-11-700
Indecent Exposure   § 16-15-130
Disorderly Conduct   § 16-17-530
Discharging Fireworks from Motor Vehicle   § 23-35-120
Damaging Highway   § 57-7-10
Place Glass, Nails, Etc. on Highway   § 57-7-20
Obstruction of Highway by Railroad Cars, Etc.   § 57-7-240
Signs Permitted on Interstate   § 57-25-140
Brown Bagging § 61-6-20* § 61-5-20

Drinking Liquors in Public Conveyance

§ 61-6-4720*

§ 61-13-360

Poles Dragging on Highway


§ 57-7-80

Open Container

§ 61-4-110*

§ 61-9-87

Purchase or Possession of Beer or Wine by a Person Under Age


§ 63-19-2440

Purchase or Possession of Alcoholic Liquor by A Person Under Age Twenty-One


§ 63-19-2450

Unlawful Possession and Consumption of Alcoholic Liquors

§ 61-6-4710*

§ 61-5-30

Sale of Beer or Wine on Which Tax Has Not Been Paid

§ 61-4-20*

§ 61-9-20

Falsification of Age to Purchase Beer or Wine

§ 61-4-60*

§ 61-9-50

Unlawful Purchase of Beer or Wine for A Person Who Cannot Legally Buy

§ 61-4-80*

§ 61-9-60

Unlawful Sale or Purchase of Beer or Wine, Giving False Information as to Age, Buying Beer or Wine Unlawfully for Another

 § 61-4-100*

§ 61-9-85

Employment of a Person Under the Age of Twenty-One As An Employee in Retail or Wholesale or Manufacturing Liquor Business

§ 61-6-4140*

§ 61-13-340

Failure to Remove Doors from Abandoned Refrigerators


§ 16-3-1010

Malicious Injury to Animals or Personal Property


§ 16-11-510

Timber, Logs, or Lumber Cutting, Removing, Transporting Without Permission, Valued at Less Than Fifty Dollars


§ 16-11-580



§ 16-11-700

Larceny of a Bicycle Valued at Less Than One Hundred Dollars


§ 16-13-80

Cock Fighting


§ 16-17-650

Ticket Scalping


§ 16-17-710

Glue Sniffing


§ 44-53-1110

Trespassing on Utility Right of Ways


§ 16-11-755

Trespassing on Posted Property or After Notice


§ 16-11-600

Trespassing for Various Purposes Without Permission


§ 16-11-610

Trespassing Premises or Business After Warning or Refusing to Leave


§ 16-11-620

Negligent Operation of Watercraft; Operation of Watercraft While Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs


§ 50-21-110

Negligence of Boat Livery to Provide Proper Equipment and Registration


§ 50-21-120

Interference with Aids to Navigation or Regulatory Markers or Operation of Watercraft in Prohibited Area


§ 50-21-170

Operation of Watercraft Without a Certificate of Title


§ 50-23-190

Parking on private property without permission


§ 16-11-760

* The section changes are found in the editor’s notes under section S.C. Code Ann. § 56-7-10

"The uniform traffic ticket, established under the provisions of Section 56-7-10, may be used by law enforcement officers to arrest a person for an offense committed in the presence of a law enforcement officer if the punishment is within the jurisdiction of magistrate's court and municipal court." (S.C. Code Ann. § 56-7-15). The uniform traffic ticket may also be used by law enforcement to cite individuals for violations of county or municipal ordinance violations. (1990 Op. Atty. Gen. No. 90-48).

County and municipal uniform ordinance summons were established under the provisions of S.C. Code Ann. § 56-7-80, which provides as follows: (A) Counties and municipalities are authorized to adopt by ordinance and use an ordinance summons as provided herein for the enforcement of county and municipal ordinances. Upon adoption of the ordinance summons, any county or municipal law enforcement officer or code enforcement officer is authorized to use an ordinance summons. Any county or municipality adopting the ordinance summons is responsible for the printing, distributing, monitoring, and auditing of the ordinance summons to be used by that entity. (B) The uniform ordinance summons may not be used to perform a custodial arrest. No county or municipal ordinance which regulates the use of motor vehicles on the public roads of this State may be enforced using an ordinance summons.

Persons under the age of seventeen charged with most traffic offenses may be tried in magistrate’s and municipal courts. The family court has concurrent jurisdiction of all such cases involving juveniles. Whichever court (circuit, magistrate’s or municipal) would have jurisdiction of the offense charged if committed by an adult would share jurisdiction with the family court.  (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-3-520.) Since magistrates and municipal judges may not incarcerate a juvenile, (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-19-820), cases should be referred to the family court (before trial) if it appears that a penalty other than a fine may prove more appropriate.

Traffic proceedings in the summary courts are required to be summary in nature or with only such delay as a fair and a just examination of the case requires. (S.C. Code Ann. § 22-3-730.) In order to assure the summary nature of the proceedings, the charging paper may be amended at any time before trial. (S.C. Code Ann. § 22-3-720.)