Drug possession charges in SC, or “simple possession,” are the lowest “tier” of drug offenses with which you could be charged.
That doesn’t mean they are not serious for the defendant, however. Even a “simple” possession charge could result in jail time, fines, and a criminal record that may prevent a person from finding meaningful employment.
The good news is that most drug possession charges can be resolved and usually without a trial if you retain an experienced drug crimes defense attorney. In this article, we will cover the basics of drug possession charges in SC, including:
- The threshold weights that make a charge “simple possession” instead of “possession with intent to distribute” or “drug trafficking,”
- Constructive possession and how it can be used as a defense to drug charges,
- The potential penalties for drug possession charges in SC, and
- The potential defenses that may get your case dismissed or win an acquittal at trial.
Types of Drug Possession Charges in SC
The term “simple possession” may apply to any type of controlled substance in SC, including marijuana, hashish, cocaine, cocaine base (crack), meth, heroin, LSD, MDMA (ecstasy or molly), or possession of prescription drugs.
What makes the charge “simple possession” instead of the more serious offenses of possession with intent to distribute (PWID) or drug trafficking is the alleged weight of the drugs.
What Makes a Drug Charge “Simple Possession?”
For example, the threshold weights that determine whether a charge is possession or PWID include:
- Simple possession of Marijuana – 28 grams
- Possession of Hashish – ten grams
- Possession of Powder Cocaine – one gram
- Possession of Crack Cocaine or Cocaine Base – one gram
- Possession of Meth – one gram
- Possession of Heroin – two grains
- Possession of LSD – 50 micrograms
- Possession of MDMA/ Ecstasy – 15 dosage units
If you are accused of possessing 28 grams or less of marijuana (one ounce), for example, you will most likely be charged with simple possession of marijuana (unless there is evidence of drug distribution).
If you are accused of possessing more than 28 grams of marijuana, you will most likely be charged with PWID marijuana, although 1) the state must prove an intent to distribute, and 2) if the state cannot prove an intent to distribute, you can be found guilty of the lesser included offense of simple possession of more than 28 grams of marijuana.
What is “Constructive Possession?”
“Actual possession” is when drugs are found on your person – in your pocket or your hand, for example.
“Constructive possession” is when drugs are found near you – in a vehicle, in a residence, or on the ground nearby, for example.
If you are charged with constructive possession, the state must prove that 1) you had dominion and control over the drugs (the right to control their disposition) and 2) you knew the drugs were there.
“Mere presence” at the scene of a crime is not enough to charge or convict a person – the state must prove 1) dominion and control and 2) knowledge beyond any reasonable doubt before you can be convicted of constructive possession.
What are the Penalties for Drug Possession Charges in SC?
If you are convicted of drug possession charges, the penalties may include fines, prison time, or a prison sentence suspended to probation, depending on the charge and the circumstances.
The potential jail time for the most common drug possession charges includes:
|Possession Charges||Potential Penalties|
|Possession of Marijuana 1st Offense||30 days|
|Possession of Marijuana 2nd Offense||One year|
|Possession of Hashish 1st Offense||30 days|
|Possession of Hashish 2nd Offense||One year|
|Possession of Powder Cocaine 1st Offense||Three years|
|Possession of Powder Cocaine 2nd Offense||Five years|
|Possession of Powder Cocaine 3rd Offense||Ten years|
|Possession of Cocaine Base/ Crack Cocaine 1st Offense||Three years|
|Possession of Cocaine Base/ Crack Cocaine 2nd Offense||Five years|
|Possession of Cocaine Base/ Crack Cocaine 3rd Offense||Ten years|
|Possession of Meth 1st Offense||Three years|
|Possession of Meth 2nd Offense||Five years|
|Possession of Meth 3rd Offense||Ten years|
|Possession of Heroin 1st Offense||Two years|
|Possession of Heroin 2nd Offense||Five years|
|Possession of Heroin 3rd Offense||Five years (increased potential fine)|
|Possession of LSD 1st Offense||Two years|
|Possession of LSD 2nd Offense||Five years|
|Possession of LSD 3rd Offense||Five years (increased potential fine)|
|Possession of MDMA/ Ecstasy/ Molly 1st Offense||Six months|
|Possession of MDMA/ Ecstasy/ Molly 2nd Offense||One year|
|Possession of Non-Narcotic Prescription Drugs 1st Offense||Six months|
|Possession of Non-Narcotic Prescription Drugs 2nd Offense||One year|
Defenses Against Drug Possession Charges
How do you defend against allegations of drug possession?
The answer depends on the unique facts of each case, but some of the more common defenses we find include:
- Motions to suppress the drugs based on Fourth Amendment violations,
- Motions to suppress statements or other evidence based on constitutional violations,
- Motions to suppress evidence based on a defective search warrant,
- “Mere presence” or the state’s inability to prove both 1) dominion and control and 2) knowledge in a constructive possession case,
- Incomplete chain of custody for the drugs,
- The state’s failure to call the chemist who tested the drugs, or
- Fact-based defenses based on the unique circumstances of each case.
Pretrial Diversion and Conditional Discharges
What about pretrial diversion programs? Do you have to go to trial if you refuse to plead guilty?
There are several programs available, although they require the consent of the prosecutor. These could include:
- Conditional discharge – you enter a “conditional” guilty plea, but your case is dismissed and expunged after completing the requirements (usually a fee and a set number of community service hours),
- Pretrial Intervention (PTI) – without making any admission of guilt, you complete community service, counseling, or any other conditions required by the PTI office, and your case is dismissed and expunged, or
- Drug court – reserved for more serious drug offenses or repeat offenders, you enter a guilty plea which is “held in abeyance” until you complete the requirements of the program, then the case is reopened and dismissed.
Drug Possession Defense Lawyers in Columbia, SC, and Myrtle Beach, SC
The criminal defense attorneys at the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm focus exclusively on criminal defense cases in SC including drug crimes, traffic stops, and motions to suppress evidence. We have obtained dismissals, pre-trial diversion resulting in dismissals, or acquittals following trial in hundreds of criminal cases, and we have a record of proven results.
If you have been charged with a crime in SC or if you think you may be under investigation, call us now at 843-444-6122 or contact us through our website for a free initial consultation to find out if we can help.