SC Articles on Law
Susan Williams

Everything You Need to Know About Meth Charges in SC

It’s Saturday night, and you’ve been invited to a new buddy’s house for some fun. Little do you know, the “fun” involves drugs and the “house” is actually a meth lab. Soon the police arrive, and you’re caught at the scene.

Or perhaps you’re giving a friend a ride home and had no idea she had meth in her purse. You are pulled over for speeding and the next thing you know, you’re facing trouble with the law.

What should you do?

TV shows like “Breaking Bad” can portray selling and making meth as a glamorous, quick way to get rich quick. But getting caught with meth in South Carolina is no joke. Because of the severe side effects this drug is known for causing and its highly addictive nature, meth charges are serious and are dealt with harshly under the State’s law.

Even worse, if children are anywhere around the drug or its precursors (ingredients), or if you dispose of meth waste, you may face severe consequences including additional jail time and heavy fines.

What is Meth?

Methamphetamine, also known as “meth”, “crank”, “ice”, “crystal”, “crystal meth”, or “cocaine base” includes any salt, isomer, or any mixture or compound containing amphetamine or methamphetamine. Under SC law it is a Schedule 2 substance.

Meth is extremely easy to make from ordinary household products and this has made the drug more popular. Simple items such as over the counter cold and sinus medicines, match boxes, fingernail polish remover, and coffee filters are some of the common ingredients for making or cooking meth.

Depending on the method of making meth, pseudoephrodine can be an important ingredient. The ingredient is found in popular name brand and off/store brand cold and sinus remedies such as Sudafed, Allegra-D, and Claritan-D. And some weight loss drugs contain the ingredients ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine (also ingredients used to make meth).

The vital ingredient is not considered a controlled substance in the United States, which means you do not have to have a prescription to obtain it. However, the amount of pseudoephedrine is regulated and you must show a valid photo ID and the quantities are limited that you can buy at one time over certain time periods. Thus, many cooks (people who make meth) use various people (“smurfs”) to round up the quantities of ingredients needed.

The ingredient can also be purchased online. Keep in mind that just because you can purchase quantities online does not mean buying, selling or possessing those quantities is legal in South Carolina.

Different Kinds of Meth Charges

First, it’s important to understand that you could be charged for various reasons where meth is concerned. Your charges may depend on factors like your intentions (were you going to sell it, use it, or were you just caught in a place where meth happened to be also), how much meth you had in your possession, how much meth was present in the area where you were (even if it wasn’t on your person), if you had the precursors (ingredients) for meth in your possession, your criminal history, or how many times you’ve been convicted of a drug offense.

Possession of Methamphetamine Charge (less than one gram)

If you’re in possession of less than one gram of meth, you may face a possession of meth charge—a misdemeanor under South Carolina law. Because the amount of the meth is less than one gram, the inference is it was intended for personal use, not to share, distribute or sell to others.

The table below defines the consequences you can expect depending on the number of offenses you’ve incurred. Note that for each offense, you may face jail time, a fine, or both. 1st offense possession of meth is a misdemeanor, but 2nd and subsequent (more than 2nd) offenses are felonies. If convicted of a first offense possession of meth charge (less than one gram), you will also have to complete a drug treatment and rehabilitation program.

Possession of Meth (less than 1 oz) Offense #
Jail Time
Fine
First Up to 3 years Up to $5,000
Second Up to 5 years Up to $7,500
Third or more Up to 10 years Up to $12,500

Notice the jail sentence is “up to” a certain amount. Thus, the above offenses may be eligible for probation, but this is no guarantee.

PWID meth charge/manufacturing meth charge

Say you have more than one ounce of meth on you and have every intention of selling it to make some quick cash or giving some to a friend. You may be slapped with a PWID, or “possession with intent to distribute” charge. Unlike a possession charge (less than one ounce), whether it’s your first, second or third PWID meth charge, PWID is considered a felony and carries stiffer penalties.

Penalties and fines for a PWID meth charge are shown in the below table. All PWID meth charges are felonies. Note that for each offense you could face jail time, a fine, or both.

PWID Meth (more than 1 oz but less than 10 oz) Offense #
Jail Time
Fine
First Up to 15 years Up to $25,000
Second 5-30 years Up to $50,000
Third 10-30 years Up to $50,000

Trafficking Meth Charge

You travel out of state, and a good friend of yours hands you a bag containing 11 grams of meth. He tells you he’ll pick it up from you once he returns to South Carolina. You agree. But on the way home, you get pulled over by a police officer for speeding. Long story short, the officer searches your rental car and finds the meth. You didn’t use the drug or even do anything with it besides keep it in your car, so you should be home free, right? Not quite.

What you could face is a very serious charge: trafficking meth. Because of the amount of the drug in your possession and the fact that you agreed to transport the drug, you’re now treading on a different, more dangerous playing field with the law.

If you happen to have more than 10 grams of meth, you can be sure that the penalties will be much harsher.

The below table outlines the consequences for this charge. Note that for each offense, you will be required to serve jail time and pay the associated fine. All trafficking meth charges are felonies. None of the offenses listed below are eligible for probation and no part of the jail time can be suspended.

Trafficking Meth Drug Weight
Offense #
Jail Time
Fine
10-28 grams First 3-10 years $25,000
10-28 grams Second 5-30 years $50,000
10-28 grams Third 25-30 years $50,000
28-100 grams First 7-25 years $50,000
28-100 grams Second 7-30 years $50,000
28-100 grams Third 25-30 years $50,000
100-200 grams N/A 25 years $50,000
200-400 grams N/A 25 years $100,000
400 or more grams N/A 25-30 years $200,000

Disposal of waste of meth production

If you get rid of or help someone else dispose of waste that came from the production of meth, you’ll be in serious trouble and may face strict jail time. Disposing of meth production waste is a felony. If you ask someone to help you dispose of the meth waste, you can be guilty of this crime.

What are some examples? Blister packs of Sudafed, even if they are empty. The State could use an expert to prove the theoretical yield of meth that many pills could have produced. Also, wrappings from lithium batteries, coffee filters, match boxes, needles, stripped cold medicine tablets, the leftovers of the production of meth. Since much of these leftovers are harmful to the environment and air quality, there are stiff penalties.

If the cleanup requires emergency or environmental response, and you are convicted of this statute, you will be asked to pay public entities that helped in the cleanup (also known as restitution). This restitution is in addition to any fine imposed in the chart below.

The below table details the consequences for this charge. Note that you could serve jail time, pay a fine, or be required to do both.

Disposal of Meth: Offense #
Jail Time
Fine
First Up to 5 years Up to $5,000
Second or subsequent offenses Up to 10 years Up to $10,000

Special Charges Concerning Meth & Children

Having a child present around meth is a serious and highly punishable crime. Whether you directly expose the child to the drug or conduct illegal drug-related activity (such as manufacturing the meth) in front of the child determines the severity and degree of the consequences you’ll face.

Specifically, we’ll discuss the exposing a child to meth charge and the unlawful conduct toward a child charge.

Exposing a child to meth

Exposing a child to meth, in essence, means 1) a child is there (physically present) while you conduct illegal activity related to meth, or 2) a child is allowed to be in an environment where meth chemicals are present. Examples of this include but are not limited to extracting, manufacturing, cooking, possessing, attempting to manufacture, or selling meth. As long as the activity is conducted in the presence of a minor or the minor is present in a meth environment, you can face this charge.

The penalties for the exposing a child to meth charge are outlined in the below table. Note that you may serve jail time, pay a fine, or be required to do both for each of the offenses listed in the below table.

Offense #
Jail Time
Fine
First Up to 5 years Up to $5,000
Second or subsequent offenses Up to 10 years Up to $10,000

Unlawful conduct toward a child

If you are 18 years of age or older and you are responsible for an underage child–whether the child is yours or not–and that child is present with you while you engage in illegal drug-related activity, you very well may be slapped with an unlawful conduct toward a child charge, which is a felony, plain and simple. An adult is not permitted to expose children to environments or activities that could endanger their well-being or safety.

Penalties for unlawful conduct toward a child may include jail time, fines, or both as indicated in the below table.

Offense #
Jail Time
Fine
Any number of offenses Up to 10 years Can be fined at the discretion of the court

What to do next?

South Carolina takes meth charges seriously, and if you face any offense related to meth or any other drug, you’re likely going to feel railroaded. Hiring an experienced, knowledgeable attorney may guide you through this process.

Don’t leave the outcome to chance. Call me at (843) 607-9800, or contact me through my online form to get the support you’re looking for.

Let's Talk About The Details of Your Case.

Choosing the right attorney can be the most important step you’ll ever take. Schedule a free consultation today.

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Copyright 2019 Susan E. Williams, Summerville, SC, All Rights Reserved.