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    July 26, 2016

    Drug Crime Definitions and Penalties in South Carolina

    Greenville criminal defense attorney

    South Carolina is tough on drug crimes, and possessing even a small amount of an illegal substance can leave you facing heavy fines and a potential jail sentence. Depending on the nature of your charges, the quantity of drugs involved, and how they were used or sold, you can also face federal charges, which tend to be even more severe.  At Lauren Taylor Law, our Greenville criminal defense attorney provides aggressive legal representation to protect your rights and freedoms when you have been charged with any type of crime. In the case of drug crimes in particular, we can help strategize your best course of defense to help avoid conviction and a jail sentence.

    South Carolina Drug Crimes

    South Carolina drug crimes are outlined under Chapter 53 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. Article three of this chapter deals with narcotics and other controlled substances, which include drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin. Drug crimes involving these substances include the following:

    • Drug Possession: Generally, involves small amounts of drugs that are found on your person or property and are meant for personal use;
    • Possession With Intent to Distribute: This involves larger quantities of drugs which exceed what you might personally use, or those that are packaged in such a way as to show your intent to deliver the drugs to others.
    • Drug Manufacturing: This involves being involved in the production, preparation, and packaging or repackaging of drugs for use or sale by others.
    • Drug Trafficking: Trafficking involves large quantities of drugs meant for distribution. One of the most serious types of charges, you could face prosecution for drug trafficking on both the state and federal level.

    In addition to the above, drug crimes also include charges for possession of drug paraphernalia, such as scales, pipes, and needles. While these are generally considered more of a minor crime, the impact of a conviction can still wreak havoc in your life, both now and in the future, by preventing you from obtaining jobs, housing, or student loans.

    Penalties Based on the Type of Drug Involved

    States take their cue from the federal government when developing drug laws and guidelines, and while state and federal laws differ in terms of penalties for drug crimes, the way they classify these drugs is largely the same. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) lists five schedules under which most drugs fall under. Schedule I and II drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA pose the greatest risk for abuse, and receive the harshest sentences. While simple possession may result in misdemeanor charges, the intent to distribute larger amounts is generally classified as a felony and carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Under SC law, the South Carolina Judicial Department lists penalties for a first offense for these drugs as the following:


    • Possession of 28 grams or less: Up to 30 days’ imprisonment and fines up to $200.
    • Possession of an ounce or more: Presumed intent to distribute, with up to 6 months’ imprisonment and fines up to $1,000.
    • Manufacturing and Intent to Distribute: Up to five years’ imprisonment and fines up to $5,000.
    • Trafficking of 10 pounds or more: Mandatory imprisonment for anywhere between one and 25 years, depending on the amount, and fines up to $200,000.


    • Possession of less than one gram: Up to three years’ imprisonment, and fines up to $5,000.
    • Possession of over a gram, Intent to Distribute or Manufacture: Mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, and fines of $25,000 or more.
    • Trafficking: Mandatory minimum 25 years imprisonment and fines of 25 years and $50,000.

    Heroin and Cocaine:

    • Simple possession of under four grains or heroin or under ten grains of cocaine: Up to two years’ imprisonment and fines up to $5,000.
    • Distribution, Possession With Intent to Distribute, or Manufacture: Up to 15 years and fines up to $25,000.
    • Trafficking: Mandatory minimum jail sentence of up to eight year to 25 years with a 40 year maximum sentence and up to $200,000 in fines.

    Bear in mind that these are the penalties for first time offenders, and that any prior convictions could as much as double the penalties you could be facing if convicted.

    Federal Prosecution for Drug Crimes

    In addition to facing state penalties for drug crimes, you could end up facing federal penalties as well if your charges involve large amounts of drugs that crossed state lanes, or if you were found to be working as part of a larger drug organization. Federal drug charges carry the most severe penalties and under DEA drug trafficking guidelines, include the following:

    • For a first conviction on federal trafficking charges for heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, up to 40 years in federal prison and fines up to $25 million;
    • For a second conviction on the federal level for the above drugs, there is the potential for a life sentence and increased fines up to $50 million.

    In addition to these penalties, you would be subject to federal search and seizure laws allowing the government to seize any of your property and assets that can reasonably be connected with the drug crime you are accused of.

    Legal Liability For Drug Dealers

    Along with potential jail sentences and fines, you could also be facing legal liability if convicted of selling a controlled substance which resulted in the injury or death of another. Under the South Carolina Drug Dealer Liability Act, you could be sued in civil court for property damages and medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering stemming from injuries that resulted from drugs you sold or distributed. Those who may be entitled to damages through a claim under the Act include:

    • Parents, children, and siblings of the user involved;
    • Employees of the individual user; and
    • People injured as the result of the actions of an individual user under the influence of drugs you sold them.

    Contact Our Experienced Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney Today

    If you or someone you care about is facing criminal charges for a serious drug offense, contact our experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorney right away. Greenville attorney Lauren M. Taylor has the extensive legal knowledge professional know how you need at a time like this. As a highly skilled member of the legal community, she can assist you in strategizing a defense to help you avoid the severe penalties that result from these types of charges. Serving Greenville and the entire Upstate area, call or contact Lauren Taylor Law online today for a confidential case evaluation.