Top Defenses to Drug Charges in SC
In South Carolina, as in all states, drug crimes can be extremely damaging to a person’s life, their relationships, their good name, their employment standing and much more. When faced with a drug charge, you don’t have to just take it, especially when circumstances about the arrest or the charges themselves just aren’t right.
In this article, you will learn:
- The types of drug crimes levied by courts in South Carolina
- The impact these charges can have on a person’s life, no matter who they are
- Common defenses that you may be able to use to have your charges dropped or lessened in court
If you are facing a drug crime, you can’t get representation quickly enough. The experienced team at the Kent Collins Law Firm has represented hundreds of clients in your situation and can get you the outcome you deserve.
The Basics of Drug Charges and Penalties
There are four drug crimes in SC that apply to every controlled substance. They each have different penalties based on the specific drug, the amount of the substance in question, and any prior offenses.
Possession of paraphernalia
Paraphernalia includes the accessories used to consume, package, sell or even manufacture controlled substances. This charge is rarely used by itself because if you have paraphernalia in your possession, some of it is likely to contain traces of some type or types of drug, which could be enough for a simple possession charge.
In South Carolina, drug charges are separated by intent but also by the amount of drugs found in your possession. Simple possession means there’s no reasonable suspicion that you had the intent to sell the drugs but rather that you have an amount that is small enough for “personal use.”
Possession with intent to distribute or sell (PWID)
In South Carolina, the burden to prove intent to sell is on the prosecution. In this case, PWID is only charged if law enforcement can prove that you had some other paraphernalia such as scales or bags which are typically used in sales of controlled substances.
In South Carolina, trafficking is the most severe drug charge. You can be charged with trafficking if you are caught with an amount of a given drug that is in excess of the prima facie level or if law enforcement has reason to believe that you were planning or carrying out a plan to use the drugs in interstate commerce.
Common Defenses to Drug Charges
Below are some of the defenses commonly used to escape drug charges or have those charges reduced by the South Carolina justice system.
You shouldn’t take this to mean that these tactics will work in every case. It is smart to first discuss your case and your options with a qualified drug attorney in SC.
Unlawful Search and Seizure
This is a right protected by local laws as well as the U.S. Constitution.
If an officer chooses to search your property or your vehicle, he or she must have something called “probable cause”, meaning a reason to believe that you had drugs on you or in your possession.
If the prosecution finds that officers did not respect your rights against unlawful search and seizure, they may drop the charges against you.
Miranda Rights Violation
The Miranda Rights are those that you’ve probably heard in every police movie you’ve ever seen to include “you have the right to remain silent” and so on. These rights must be read every time someone is in “custodial interrogation” to make it lawful. This simply means that you are being questioned by the police AND you are not allowed to leave.
If you know or even suspect that you weren’t read your rights when you were arrested, any incriminating statements you may have made to police could be disallowed in court. Sometimes, Miranda Rights violations can lead to your SC drug charge getting dropped if the police don’t have enough other evidence to convict you.
Sometimes, you can argue that you were pressured into committing a crime that you would not have otherwise committed. This argument is common in undercover drug busts and sting operations. Often when an officer is impersonating a dealer, it can be argued that he or she took actions to trap you in a situation that made your choice for you. In this case, the charges would be null.
Lack of Intent
Getting a PWID charge reduced to a simple possession charge is difficult when the prosecution has prima facie evidence, but not impossible. If you can use some standard to argue that the amount of the substance in your possession could reasonably be for personal use, and you didn’t have any paraphernalia that could be used for portioning or selling the drug, you may be able to have your charges reduced or dismissed in court.
Lack of Physical Evidence
Sometimes, trace evidence of drugs found and tested by officers on the scene is enough to result in your arrest for a low-level drug crime. However, if the amount found is so little that it’s impossible to weigh or transfer into evidence, the court may deem it within a margin for error and lessen or drop the charges.
Because addiction is classified as a disease and not a crime, charges levied against addicts who commit drug crimes are treated differently than other charges. In some cases, South Carolina drug courts exist to provide an alternative to criminal charges if you can prove that you need treatment and fit the criteria for diversion programs.
How an SC Drug Lawyer Can Help
It is important to understand that even when you’re charged with a drug crime of varying severity, it is not the end of the road and you still have options.
To learn which defenses may apply in your case, as well as other options not listed here, it’s best to have a discussion about the details of your case with an experienced drug crime attorney.
For a complete case review, contact the Kent Collins Law Firm today.