Possession with intent to distribute drugs in SC, or PWID, is the “next step up” from simple possession charges.

The penalties for PWID in SC are greater than the potential penalties for simple possession but less than the penalties for drug trafficking. The potential penalties are exactly the same as those for drug distribution or drug manufacturing charges, though.

In this article we will cover possession with intent to distribute charges for the following types of drugs.

Specifically, we’ll discuss potential fines, penalties and jail time, and what the “threshold weights” are for each type of drug.

Let’s get started….

Possession with Intent to Distribute in SC

Police will usually charge a person with possession with intent to distribute when the amount of drugs allegedly found is greater than the “threshold weight,” which varies from one type of drug to another.

It’s basically the same as a simple possession charge, with the added element of intent to distribute – if police can show that you intended to distribute the drugs, then you receive the same potential punishment as if you had sold the drugs

What is “Intent to Distribute” and How Do They Prove It?

The weight of the drugs alone may not be enough evidence for a PWID conviction – the State must prove that you intended to distribute the drugs. Although this can be proven by the weight of the drugs, you can argue that you never intended to distribute the drugs – if the drugs were intended for personal use, the charge should be simple possession and not PWID.

Intent to distribute can also be proven by other evidence, like your statements, witness testimony, the way the drugs were packaged, or the presence of scales, ledgers, baggies, or other “sales paraphernalia.”

You could be convicted of simple possession instead of PWID if the State cannot prove that you intended to distribute the drugs. On the other hand, police will sometimes charge a person with PWID even though the drugs weigh less than the threshold amount if there is other evidence of an intent to distribute.

PWID Charges in SC by Drug Type

PWID Marijuana

Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana in SC is usually charged as PWID instead of simple possession – maybe you don’t sell weed and you intended to smoke it all, but police will still charge you with possession with intent to distribute if it’s more than an ounce.

Because marijuana is in Schedule I but it is a non-narcotic drug, PWID marijuana is covered by SC Code Section 44-53-370(b)(2), and can carry a potential sentence of up to five years for a first offense, ten years for a second offense, or a mandatory minimum sentence of five years up to twenty years in prison for a third offense:

(2) any other controlled substance classified in Schedule I, II, or III, flunitrazepam or a controlled substance analogue, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, for a first offense must be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than five thousand dollars, or both.

For a second offense, the offender is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than ten years or fined not more than ten thousand dollars, or both.

For a third or subsequent offense, the offender is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not less than five years nor more than twenty years, or fined not more than twenty thousand dollars, or both.

That’s right.

You could go to prison for as much as twenty years in SC for having over one ounce of marijuana in your possession, while some other states have made it legal to possess as much as four ounces.

PWID Cocaine in SC

The threshold weight for possession with intent to distribute cocaine charges is one gram:

(4) possession of more than: one gram of cocaine…. is prima facie guilty of violation of subsection (a) of this section.

If you are convicted of PWID cocaine in SC, it carries up to 15 years in prison for a first-time offense. A second offense has a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 30 years in prison, while a third or subsequent offense has a mandatory minimum of ten years and up to 30 years in prison:

(1) a controlled substance classified in Schedule I (b) and (c) which is a narcotic drug or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and in Schedule II which is a narcotic drug is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, for a first offense must be imprisoned not more than fifteen years or fined not more than twenty-five thousand dollars, or both.

For a second offense, the offender must be imprisoned not less than five years nor more than thirty years, or fined not more than fifty thousand dollars, or both.

For a third or subsequent offense, the offender must be imprisoned not less than ten years nor more than thirty years, or fined not more than fifty thousand dollars, or both.

Cocaine Base (Crack)

Possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, or crack cocaine, carries the same penalties as PWID powder cocaine:

(1) for a first offense, must be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than fifteen years or fined not more than twenty-five thousand dollars, or both;

(2) for a second offense, the offender must be imprisoned for not less than five years nor more than thirty years, or fined not more than fifty thousand dollars, or both;

(3) for a third or subsequent offense, the offender must be imprisoned for not less than ten years nor more than thirty years, or fined not more than fifty thousand dollars, or both.

The threshold weight is also the same as that for powder cocaine, one gram:

Possession of one or more grams of methamphetamine or cocaine base is prima facie evidence of a violation of this subsection.

PWID Methamphetamine

Possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine carries the same potential penalties and has the same threshold weight (one gram) as PWID powder cocaine or crack cocaine, and the penalties are found in SC Code Section 44-53-375

Whether the drug in question is cocaine, crack, or meth, the same statute and penalties apply to PWID, distribution, or manufacturing of the drug:

(B) A person who manufactures, distributes, dispenses, delivers, purchases, or otherwise aids, abets, attempts, or conspires to manufacture, distribute, dispense, deliver, or purchase, or possesses with intent to distribute, dispense, or deliver methamphetamine or cocaine base, in violation of the provisions of Section 44-53-370, is guilty of a felony…

PWID Heroin

Because heroin is classified as a Schedule I narcotic drug, PWID heroin in SC carries the same penalties as PWID cocaine, cocaine base, or methamphetamines – up to 15 years in prison for a first offense, 5-30 years for a second offense, or 10-30 years for a third offense.

But where cocaine, crack cocaine, and methamphetamines have a threshold weight of more than one gram, you can be charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin if you are found with more than two grains of heroin…

What the heck is a grain?

It is a very small amount of heroin, “equal to exactly 64.79891 milligrams,” which means it is very easy to be charged with PWID heroin instead of simple possession – that’s a big deal because, even on a first offense, it means the difference between a maximum penalty of two or a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

If you are charged with PWID heroin based on weight, the charges can be reduced to simple possession either by the prosecutor or by a jury at trial.

Although SC law says that more than two grains of heroin is “prima facie evidence” of possession with intent to distribute, the State must still prove that you intended to distribute the drugs.

Unless there is additional evidence of intent to distribute like an excessive amount of cash, packaging in multiple baggies, digital scales, or witness testimony, it may be difficult for the State to prove an intent to distribute based on possession of a very small amount of the drug.

PWID Fentanyl

Although fentanyl currently carries the same potential penalties as heroin charges, prosecutors and judges may feel that it is appropriate to give harsher sentences for PWID fentanyl, because of its higher potential for overdoses and the media attention that fentanyl overdoses has received in recent years.

PWID MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)

MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, ecstasy, or Molly) is a Schedule I drug like heroin or fentanyl, but the penalties are not as severe because it is a non-narcotic Schedule I drug. Police will usually charge PWID, instead of simple possession, if a person is found with more than 15 ecstasy pills.

Possession with intent to distribute MDMA in SC carries a potential sentence of up to five years on a first offense (as opposed to 15 for Schedule I narcotic drugs), up to ten years for a second offense, or 5-20 years for a third offense, and is covered by SC Code Section 44-53-370(b)(2):

(2) any other controlled substance classified in Schedule I, II, or III, flunitrazepam or a controlled substance analogue, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, for a first offense must be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than five thousand dollars, or both.

For a second offense, the offender is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than ten years or fined not more than ten thousand dollars, or both.

For a third or subsequent offense, the offender is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not less than five years nor more than twenty years, or fined not more than twenty thousand dollars, or both.

PWID Schedule I-V Narcotic and Non-Narcotic Drugs without a Prescription

Possession with intent to distribute narcotics like heroin or fentanyl is covered above in the section on heroin.

The potential penalties for possessing non-narcotic drugs with the intent to distribute depends on the Schedule of the drug:

  • PWID Schedule I, II, or III drugs is a felony covered by SC Code Section 44-53-370(b)(2), and carry the same potential penalties as PWID MDMA (see above).
  • PWID Schedule IV drugs is a misdemeanor that can carry up to three years on a first offense or up to five years on a second or subsequent offense; and
  • PWID Schedule V drugs is a misdemeanor that can carry as much as one year for a first offense, and the sentence is doubled for second or subsequent offenses.

Most prescription drugs that are non-narcotic will be found in either Schedule IV or V.

Need Help With Your SC Drug Charge?

Possession with intent to distribute drugs in SC can be a serious offense that can end in prison time. You may have defenses, it is possible that your case could be dismissed or won at trial, and it is possible that your charges could be reduced from PWID to simple possession.

If you’re facing drug charges in South Carolina, please contact the drug defense attorneys at Templeton Mims & Ward and let’s see if we can help.

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