South Carolina's Natural Resource Violation Penalty Systems

South Carolina has implemented a detailed point and suspension system for managing natural resource law violations. This system is bifurcated into two distinct categories: the Game and Fish Point System and the Saltwater Point System, each catering to different geographical areas and types of resources.

Game and Fish Point System

This system is applicable to violations occurring inland of the saltwater/freshwater dividing line. Under this regime, any person convicted of relevant violations accrues points on their record. A suspension is triggered when a person's activities, such as hunting, fishing, trapping, or gathering, lead to a specific point threshold being exceeded. This suspension extends to all state territories, including coastal waters up to a three-mile limit. This comprehensive approach ensures that violations have significant and wide-ranging consequences, effectively deterring potential offenders.

Saltwater Point System

Focusing on coastal waters, seaward of the saltwater/freshwater dividing line, this system categorizes violations into recreational and commercial activities. Points are assigned based on these categories, with a cumulative total of 18 or more points resulting in suspension of various privileges, including fishing, gathering, and possessing marine resources. Interestingly, this suspension does not affect inland freshwater fishing rights, except for certain species like shad, herring, and sturgeon, which are subject to coastal regulations.

Point Accumulation and Reduction

The Department of Natural Resources plays a crucial role in administering this system. They are responsible for assessing points against an individual's record following a conviction. Importantly, the system allows for point reduction – half of the points are removed for every full year in which the individual does not accrue additional points. This feature incentivizes law-abiding behavior post-conviction.

Statutory Suspensions

Beyond these point-based suspensions, South Carolina law also mandates specific suspensions for certain violations. These are known as "Statutory Suspensions" and are outlined in Table C, providing clear guidelines for more severe or specific infringements of the law.

This dual system of point-based and statutory suspensions in South Carolina demonstrates a robust approach to managing natural resource laws. By clearly delineating consequences and providing avenues for redemption, it balances the need for regulation with opportunities for rehabilitation.

Navigating Point System Suspension Appeals in South Carolina

In South Carolina, individuals facing suspension under the point system for natural resource law violations have a structured avenue for appeal. This process, governed by the South Carolina Administrative Procedures Act, provides a clear, legal pathway for challenging suspension decisions, though it does not extend to contesting the original conviction.

Appeal Process Overview

  1. Filing the Appeal: Appeals must be initiated within 30 days of receiving the suspension notice. The critical step involves filing an appeal with the Administrative Law Court, specifically the Clerk of Court.
  2. Contact Details: Appeals are to be directed to the South Carolina Administrative Law Court located in the Edgar A. Brown Building, 1205 Pendleton St., Suite 224, Columbia, SC 29201. The court can be contacted via phone at 803-734-0550 or by fax at 803-734-6400.
  3. Effect of Filing an Appeal: Once an appeal is filed, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) temporarily lifts the suspension. This interim relief allows the appellant to retain the privileges that were under suspension until the appeal process is concluded.
  4. Notification of Appeal Period: The appeal period officially begins once the SCDNR is informed by the Administrative Law Court about the hearing schedule. SCDNR then notifies the individual in writing, marking the start of the appeal period.

Consequences and Additional Regulations

  • Violation During Suspension: Committing a violation while under suspension can lead to additional suspensions ranging from one to five years.
  • Fraudulent Procurement of Licenses: Acquiring any license, permit, stamp, or tag that allows suspended privileges during the suspension period is considered fraudulent and punishable by a fine up to $1,085, alongside an extra year of suspension.
  • Non-payment Penalties: Failure to pay fines or restitutions may result in further suspension of privileges.

Seeking Further Information

For more details on suspension and the appeal process, individuals are encouraged to contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, specifically the Records and Intelligence Section of the Law Enforcement Division, at P.O. Box 167, Columbia, SC 29202, or by calling 803-734-3876.

Game & Fish Points Table for South Carolina


South Carolina's Game and Fish Point System assigns specific point values to various violations of natural resource laws. This system is designed to regulate and control hunting and fishing activities, ensuring the conservation and ethical treatment of wildlife.

Point Assignments for Violations

  1. Hunting Migratory Birds with an Unplugged Gun: 4 Points
  2. Unlawful Possession of Buckshot: 5 Points
  3. Hunting/Fishing Without License/Permit/Stamp/Tag: 6 Points
  4. Failure to Report Harvest of Wild Turkey: 6 Points
  5. Exceeding Legal Limit of Game/Fish (Except Striped Bass): 8 Points
  6. Violating Wildlife Management Area Regulations: 8 Points
  7. Unlawful Hunting Over Bait: 8 Points
  8. Unlawful Night Hunting (Except Deer/Bear), or During Prohibited Hours: 8 Points
  9. Taking Game/Fish Illegally (Broad Application): 8 Points
    • Examples include using lead shot for waterfowl, too many fishing devices, killing protected birds, illegal bait or traps, etc.
  10. Hunting/Fishing/Trapping Out of Season: 10 Points
  11. Using Borrowed/Altered License/Permit/Stamp/Tag: 10 Points
  12. Illegal Transportation/Possession of Furs/Hides: 10 Points
  13. Trapping Quail or Turkeys: 10 Points
  14. Hunting Turkey/Waterfowl Over Bait (No Game Taken): 10 Points
  15. Shooting Waterfowl Over Bait (Game Taken): 10 Points
  16. Illegal Trapping/Netting/Seining of Game Fish: 10 Points
  17. Attempting Escape After Arrest: 14 Points
  18. Hunting/Fishing in a State Sanctuary: 14 Points
  19. Unlawful Selling of Game/Game Fish: 14 Points
  20. Trespassing to Hunt/Fish/Trap: 14 Points
  21. Illegal Hunting/Taking/Possessing/Selling Alligators: 14 Points
  22. Illegal Deer Hunting from Motorboat: 14 Points
  23. Unlawful Killing/Possession of Antlerless Deer: 14 Points
  24. Killing/Possession of Hen Turkey in Spring Gobbler Season: 14 Points
  25. Illegal Possession/Taking of Raccoons Outside Firearm Season: 14 Points
  26. Taking/Possessing Undersized Striped Bass: 14 Points
  27. Exceeding Legal Limit of Striped Bass: 14 Points
  28. Exceeding Legal Creel/Size Limit of Blue Catfish: 14 Points
  29. Hunting Waterfowl Out of Season: 15 Points
  30. Possessing More Than One Waterfowl Over Legal Limit: 15 Points
  31. Intentional Trespassing to Hunt/Fish/Trap: 18 Points
  32. Night Hunting Deer or Bear: 18 Points
  33. Killing/Possession of Wild Turkey in Closed Season: 18 Points
  34. Roost Shooting Turkey (After Sunset to Before Sunrise): 18 Points
  35. Shooting Turkey Over Bait (Game Taken): 18 Points
  36. Trespassing to Hunt Waterfowl: 18 Points
  37. Resisting Arrest with Force/Violence/Weapons Against Law Enforcement: 18 Points

Key Takeaways

  • Points range from 4 to 18, depending on the severity of the violation.
  • Accumulating points can lead to suspension of hunting and fishing privileges.
  • The system emphasizes compliance with wildlife management and ethical hunting/fishing practices.
  • Specific violations, especially those involving protected species or illegal methods, carry higher point penalties.

Saltwater Points System in South Carolina


South Carolina's Saltwater Points System categorizes violations into two distinct groups: Recreational and Commercial. The accumulation of 18 or more points in either category results in a suspension of privileges in that category for one year. Notably, a violation in one category while under suspension in the other results in a suspension of all saltwater privileges for one year.

Point Values for Specific Violations

  1. Record-Keeping or Reporting Failures: 4 Points

    • Applies to those not adhering to laws, permits, or regulations regarding records or reports.
  2. Crab Size Limit or Sponge Crab Law Violations: 4 Points

    • Focuses on regulations pertaining to crab sizes and types.
  3. General Saltwater Fisheries Law Violations: 6 Points

    • This is a catch-all category for convictions not explicitly mentioned, ensuring a minimum point penalty for any saltwater fisheries law breach.
  4. Unlawful Taking or Possession of Fish/Shellfish/Crustaceans: 8 Points

    • Includes violations related to illegal methods, areas, hours, or seasons, excluding trawling.
  5. Illegal Sale or Purchase without License/Permit/Stamp/Tag: 8 Points

    • Applies to both selling and buying seafood or marine products without proper authorization.
  6. Trawling Violations: 10 Points

    • Specific to trawling activities, with penalties depending on distance from the General Trawling Zone and timing relative to open and closed seasons.
  7. Commercial Fishing Without Proper Authorization: 10 Points

    • Taking or attempting to take fish/seafood for commercial purposes without the required license, permit, stamp, or tag.
  8. Violation of Health Regulations in Shellfish Harvesting/Handling: 10 Points

    • Pertains to regulations that prevent adulteration of shellfish products.
  9. Trawling Outside the General Trawling Zone: 10 or 18 Points

    • The point penalty varies based on the distance from the General Trawling Zone and whether it is the open or closed season.
  10. Non-Cooperation with Enforcement Officers: 18 Points

  • Applicable to boat captains or crew who fail to assist or cooperate with law enforcement.
  1. Channel Netting Violations: 18 Points
  • Relates to channel netting in closed areas or during the closed season.
  1. Falsified License Applications or Possessing Multiple Resident Licenses: 18 Points
  • Involves applying for or holding a South Carolina resident license while simultaneously possessing a resident license from another state.


It is illegal for anyone with a suspended commercial license to be aboard a vessel engaged in commercial fishing activities. This reinforces the seriousness of the suspension and ensures compliance.

Key Takeaways

  • The system distinguishes between recreational and commercial violations, acknowledging the different impacts and intents of these activities.
  • A variety of activities, from record-keeping to actual fishing methods, are covered under this point system, reflecting the complexity of managing marine resources.
  • The system is designed to promote responsible and legal fishing practices, crucial for the sustainability of South Carolina's marine ecosystems.

Overview of Statutory Suspensions in South Carolina


In South Carolina, various laws related to natural resources and boating impose mandatory suspensions upon conviction of specific violations. These statutory suspensions are distinct and separate from the point-based system, directly affecting privileges associated with licenses, permits, stamps, tags, or registrations.

Examples of Statutory Suspensions

  1. Hunting from a Public Road: 1 Year

    • A direct suspension for hunting activities conducted from a public road.
  2. Unlawful Taking of a Wild Turkey: 1 Year

    • Focuses specifically on the illegal hunting of wild turkeys.
  3. Conspiracy to Violate Natural Resource Laws: 1 Year

    • Applicable to those conspiring to break natural resource-related laws.
  4. Obtaining License/Permit/Stamp/Tag by Fraud: 1 Year

    • Imposed for fraudulently acquiring hunting or fishing permits or licenses.
  5. Altering/Borrowing/Lending License/Permit/Stamp/Tag: 1 Year

    • Pertains to the misuse or unauthorized sharing of licenses and permits.
  6. Criminal, Negligent Use of a Firearm: 1 to 5 Years

    • The suspension period varies based on the severity and circumstances of the firearm misuse.
  7. Boating Under the Influence (BUI): 6 Months to 5 Years

    • Penalties for operating a boat while impaired, with suspension length dependent on the specifics of the offense.
  8. Trawling Violations: 1 Year

    • Specific to illegal trawling activities.
  9. Killing a Bald Eagle: 5 Years

    • A significant suspension period for harming this protected species.
  10. Failure to Pay Fines or Restitution: Until Payment is Received

    • Suspension remains in effect until financial obligations are fulfilled.
  11. Third Offense Negligent Operation of a Watercraft: 6 Months

    • Targets repeated negligence in operating watercraft.
  12. Bear Violations: 3 Years

    • Relates to illegal activities involving bears.
  13. Impeding the Right to Hunt, Fish, or Trap: 1 Year

    • Aimed at those who obstruct lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping activities.

Additional Notes

  • The violations listed are examples and not an exhaustive list of all possible statutory suspensions.
  • Statutory suspensions range from as short as 10 days to as long as 10 years, depending on the nature of the violation and the specific privileges affected.

Operation Game Thief: Protecting South Carolina's Wildlife


Operation Game Thief in South Carolina is a crucial initiative aimed at combating violations of game and fish laws. Recognizing that such violations affect not just wildlife but also the economic and recreational interests of citizens, this program seeks active public participation in its efforts.

How to Contribute and Participate

  1. Making a Contribution

    • Purpose: Donations to Operation Game Thief are utilized to offer monetary rewards to individuals who provide information leading to the arrest of violators.
    • Tax Deductibility: Contributions made to this initiative are tax-deductible, adding an incentive for public support.
  2. Reporting Violations

    • Anonymity Option: Individuals can report violators anonymously, ensuring their safety and privacy.
    • Rewards for Conviction-Related Information: If the information provided leads to the conviction of a violator, the informant may receive a cash reward of up to $2,500.
    • Reward Criteria: The reward amount varies based on the quality and impact of the information provided.

Key Objectives of Operation Game Thief

  • Deterrence of Illegal Activities: By imposing tangible consequences through public involvement, the program aims to deter potential violators.
  • Enhancing Law Enforcement: Citizen reports augment law enforcement efforts in identifying and apprehending offenders.
  • Conservation and Protection of Wildlife: The initiative plays a vital role in safeguarding South Carolina's diverse wildlife for future generations.
  • Public Engagement and Awareness: Encouraging public participation fosters a sense of community responsibility towards natural resources.
South Carolina Point and Suspension System
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