Drug distribution charges are different from other types of drug cases in SC – police use different techniques to make arrests for distribution, and different defense strategies may be available.
Below, we will discuss drug distribution charges in South Carolina, including:
- How drug distribution is defined in SC law,
- Possible defenses to distribution charges, and
- Potential penalties if you are convicted of drug distribution.
What are Drug Distribution Charges in SC?
In most cases, distribution charges are made by confidential informants (Cis) working under the supervision of narcotics officers.
A typical case involves a CI who makes one or more “controlled buys” from a person, usually with audio or video surveillance, before turning over the drugs to a law enforcement officer who may be waiting nearby.
Law enforcement will then get an arrest warrant for the distribution charges and serve it along with a search warrant for the residence or location where the purchases were made – often resulting in additional charges for drug trafficking or possession with intent to distribute.
Will I “Get Help” On My Charges if I Help Make More Arrests?
Talk to your defense lawyer before you agree to talk to the police – you don’t know what you don’t know, law enforcement will take advantage of you, and you may hurt your case without realizing it.
- Police can and will lie to you – about the evidence they have against you, about your charges, and about what they will do to help you on your charges,
- Police officers do not have the authority to negotiate your case – only the prosecutor can agree to reduce or dismiss your charges,
- Depending on your situation, your attorney may be able to get your case dismissed or negotiate a better deal on your behalf if you don’t talk to the police, and
- Working as a CI can get you killed – regardless of what the narcotics officer tells you, they cannot protect you, and the people they arrest will learn who you are through their discovery materials.
If a narcotics officer is trying to interrogate you on the scene or immediately after your arrest, you should say nothing except “I need to talk to my attorney.” Your attorney can then contact them if you decide to cooperate after speaking to your attorney about your options and the evidence against you.
SC Drug Distribution Laws
SC’s drug distribution laws are found in SC Code Section 44-53-370 (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, and prescription drugs) and SC Code Section 44-53-375 (crack cocaine and meth).
Distribution cases can be difficult to defend – if law enforcement has a video of you selling the drugs, for example, and the CI is available to testify at your trial, your attorney will need to do a thorough investigation to search for all possible ways to get your case dismissed or to win your case at trial.
Every case is unique, and your defenses will depend on the facts of your case and the circumstances surrounding your arrest. Potential defenses we have seen in distribution cases, however, include:
- Entrapment – despite what many people think, entrapment is not a commonly-used defense. But, when a CI pressures someone to make a drug purchase or sale and that person was not predisposed to buy or sell drugs, entrapment is a valid defense in SC.
- Mistaken identity – there are cases where a CI buys drugs from an individual they don’t know and then misidentifies them to the police.
- Mere presence – “mere presence” at the scene of a crime is never enough evidence to convict a person, and you should not be charged with distribution simply because you were present when someone else sold drugs.
- Video evidence – always review the video in distribution cases. In some cases, the video will show something completely different than expected, and you may not even be on the video.
- Chain of custody – the prosecutor will need to bring all witnesses in their chain of custody to testify at trial – including each person who handled the drugs up to and including a chemist who tested the drugs.
- Constitutional violations – a bad traffic stop, an illegal search, a statement taken in violation of Miranda, or a faulty search warrant can result in key evidence being suppressed before trial.
Potential Penalties for a Drug Distribution Conviction in SC
If you are convicted of distribution charges in SC, the penalties can be harsh – including mandatory minimum prison sentences for many offenses:
|Distribution Charges||Fines||Prison Time|
|Marijuana First Offense||Up to $5000||Up to five years|
|Marijuana Second Offense||Up to $10,000||Up to ten years|
|Marijuana third offense||Up to $20,000||Up to 20 years|
|Cocaine, Meth, Crack Cocaine First Offense||Up to $25,000||Up to 15 years|
|Cocaine, Meth, Crack Cocaine Second Offense||Up to $50,000||5-30 years|
|Cocaine, Meth, Crack Cocaine Third Offense||Up to $50,000||10-30 years|
|Heroin First Offense||Up to $25,000||Up to 15 years|
|Heroin Second Offense||Up to $50,000||5-30 years|
|Heroin Third Offense||Up to $50,000||10-30 years|
|MDMA/Ecstasy/ Molly First Offense||Up to $5,000||Up to five years|
|MDMA/Ecstasy/ Molly Second Offense||Up to $10,000||Up to ten years|
|MDMA/Ecstasy/ Molly Third Offense||Up to $20,000||Up to 20 years|
|LSD First Offense||Up to $25,000||Up to 15 years|
|LSD Second Offense||Up to $50,000||5-30 years|
|LSD Third Offense||Up to $50,000||10-30 years|
Criminal Defense Lawyers in Columbia, SC, and Myrtle Beach, SC
The Thompson and Hiller Defense Firm only accepts criminal defense cases including any kind of SC drug charges.
If you have been charged with simple possession, possession with intent to distribute, distribution, or trafficking of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or any drug, call the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm at (843) 444-6122 or contact us online to find out how we can help.