In South Carolina, possession-based drug charges are usually broken up into three types of charges: simple possession, possession with intent to distribute, and drug trafficking.
There are other types of drug charges in SC that are not based on the weight of the drugs involved, including drug distribution, manufacturing, distribution within proximity of a school, playground, or park, and other, less common types of drug offenses. Below is a brief description of the more common types of criminal drug charges in SC, along with links to more detailed information.
Types of Drug Charges in SC
Possession-based drug charges in SC are “graduated offenses,” with penalties increasing based on the weight, and the charges can be based on either actual or constructive possession.
Actual and Constructive Possession
What does possession mean? It could mean that the police found the drugs in your pocket or on your person, but often it means that the drugs were found near you – a “legal fiction” called constructive possession.
If the State can prove: 1) that you had “dominion and control” over the drugs – they belonged to you, in other words, and 2) that you knew the drugs were there, you can be convicted of a possession-related drug offense even if you did not have the drugs on your person.
Possession, possession with intent to distribute (PWID), and drug trafficking are all SC drug offenses that can be based on actual or constructive possession.
The details of each offense below can be found in either SC Code Section 44-53-370 or SC Code Section 44-53-375, and you can click-through the links provided below to find additional information.
South Carolina Drug Charges by Drug Type
Possession of a Controlled Substance – 28 grams (one ounce) or less of marijuana is called “simple possession” in SC, although a person could be charged with PWID marijuana if there is evidence that the person intended to distribute the marijuana.
Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID) in SC – if a person is charged with more than an ounce of marijuana in SC, it is considered “prima facie evidence” that they intended to distribute the drugs. If the person can show that they did not intend to distribute the drugs, however, they could be charged with simple possession of greater than an ounce.
Drug Trafficking – Possession of more than ten pounds of marijuana is charged as trafficking in marijuana, although trafficking offenses for any type of drug can also be based on distribution, manufacturing, cultivation, purchasing, helping someone else to do any of the above, attempting to do any of the above, or conspiring to do any of the above when there is more than ten pounds of marijuana in question.
Cocaine, Cocaine Base (Crack), and Methamphetamine
Possession of a Controlled Substance – possession of up to one gram of powder cocaine, cocaine base (crack), or methamphetamine is considered simple possession in SC.
Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID) in SC – possession of more than one gram of powder cocaine, cocaine base (crack), or methamphetamine is “prima facie evidence” of PWID, although the person will have the opportunity to prove that they did not intend to distribute the drugs.
Drug Trafficking – possession of more than 10 grams of powder cocaine, cocaine base (crack), or methamphetamine is considered drug trafficking in SC, and the potential penalties for trafficking increase based on the weight of the drugs that were found.
Heroin, Morphine, and Fentanyl
Possession of a Controlled Substance – possession of two grains or less of heroin, or four grains or less of morphine, is charged as simple possession of heroin. Possession of fentanyl carries the same penalties as a conviction for possession of heroin in SC.
Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID) in SC – if the drugs weigh more than two grains for heroin or four grains for morphine, it is considered “prima facie evidence” of an intent to distribute, although you can provide evidence that the drugs were for personal use and not intended for distribution.
Drug Trafficking – more than four grams of heroin, morphine, or fentanyl is considered trafficking in heroin, which carries the highest penalties of any drug offense in SC – up to 40 years if the drugs weighed more than 28 grams.
MDMA (Ecstasy/ Molly)
Possession of a Controlled Substance – possession of up to 15 ecstasy pills (or the equivalent dosage unit) is charged as simple possession of MDMA.
Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID) in SC – possession of more than 15 pills is charged as possession with intent to distribute MDMA, although you may be able to show that the pills were for personal use and not distribution.
Drug Trafficking – possession of 100 or more ecstasy pills is charged as trafficking in MDMA, with penalties increasing up to a mandatory 25 years for possession of 1000 or more pills.
Schedule I-V Narcotic and Non-Narcotic Drugs
Possession of a Controlled Substance – possession of Schedule I or II narcotic drugs carry the same potential penalties as heroin possession (which is also a Schedule I narcotic drug), while possession of non-narcotic drugs are covered by the same code section as MDMA possession.
Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID) in SC – PWID of Schedule I or II narcotic drugs is also covered by the same code section as heroin possession, but PWID of non-narcotic prescription drugs carries various potential penalties based on the drug’s schedule.
Other Types of Drug Offenses in SC
Some of the more common drug offenses in SC that are not weight-based or possession-based include:
Distribution – usually charged after one or more controlled buys by an undercover agent or informant, the penalties for distribution are the same as the penalties for possession with intent to distribute.
Manufacturing – manufacturing is the process of producing a drug. It could consist of “cooking” crack cocaine, growing marijuana plants, running a meth lab, or participating in the creation of any other type of drug. Regardless of the type of drug that was manufactured, the penalties are the same as those for distribution or possession with intent to distribute.
Proximity to a Park or School – “distribution of controlled substance within proximity of school” is a companion offense that is charged in addition to a distribution or PWID offense when the person was “in, on, or within a one-half mile radius of the grounds of a public or private elementary, middle, or secondary school; a public playground or park; a public vocational or trade school or technical educational center; or a public or private college or university.”
The offense carries a potential penalty of up to ten years in prison, but if the person was only purchasing the drugs within proximity of a school, the maximum sentence is one year in prison.
Drug Defense Lawyer in South Carolina
If you are facing drug charges in South Carolina, it is critical that you get an experienced drug defense lawyer on your side immediately.
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