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Back to Scrap Laws South Carolina Metal Scrap Statute
Current as of July 7, 2014

The State Metals Theft Laws summaries are not intended to provide or be relied as a legal advice. This material is provided to serve as a reasonable compilation of the most current state scrap laws and is intended to be a resource or supplement to, and provide ideas for, compliance with all applicable laws. The ISRI State Scrap Laws are subject to change and readers should visit http://www.isri.org/metalstheftdb to make certain they are reading the most recent version of ISRI's summaries of the State Metals Theft Laws

Please Note: Amendments by 2014 South Carolina SB 560 and SB 561, effective June 2, 2014, are included and noted in this summary.

Materials Covered and Other Definitions

"Nonferrous Metals" means metals not containing significant quantities of iron or steel, including, but not limited to, copper wire, cooper clad steel wire, copper pipe, copper bars, copper sheeting, aluminum other than aluminum cans, a product that is a mixture of aluminum and copper, catalytic converters, lead-acid batteries, steel propane gas tanks, and stainless steel beer kegs or containers.

(added by SB 561) "Coil" means a copper, aluminum, or aluminum-copper condensing coil or evaporation coil. The term includes, but is not limited to, coil from a commercial or residential heating or air-conditioning system. The term does not include coil from a window air-conditioning system, if the coil is contained within the system, or coil from an automobile condenser.

Iron or steel manhole covers, iron or steel drainage grates, and Coils are subject to purchase restrictions.

Copper, catalytic converters, and beer kegs are subject to payment restrictions.

(added by SB 560) Railroad Track Materials are subject to special purchase and payment restrictions but are not defined.

"Secondary Metals Recycler" means any person engaged in the business of paying compensation for Nonferrous Metals that have served their original economic purpose, whether or not the person is engaged in converting Nonferrous Metals into raw material.

"Fixed Site" means a site occupied by a Secondary Metals Recycler as the owner of the site or as a lessee of the site under a lease or other rental agreement providing for occupation of the site by a Secondary Metals Recycler for a total duration of not less than 364 days.

Identification, as used in this summary, refers to the valid forms listed in Section 16-17-680.(H):

  • South Carolina driver's license issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles;
  • South Carolina identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles;
  • Driver's license from another state with the licensee's picture on the license face; or
  • Military identification card.

Exempt Seller, as used in this summary, refers to the following entities listed in Section 16-17- 680.(J)(1). Recyclers must make records of transactions with Exempt Sellers and Nonferrous Metals purchased from Exempt Sellers are subject to the Hold provisions. Otherwise, Exempt Sellers are exempt from all but the penalties for obtaining a permit to transport and sell for the purpose of transporting or selling stolen Nonferrous Metals (Section  16- 17-680.(C)(10)), and the penalties for transporting or presenting permits to transport or sell or bills of sale for Nonferrous Metals known to be stolen (Section  16-17-680.(G)(5)).

  • Transactions between Secondary Metals Recyclers;
  • A governmental entity;
  • A manufacturing or industrial vendor that generates or sells Regulated Metals in the ordinary course of its business;
  • A seller that is an organization, a corporation, or an association registered with South Carolina as a charitable organization or nonprofit corporation. (reworded by SB 561)

A seller who is:

  • A holder of a retail license;
  • An authorized wholesaler;
  • An automobile demolisher as defined in § 56-5-5810(d);
  • A contractor licensed under Section 40-11;
  • (added by SB 561) A real estate broker or property manager licensed pursuant to Section  40-7;
  • A residential home builder licensed pursuant to § 40-59;
  • A demolition contractor;
  • A gas, electric, communications, water, plumbing, electrical, climate conditioning, core recycling, appliance repair, automotive repair, or electronics repair service provider;
Exemptions

Exempts the purchase or sale of aluminum cans.

Permit - Recycler

A Recycler must obtain a permit to purchase Nonferrous Metals from the sheriff of the county where each of the Recycler's Fixed Sites are located. A Permit is valid for 24 months. A sheriff may issue the permit if the Recycler has a Fixed Site in the sheriff's county, has not been convicted of a violation of Section 16-11-523 (unlawfully obtaining Nonferrous Metals) or Section 16-17-680, and declares on the application that the Recycler is informed of and will comply with the law. A sheriff may investigate a Recycler's background before issuing a permit to determine if the Recycler qualifies. The sheriff may charge and retain a $200 permitting fee for each permit, and must record:

  • The date of issuance; and
  • The name and address of the permit holder.

If the Recycler intends to purchase Nonferrous Metals at a location other than a Fixed Site, the Recycler must obtain a permit from the sheriff of each county where they intend to purchase. The sheriff may issue the permit if the Recycler can sufficiently demonstrate their ability to comply with the law, has not been convicted of a violation of Section 16-11-523 or Section 16-17-680, and declares on the application that the Recycler is informed of and will comply with the law.

Employees acting within the scope and duties of their employment are not required to obtain a separate permit, but must have a copy of the permit available for inspection if they intend to purchase Nonferrous Metals at a location other than a Fixed Site.

Permit - Transport and Sell

Unless the entity is an Exempt Seller, any person or entity who wants to transport or sell Nonferrous Metals to a Recycler must obtain a permit to transport and sell from the sheriff of the person or entity's county. A sheriff may issue the permit to a person if they reside or have a secondary residence or the entity is located or has a secondary location in the sheriff's county, have not been convicted of a violation of Section 16-11-523 or Section 16-17-680, and declare on a form provided by the sheriff that they are informed of and will comply with the law. A sheriff may investigate the person or entity's background before issuing the permit to determine if they qualify. A permit is valid statewide and expires on the person's birth date two calendar years after the year it was issued; or, for an entity, two calendar years after it was issued. The sheriff may not charge a fee for a permit, but may charge a $10 fee to replace a lost or destroyed permit. The sheriff must record:

  • The date of issuance;
  • The name and address of the permit holder;
  • A photocopy of the permit holder's identification;
  • The license plate number of the permit holder's vehicle; and
  • The permit holder's photograph.

A person that isn't a resident or an entity that isn't located in South Carolina must obtain a permit from any sheriff of any county. The sheriff may issue the permit if the person or entity is not a resident of or located in South Carolina, has not been convicted of a violation of Section 16-11-523 or Section 16-17-680, and declares on a form provided by the sheriff that they are informed of and will comply with the law.

An employee is not required to obtain a separate permit to transport or sell if the employee is acting within the scope and duties of their employment. An employee who intends to transport and sell Nonferrous Metals on behalf of an entity must have a copy of the entity's permit readily available for inspection.

Recordkeeping

A Recycler must record the following for purchases of Nonferrous Metal; the Recycler may retain records in an electronic database if the information is legible and can be accessed by law enforcement upon request:

  • The date of purchase;
  • The Seller's name and address;
  • A copy of the Seller's Identification;
  • A copy of the Seller's permit to transport and sell, if applicable;
  • The license plate number of the Seller's motor vehicle, if available;
  • The Seller's photograph or a video of the Seller. If the Seller's photo is already on file the Recycler may reference that photo, but must update the photo annually;
  • The weight and size or other description of the Nonferrous Metals;
  • The amount paid;
  • A signed statement that the Seller is the rightful owner or is entitled to sell.
Retention

Records must be maintained for 1 year from the date of purchase, except a video of the Seller taken in lieu of a photograph must only be retained for 120 days.

Inspection

Records and Nonferrous Metals purchased by and in the possession of a Recycler must be kept open for inspection by law enforcement officials or local and state governmental agencies during regular business hours.

Purchase Restrictions

A Recycler must not purchase or otherwise acquire the following:

  • An iron or steel manhole cover;
  • An iron or steel drainage grate; or

(added by SB 561) A Coil unless:

  • The Seller is a holder of a retail license; An authorized wholesaler; An automobile demolisher as defined in Section 56-5-5810(d); A contractor licensed under Section 40-11; (added by SB 561) A real estate broker or property manager licensed pursuant to Section 40-7; A residential home builder licensed pursuant to Section 40-59; A demolition contractor; A gas, electric, communications, water, plumbing, electrical, climate conditioning, core recycling, appliance repair, automotive repair, or electronics repair service provider; or
  • The Seller presents a bill of sale from a company licensed under Section  40-11 indicating the Seller acquired the Coil as the result of a unit replacement or repair; the bill of sale is sufficient proof of ownership and serves the same purpose as a permit to transport and sell.

(added by SB 560) It is unlawful to purchase, sell, or transport railroad track materials for the purpose of recycling unless either the purchaser, seller, or transporter is:

  • A railroad company or a railroad company's authorized agent;
  • A business that owns a railroad spur;
  • An independent railroad contractor; or
  • A person or business with a letter of authorization from a special agent of a railroad company class 1 or shortline. An entity removing or authorizing the removal of railroad track materials from private property must obtain a letter of authorization from the railroad company servicing the property.
Payment Restrictions

No cash payments totaling $25 or more for the purchase of copper, catalytic converters, or beer kegs; a Recycler shall not make more than one cash transaction per day per Seller for such. Payment for transactions that exceed the cash threshold or transactions per day limit must be by check issued and made payable to the seller. A Recycler may not cash a check issued in payment or use an ATM or other cash card system in lieu of a check. (SB 561 raises the threshold from $0 to $25 and introduces the transactions per day limit)

(added by SB 560) Payment for railroad track materials only must be made to the railroad company or the company's principals, the business that owns the railroad spur or the businesses' principals, the independent railroad contractor or the contractor's principals, or the person or business authorized by the railroad company or the businesses' principals.

Notice to Seller

A Recycler must prominently display a 20" by 30" sign in their Fixed Site stating the following (please note that, due to amendments since the requirement was originally created, the sign does not include the full list of Exempt Sellers):

"NO NONFERROUS METALS, INCLUDING COPPER, MAY BE PURCHASED BY A SECONDARY METALS RECYCLER FROM A SELLER UNLESS THE SELLER IS A HOLDER OF A RETAIL LICENSE, AN AUTHORIZED WHOLESALER, A CONTRACTOR LICENSED PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 1, CHAPTER 11, TITLE 40, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, A GAS, ELECTRIC, COMMUNICATIONS, WATER, PLUMBING, ELECTRICAL, OR CLIMATE CONDITIONING SERVICE PROVIDER, OR THE SELLER PRESENTS THE SELLER'S VALID PERMIT TO TRANSPORT AND SELL NONFERROUS METALS ISSUED PURSUANT TO Section 16-17-680, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976"

Hold

15 calendar day hold upon receipt of written notice from a law enforcement officer. An officer with reasonable cause to believe an item of Nonferrous Metal in the possession of a Recycler has been stolen may issue a written hold notice to the Recycler that specifically identifies the items believed stolen and informs the Recycler of the hold requirements. An officer may issue a written extended hold notice before the initial 15 days expires; this extends the hold for 30 days from the date the extended hold notice is received. A hold may be released early by the issuing officer. After a hold expires the Recycler may dispose of the item unless a different disposition has been ordered by a court with jurisdiction.

If a Seller does not have a permit to transport and sell, a Recycler may hold a Seller's Nonferrous Metals while the Seller obtains a permit.

Penalties

It is unlawful to purchase Nonferrous Metals for recycling unless the purchaser is a Recycler with a valid permit to recycle Nonferrous Metal and the Seller holds a valid permit to transport and sell.

A purchaser of Nonferrous Metals who violates the Recordkeeping, Retention, Inspection, Payment Restrictions, Notice to Seller, or Hold provisions, or who unlawfully purchases Nonferrous Metals as described above is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by the mandatory revocation of their permit and:

  • 1st offense: a $200 to $300 fine or up to 30 days imprisonment;
  • 2nd offense: a $400 to $500 fine and/or up to 1 year imprisonment;
  • 3rd or subsequent offense occurring within a 10 year period: up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 3 years imprisonment.

A Recycler's permit or permit to transport and sell may be denied, suspended, or revoked at any time if a sheriff discovers the application information is inaccurate, the permit holder does not comply with the requirements of the law, or the permit holder is convicted of a violation of Section 16-11-523 or Section 16-17-680.

It is unlawful to sell Nonferrous Metals to a Recycler unless the Recycler has a valid permit to recycle and the Seller either has a valid permit to transport and sell or is an Exempt Seller. A violation is punishable by the mandatory revocation of the seller's permit and:

  • 1st offense: a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine at the discretion of the court and/or up to 1 year imprisonment;
  • 2nd offense: a misdemeanor, punishable by a minimum $500 fine and/or up to 3 years imprisonment; or
  • 3rd or subsequent offense: a felony, punishable by a minimum $1,000 fine and/or up to 5 years imprisonment (no limitation to offenses within a 10 year period).

A person who presents a falsified bill of sale to sell a Coil is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine in the discretion of the court and/or up to 3 years imprisonment.

It is unlawful to transport Nonferrous Metals in a vehicle or have Nonferrous Metals in a person's possession in a vehicle on a state highway unless one of the following apply:

  • The vehicle is used in the ordinary course of business for transporting Nonferrous Metals (includes but is not limited to vehicles used by gas, electric, communications, water, plumbing, electrical, and climate conditioning service providers);
  • The person can present a valid permit to transport and sell;
  • The person can present a valid bill of sale; or
  • A law enforcement officer determines the Nonferrous Metals are not stolen goods and are in the rightful possession of the person.

A violation is a misdemeanor punishable by:

  • 1st offense: up to a $200 fine or up to 30 days imprisonment;
  • 2nd offense: up to a $500 fine and/or up to 1 year imprisonment;
  • 3rd or subsequent offense occurring within a 10 year period: up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 3 years imprisonment.

The following are felony offenses punishable by a fine in the discretion of the court and/or up to 10 years imprisonment; any permit to transport and sell must also be revoked:

  • Obtaining a permit to transport and sell for stolen Nonferrous Metals;
  • The purchase of Nonferrous Metal from a Seller who does not have a valid permit to transport or sell by a purchaser who intends to resell the metal to a Recycler using the purchaser's own valid permit to transport or sell; or

For Nonferrous Metal known to be stolen:

  • Transporting such in a vehicle or having such in their possession in a vehicle on a state highway, or in a vehicle used in the ordinary course of business to transport such;
  • Presenting a valid or falsified permit to transport and sell; or
  • Presenting a valid or falsified bill of sale.

Under Section 16-11-523, willfully and maliciously damaging any personal or real property, including any fixtures or improvements, to obtain Nonferrous Metals is punishable by the revocation of any permit issued under Section 16-17-680 and:

  • If another person suffers great bodily injury as a result of a violation of the section, the violator is guilty of a felony subject to up to 15 years imprisonment, or up to 30 years imprisonment if the person dies.
  • If a violation creates a disruption of communication or electrical service to critical infrastructure or more than 10 customers, a misdemeanor subject to a fine in the discretion of the court and/or up to 3 years imprisonment.

If the direct injury to the property, loss in value to the property, amount of repairs necessary to return the property to its condition before the act, or property loss including fixtures or improvements, is:

  • Less than $5,000, a misdemeanor subject to a fine in the discretion of the court and/or up to 3 years imprisonment; or
  • $5,000 or more, a felony subject to a fine in the discretion of the court and/or up to 10 years imprisonment.

Under Section 16-11-523, a public or private owner of personal or real property is not civilly liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition created by a theft or attempted theft of Nonferrous Metals when the owner did not know and could not have reasonably known about the theft.

(added by SB 560) Violation of the purchase or payment restrictions for railroad track materials (Section 58-15-875) is a:

  • 1st offense: misdemeanor subject to a fine of at least $250 and/or up to 1 year imprisonment;
  • 2nd offense: misdemeanor subject to a fine of at least $500 and/or up to 3 years imprisonment.
  • 3rd or subsequent: felony subject to a fine of at least $1,000 and/or up to 5 years imprisonment.

(added by SB 560) Under Section 58-15-870, it is unlawful to willfully and maliciously cut, mutilate, deface, or otherwise injure a railroad or electric railway, including anything appertaining to (belonging to, related to, connected with, or concerning) the railroad or railway or any material or instrument for the construction of the railroad or railway. In addition to the following penalties, except in the case of an electric railway, a person who violates this section shall forfeit treble damages for each offense proved to be sustained to be recovered in a tort action in the railroad company's name. Violation is a:

  • Misdemeanor subject to a fine of at least $1,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment;
  • If the violation results in the endangerment of another person's life or great bodily injury to another person, a felony subject to up to 20 years imprisonment;
  • If the violation results in the death of another person, a felony subject to up to 30 years imprisonment.
Preemption

Preempts local ordinances and regulations governing the purchase, sale, or transportation of Nonferrous Metals, except to the extent they pertain to zoning or business license fees. Political subdivisions may not enact more restrictive ordinances or regulations.

©2016. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.

This summary of State Metals Theft Laws is being viewed on this website under license and is owned and copyrighted by Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. ("ISRI"),1615 L Street, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036.