If you are charged with a drug offense in Upstate South Carolina, you could be prosecuted in a state or federal court. You could face fines, imprisonment, the loss of your driver’s license and confiscation of your property and other assets.
The criminal defense lawyers of Harrison White, P.C., can help you to protect your rights and establish a strong defense. We serve clients throughout Spartanburg, Greenville and surrounding areas.
Understanding Your South Carolina Drug Offense Charge
When you meet with us, our attorneys can explain the nature of the drug offense you have been charged with and the possible penalties you face. Keep in mind that counterfeit and derivative drugs are treated the same as actual drugs under South Carolina law.
Several factors will be involved in your case, including:
- Type: South Carolina places drugs, or controlled substances, into five categories, or “schedules.” Schedule I drugs are considered to be the most dangerous. They are deemed to carry a high potential for abuse and have no accepted medical use. Marijuana, LSD, cocaine, heroin and crystal meth are examples. Schedule V drugs are considered to be the least dangerous and may include prescription drugs.
- Amount: If you are charged with possession of a certain amount of a drug, you will face a simple possession charge. However, if you are charged with having an amount beyond that threshold, you could be charged with trafficking. A trafficking charge carries much higher fines and lengthier prison sentences.
- Alleged act: You may also face a stiffer sentence if you are charged with selling, delivering or manufacturing (for instance, growing or blending) or possessing a controlled substance “with intent to distribute.”
- Where it occurred: Where you allegedly possessed, sold or manufactured the substance could lead to higher or additional penalties. For instance, you could be charged with selling marijuana near a school.
- Your prior record level: If it is a first-time offense, you may be able to enter a pre-trial intervention program (PTI) or be placed on probation instead of going to prison. If you are a repeat offender, you will likely face more severe punishment.
- State or federal prosecution: Who arrests you and where you are arrested will dictate whether your case is prosecuted in a South Carolina municipal, magistrate or circuit court or whether it goes before a U.S. District Court.
Each state court has different customs and local rules. Solicitors’ offices have different ways of prosecuting cases and negotiating pleas. Certain law enforcement officers tend to appear in the same courts. Also, federal court rules and procedures are very different from state courts. It is important to work with a lawyer who has experience in the court where your case is prosecuted.
You may face related charges that must be handled, including maintaining a public nuisance, resisting arrest or possession of drug paraphernalia.
Defending a Drug Charge in South Carolina
Whether your case is in a South Carolina state court or federal court, the charge against you may be challenged. An attorney can seek a dismissal, not guilty verdict, plea to a lesser charge or reduced sentence by taking steps such as:
- Seeking to suppress evidence: If the alleged drugs were obtained by police through an illegal search or seizure, a court could throw out the evidence (and cause a dismissal of the charge). For instance, were the drugs seized based on an unlawful traffic stop or illegal checkpoint? If so, motions could be filed to suppress this evidence.
- Challenging test results and expert witnesses: A forensic lab expert will likely prepare a report and testify in your case. Typically, the expert will identify the substance in your case to be an illegal drug and state the amount or weight. This evidence can often be challenged if there were flaws in the testing process or if there are questions about the expert’s credentials.
- Presenting mitigating circumstances: If you are convicted, an attorney can present evidence to support the most lenient sentence possible, including the lack of any prior convictions for drug crimes or other offenses.
Just because you were charged with a drug offense does not mean you are guilty. You can protect your rights and fight the case.