Heroin Charges in SC: All You Need To Know
In South Carolina, drug crimes are considered to be serious offenses, punishable by fine, jail time, or in some cases, both. In this article, we’ll discuss crimes involving heroin, including:
- What possession, distribution, and trafficking of heroin charges mean
- How crimes involving heroin are punished by SC law
- Potential considerations for conviction and possible defenses
Heroin in SC
In South Carolina, drug crimes are grouped together under the same section in the state Code, but crimes involving different drugs are treated differently, making these sections of the South Carolina Code particularly lengthy.
Federally, heroin is a schedule I controlled substance, which is the highest classification in existence. Schedule I drugs are grouped together by two common factors: they have no medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I substances are typically treated similarly in the South Carolina Code as it pertains to penalties for possession, intent to sell/distribute, and trafficking.
Possession of Heroin
Heroin possession falls under SC State Code Section 44-53-370, subsection (c): it’s illegal for a person to possess a controlled substance if not directed to do so through a legal, medical prescription.
Subsection (d) deals with Schedule I substances and states that possession for any reason is grounds for criminal charges. A charge of possession doesn’t take into account intent, so possession can be joined with other charges involving sales or trafficking of the substance.
It should be noted that in South Carolina, possession of heroin in the amount of 2 grams or more is considered prima facie evidence — meaning it is accepted in court unless proven otherwise — of intent to distribute. This means that in the vast majority of cases where the accused is found possessing over 2 grams of heroin, they will almost always receive a charge of possession with intent to distribute.
Possession of Heroin Penalties
In South Carolina, the first offense of heroin possession is a misdemeanor carrying a possible penalty of up to 2 years in custody and up to $5,000 in fines. The second and third offenses are felony charges and carry penalties of up to 5 years and up to $5,000 and $10,000, respectively.
Note that these are and/or sentences, which means that if found guilty, you could be charged with jail time, a fine, or both. Some of this comes down to the opinion of the court and the judge in a given case. This is referred to as judicial discretion, when the judge makes a decision within the legal parameters based on your criminal history or certain details of a case.
The mitigating argument your defense attorney provides is a crucial part of sentencing. This is a large part of why representation is key in protecting your best interests when you’re charged with a crime like heroin possession in South Carolina.
Intent to Sell/Distribute Heroin
Intent to sell comes into play if you’re found with heroin in possession and law enforcement officers have reason to believe that you were planning to sell or distribute the drug to others.
South Carolina Code Section 44-53-370 subsections (a)1 and (a)2 state that it’s illegal to manufacture, sell, distribute or plan to sell or distribute a controlled substance. Schedule 1 drugs are covered in subsection (b)1 and state that any offense involving intent to sell is classified as a felony in SC.
Proving Intent to Sell/Distribute
The factor that separates simple possession and possession with intent to sell is this: is there enough evidence to show that you possessed the drug for more than personal use? There are a few ways that a prosecutor would prove this in court.
The first is the amount in your possession. As mentioned, South Carolina precedent considers an amount of more than 2 grams prima facie evidence of an intent to sell because the state sees this amount as the cut off for a reasonable amount for personal use.
The state’s case is strengthened if you have certain paraphernalia in your possession, including scales for weighing the drug, bags, large amounts of money, and other possessions that suggest that the amount in your possession isn’t for your own personal use.
This means that defenses against this charge usually have to do with your SC drug defense attorney’s ability to show evidence that the amount in your possession was intended for personal use.
Penalties for Possession with Intent to Sell
This charge is always a felony, and the penalties are as follows:
- First offense: Up to 15 years in jail and a fine of up to $25,000
- Second offense: Between 5 and 30 years jail time and a fine of up to $50,000
- Third offense: Between 10 and 30 years in jail and a fine of up to $50,000
Like with simple possession, penalties for possession of heroin with intent to sell are and/or, meaning that you could receive a jail sentence, a fine, or both.
If you’re found transporting at least 4 grams of heroin across the state boundary of South Carolina, you may be charged with trafficking. Outlined in subsection (e) of Section 44-53-370 of the South Carolina code, trafficking is the harshest offense dealing with drug possession and sale in terms of penalties.
Trafficking is a serious crime, both in the state of SC and federally. According to the DEA, heroin made up 14.4 percent of all drugs trafficked into the United States in 2016.
Penalties for Trafficking Heroin
Unlike simple possession and possession with intent to sell/distribute, trafficking carries mandatory fines and jail sentences, meaning that there’s no room for negotiation if you’re charged and convicted. The penalties are as follows:
- Between 4 and 14 grams, 1st offense: 7-25 years in jail and a $50,000 fine
- Between 4 and 14 grams, 2nd and subsequent offenses: 25 years in jail and $100,000 fine
- 14-28 grams: 25 years in jail and $200,000 fine
- Over 28 grams: 25-40 years in jail and $200,000 fine
Contact Kent Collins Law Firm for Help
If you or someone you know is facing a charge for a crime involving heroin in South Carolina, it can be a very serious situation. As a Schedule I controlled substance, heroin possession, and other drug crimes are punished severely, so it’s important to have the help of an experienced team of attorneys by your side.
At Kent Collins Law, we’ve helped hundreds of people plead down or escape heroin charges in SC. Give us a call at 803-808-0905. You can also fill out our online contact form, and we’ll be in touch with you.