Drug-related crimes in Charleston carry a wide range of potential penalties. Simple possession of a controlled substance may be treated as a misdemeanor, but many drug offenses are classified as felonies. Even a conviction for a minor drug offense can have negative consequences that last far into the future.

Anyone facing drug charges should learn about their options and consult a Charleston drug lawyer. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney could help protect your rights and work toward a positive outcome.

Drug Possession

Although the concept of possessing an illicit substance may seem straightforward, the term “possession” sometimes has a different meaning when used in a legal context, particularly in situations involving drug offenses. In addition to physically possessing something, an individual may be said to have “constructive possession” of an article.

Constructive possession occurs when someone has dominion and control over a place where an item is located. For example, someone may be found to have constructive possession over drugs in their car, even if the drugs are not on their person.

Possession with Intent to Distribute

Another factor to understand is that the perceived reason for possession has a tremendous impact on the severity of a drug offense. Possession of drugs for personal use is often treated much less harshly than possession with the intent to distribute to others.

Sometimes, merely the quantity of drugs found may create a presumption of an intent to distribute. If it is available, a Charleston drug attorney could work to introduce evidence to refute this presumption.

Penalties for Possession

The penalties for possession of a controlled dangerous substance vary depending on the type of substance, the quantity, and the existence of prior convictions. Although drug possession is labeled a misdemeanor in most cases for a first-time offense, the penalties are as high as those assessed for felonies in many jurisdictions.

A person convicted of possession of cocaine, for instance, may be sentenced to up to three years in prison and fined up to $5,000, even for a first offense. Subsequent convictions may be treated as felonies, depending on the substance at issue.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Incidentally, possession of drug paraphernalia is also an offense under South Carolina Code §44-53-391, but it is a civil offense rather than a criminal one. Those found guilty of violating this provision may be fined up to $500.

Sale, Distribution, Manufacture, and Possession with Intent to Distribute

While the penalties for drug possession may seem severe, consequences for other activities connected to controlled dangerous substances are usually even more serious. S.C. Code §44-53-370 makes it a felony to undertake any of the following actions in connection with dangerous controlled substances:

  • Manufacture
  • Distribution
  • Delivery
  • Purchase
  • Conspiracy to manufacture
  • Possession with intent to distribute

As with simple possession offenses, the penalties for higher-level drug crimes vary depending on the type of substance and any prior convictions. The maximum sentence for a first-time drug offense ranges from five to 15 years, with maximum fines ranging between $5,000 and $25,000.

Penalties are lower for drugs with frequent, legitimate medical use. Although minimum sentences often apply, a drug lawyer in Charleston may be able to seek a less burdensome consequence on a defendant’s behalf whenever possible.

Contact a Charleston Drug Attorney Today

If you are facing drug charges in Charleston, a criminal defense attorney could prevent you from unintentionally forfeiting your rights. When you work with a dedicated Charleston drug lawyer, your attorney could provide advice and advocate on your behalf at all stages of the proceedings.

The consequences of a drug conviction can haunt you for years to come, making it difficult to obtain the right employment, housing, and other necessities. To learn how a skilled defense attorney could assist in your situation, call now.