South Carolina Drug Possession Charges: Penalties and Defense

If you’re facing a drug possession charge in South Carolina, you need to have a clear understanding of the law, as well as potential penalties, and available defense options. This blog aims to equip you with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions and seek effective representation with a Clemson, South Carolina drug crimes defense lawyer.

Understanding the Legal Landscape

South Carolina classifies controlled substances into five schedules based on their perceived potential for abuse and dependence. This classification directly impacts the severity of penalties associated with possession charges.

Schedule I and II Narcotics

Schedule I and II Narcotics are set out in S.C Code § 44-53-190 and § 44-53-210 and are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse psychological dependance. These include LSD, marijuana (cannabis), heroin, ecstasy, meth, Adderall and Ritalin.

Schedule III, IV and V Narcotics

Schedule III, IV and V are set out in S.C Code § 44-53-230, § 44-53-250 and  § 44-53-270 and are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. These include drugs such as Xanax, Soma and certain cough syrups.

Penalties for Simple Possession

Simple possession, defined as knowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled substance without intending to distribute it (S.C. Code § 44-53-370(c)), carries varying penalties depending on the schedule of the drug:

Schedule I and II Narcotics:

  • First Offense: Misdemeanor; punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to two years, or both.
  • Second Offense: Felony; punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to five years, or both.
  • Third or Subsequent Offenses: Felony; punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for up to five years, or both.

Other Schedules:

  • First Offense: Misdemeanor; punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to six months, or both.
  • Second or Subsequent Offense: Misdemeanor; punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 or imprisonment for up to one year, or both.

Enhanced Penalties:

Certain factors can exacerbate the penalties for simple possession:

  • Possession near schools or parks: Increased fines and/or imprisonment durations.
  • Prior drug convictions: Harsher penalties for subsequent offenses.
  • Possession of large quantities: Potential upgrade to possession with intent to distribute (PWID) or trafficking charges, carrying significantly higher penalties based on specific schedules and quantities.

South Carolina law punishes drug trafficking with severe penalties

Possession with Intent to Distribute and Trafficking

PWID and trafficking involve the intent to sell or distribute controlled substances, raising the charge to a felony with considerably harsher penalties compared to simple possession.

The severity of penalties for PWID and trafficking directly correlates with the schedule and quantity of the controlled substance involved. South Carolina outlines these penalties in Section 44-53-370(b) of the state’s Code of Laws.

Schedule I and II Narcotics:

  • PWID: Minimum imprisonment of 2 years and a fine of at least $25,000, with potential for significantly higher sentences and fines depending on the quantity (up to life imprisonment and $250,000 for large quantities).
  • Trafficking: Minimum imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of at least $100,000, with potential for life imprisonment and even steeper fines for larger quantities.

Schedule III, IV, and V Drugs:

  • PWID: Imprisonment ranging from 1-8 years and fines from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the specific schedule and quantity.
  • Trafficking: Imprisonment ranging from 3-20 years and fines from $30,000 to $200,000, again depending on the schedule and quantity.

Enhanced PWID and Trafficking Penalties:

Certain factors can further increase the penalties for PWID and trafficking:

  • Possession near schools or parks: Increased minimum sentences and potential for higher fines.
  • Prior drug convictions: Harsher penalties, including mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders.
  • Large-scale operations: Significant increases in both imprisonment duration and fines, particularly for trafficking substantial quantities.

Defense Strategies for Drug Possession Charges

If you face a drug possession charge, consider exploring the following defense strategies:

  • Challenging the Legality of the Stop or Search: If the police conducted an unlawful stop or search leading to the discovery of drugs, the evidence may be excluded from court, rendering the charge invalid.
  • Questioning the Accuracy of Drug Testing: Challenging the testing procedures, chain of custody of the seized drugs, or qualifications of the laboratory can raise doubt about the evidence’s validity.
  • Exploring Alternative Explanations: Demonstrating lack of knowledge or intent to possess the drugs, such as accidental exposure or mistaken identity, can potentially lead to reduced charges or dismissal.
  • Investigating Plea Bargains: Negotiating a plea agreement with the prosecutor may result in reduced charges or lighter sentences in exchange for a guilty plea.

How a Clemson, SC Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer Can Help

Facing a drug possession charge in South Carolina can be a difficult and stressful experience, but a qualified Clemson, SC, criminal defense attorney at Boatwright Law can help you navigate this legal challenge and strive for the best possible outcome.

The right attorney can analyze the specific details of your case and identify applicable laws and statutes, advise you on your legal rights and potential defense strategies, negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf, and represent you in court and fight for your rights.

Contact us at 864-745-9758 for a free case evaluation.