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Common South Carolina Drug Charges

            As with every state, South Carolina has its own statutory scheme of drug laws. The laws set forth the elements and penalties for attempting to possess, manufacturing, possession, intent to distribute, distribution and trafficking of illegal drugs. Laws also address criminal violations for many offenses related to the drug laws, such as paraphernalia, committing a drug violation in close proximity to a school or church, and counterfeit drugs.

            Below is a simple overview of some common drug charges in South Carolina. Although it may seem simplistic and may look harrowing if charged, an experienced, knowledgeable and skilled criminal defense attorney can build a solid defense and defend a drug case.

            Below is an explanation of the more common drug offenses, as well as the corresponding penalties.

POSSESSION

            An individual may be guilty of possession by actual or constructive possession.

Actual possession is physical possession “on the person” of the individual. For example, actual possession would cover the situation where an individual is determined to possess the drug in his pants pocket, sock, or perhaps a bag that the individual is carrying.

            Constructive possession is possession as a result of the individual having dominion and control of the drug regardless of where the drug is discovered. For example, constructive possession would cover the situation where the drug is discovered in the individual’s storage unit, vehicle, or residence. The proof required would be evidence of the individual’s dominion and control of the storage unit, vehicle, or residence. Certainly, although too often overlooked and not challenged, as with any drug case, knowledge of the drug is an important factor as well.

MANUFACTURING, POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE (PWID) AND DISTRIBUTION

            Manufacturing, PWID and Distribution move past possession to situations that involve drug activity that is focused more on more than just personal use and increase the penalty substantially.

            An important observation is that the weight of the drug becomes important. The offense of PWID can be supported by an inference.  That is, possession of a specific amount of the drug will permit a jury to infer that the individually possessing the drug intended to distribute the drug. Additional evidence, such as the possession of weight scales, the packaging of the drug, and the possession of plastic baggies would be further evidence of an intent to distribute. However, the additional evidence is not necessary to put the issue to the jury to decide.

            Distribution is not dependent on the weight of drug present in the case. The distribution of the smallest amount of marijuana is sufficient to support an offense of distribution.

TRAFFICKING

            Although “Trafficking” sounds as if the word were taken from a movie about drug lords, it is actually a very simple definition. Trafficking is possession of a specific amount of a drug that the legislature has deemed worthy of calling trafficking. For example, the first level of Trafficking Cocaine is at 10 grams to 28 grams. Therefore, an individual is guilty of Trafficking Cocaine if convicted of possession of cocaine, and the weight of the cocaine possessed is at least 10 grams. The different weight categories of trafficking have different sentences.

PRIOR OFFENSES

            Whether a drug offense is a first, second or a third or more offense depends on how many prior drug convictions an individual has obtained in the past. Some convictions based on the age of the conviction, may not apply. A prior conviction does not need to be for the same drug or even the same type of offense. The prior conviction only needs to be a conviction for a violation of the state drug laws.

SENTENCING

POSSESSION

Cocaine Base (Crack Cocaine)/Methamphetamine

1st Offense                              0 – 3 years and up to a $5,000.00 fine

2nd Offense                             0 – 5 years and up to a $7,500.00 fine

3rd  or more Offense              0 – 10 years and up to a $12,500.00 fine

Cocaine

1st Offense                              0 – 3 years and up to a $5,000.00 fine

2nd Offense                             0 – 5 years and up to a $7,500.00 fine

3rd Offense                             0 – 10 years and up to a $12,500.00 fine

Marijuana Less than 28 grams

1st Offense                              0 – 30 days or a $100.00 – $200.00 fine

2nd Offense                             0 – 1 year and/or $200.00 – $1,000.00 fine

Marijuana Greater than 28 grams

1st Offense                              0 – 6 months and/or up to a $1,000.00 fine

2nd Offense                             0 – 1 year and up to a $2,000.00 fine

LSD/Heroin/Schedule I(b) and (c) (If Narcotic) and Schedule II (If Narcotic)

1st Offense                              0 – 2 years and/or up to a $5,000.00 fine

2nd Offense                             0 – 5 years and up to a $5,000.00 fine

3rd Offense                             0 – 5 years and up to a $10,000.00 fine

Schedule I – V (Ecstasy/GHB)

1st Offense                              0 – 6 months and up to a $1,000.00 fine

2nd Offense                             0 – 1 year and up to a $2,000.00 fine

DISTRIBUTION/PWID/MANUFACTURING

Cocaine Base (Crack Cocaine)/Methamphetamine

1st Offense                              0 – 15 years and/or up to a $25,000.00 fine

2nd Offense                             5 – 30 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine SER

3rd Offense                             10 – 30 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine SER**

Cocaine/LSD/Heroin/Schedule I (b) and (c) and Schedule II

1st Offense                              0 – 15 years and/or up to a $25,000.00 fine

2nd Offense                             5 – 30 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine SER

3rd Offense                             15 – 30 years and up to a $50,000.00 fine SER**

Schedule I – III (Marijuana, Ecstasy, GHB) & Flunitrazepam

1st Offense                              0 – 5 years and/or not more than a $5,000.00 fine

2nd Offense                             0 – 10 years and/or not more than a $10,000.00 fine

3rd Offense                             5 – 20 years and/or not more than $20,000.00**

Schedule IV (Except Flunitrazepam)

1st Offense                              0 – 3 years and/or not more than a $3,000.00 fine

2nd Offense                             0 – 5 years and/or not more than a $6,000.00 fine

3rd Offense                             0 – 5 years and/or not more than $6,000.00 fine**

Schedule V

1st Offense                              0 – 1 years and/or not more than a $1,000.00 fine

2nd Offense                             0 – 2 years and/or not more than a $2,000.00 fine

3rd Offense                             0 – 2 years and/or not more than $2,000.00**

PWID/DISTRIBUTION/MANUFACTURING NEAR A SCHOOL

All Controlled Substances     0 – 10 years and/or $10,000.00 fine SER

TRAFFICKING

ALL TRAFFICKING OFFENSES ARE VIOLENT PURSUANT TO S.C. CODE 16-1-60 AND SERIOUS OFFENSES PURSUANT TO S.C. CODE 17-25-45

Cocaine Base (Crack Cocaine)/Methamphetamine/Cocaine

10 grams but less than 28 grams:

1st Offense                              3 – 10 years and/or up to a $25,000.00*

2nd Offense                             5 – 30 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine *

3rd Offense                             25 – 30 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine*

28 grams but less than 100 grams:

1st Offense                              7 – 25 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine*

2nd Offense                             7 – 30 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine*

3rd Offense                             25 – 30 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine*

100 grams but less than 200 grams:

25 years and $50,000.00 fine*

200 grams but less than 400 grams:

25 years and $100,000.00 fine*

400 grams or more:

25 – 30 years and $200,000.00 fine*

Ephedrine

9 grams but less than 28 grams:

1st Offense                              0 – 10 years and/or up to a $25,000.00 fine*

2nd Offense                             5 – 20 years and/or up to a $15,000.00 fine*

3rd Offense                             25 years and/or up to a $25,000.00 fine*

28 grams but less than 100 grams:

1st Offense                              7 – 25 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine*

2nd Offense                             7 – 30 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine*

3rd Offense                             25 – 30 years and/or up to a $50,000.00 fine*

100 grams but less than 200 grams:

25 years and $50,000.00 fine*

200 grams but less than 400 grams:

25 years and $100,000.00 fine*

400 grams or more:

25 – 30 years and $250,000.00 fine*

Marijuana

10 lbs but less than 100 lbs

1st Offense                              1 – 10 years and/or up to a $10,000.00 fine*

2nd Offense                             5 – 20 years and/or up to a $15,000.00 fine*

3rd Offense                             25 years and a $25,000.00 fine*

100 lbs but less than 2000 lbs (or 100 but less than 1000 plants)

25 years and a $25,000.00 fine*

2000 lbs but less than 10,000 lbs (or 1000 plants but less than 10,000 plants)

25 years and a $50,000.00 fine*

More than 10,000 lbs (or more than 10,000 plants)

25 – 30 years and a 200,000.00 fine*

 Heroin/Morphine/Opium

4 grams but less than 14 grams

1st Offense                  7 – 25 years and a $50,000.00 fine*

2nd Offense                 25 years and a $100,000.00 fine*

14 grams but less than 28 grams

25 years and a $200,000.00 fine*

28 grams or more

25 – 40 years and a $200,000.00 fine*

Ecstasy/LSD

100 units but less than 500 units

1st Offense                              3 – 10 years and a $25,000.00 fine*

2nd Offense                             5 – 30 years and a $40,000.00 fine*

3rd Offense                             25 – 30 years and a $50,000.00 fin*e

500 units but less than 1000 units

1st Offense                              7 – 25 years and a $50,000.00 fine*

2nd Offense                             7 – 30 years and a $50,000.00 fine*

3rd Offense                             25 – 30 years and a $50,000.00 fine*

1000 units or more

25 years and a $100,000.00 fine*

GHB

50 milliliter/milligrams or more

1st Offense                              1 – 10 years and/or up to a $10,000.00 fine*

2nd Offense                             25 years and a $25,000.00 fine*

*           No suspended sentence or probation granted

**         No suspended sentence unless prior convictions are for possession only

SER     Serious Offense pursuant to S.C. Code 17-25-45