Articles on South Carolina Law

All You Need to Know About Marijuana Charges in SC

by | Sep 22, 2016 | Criminal Defense, Drug Offenses

You get pulled over for speeding and instead of issuing a speeding ticket, the cop searches your car and finds a bag of marijuana. Maybe you’re stopped for jaywalking and the police officer finds marijuana in your pocket.

Regardless of the circumstances, if you’re caught with marijuana, you will likely be facing criminal charges. You may want to talk to an attorney who has handled marijuana cases as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney. You may have some defenses you didn’t know about, even if you have confessed to owning the marijuana.

What are the Different Kinds of Marijuana Charges?

A lot of factors determine which specific charge you could face. Some factors include the weight of the marijuana, how it was packaged (for personal consumption or for sale), whether the marijuana was sold to a confidential informant (CI), and whether law enforcement observed the sale of marijuana. Since each charge has its own set of consequences, understanding the differences between these charges is pretty important.

If someone in SC has marijuana from another state where marijuana is legal (such as Colorado), are they breaking the law in SC?

Yes. Just because you obtained the marijuana “legally” in another state or from someone who can legally get marijuana, you are still breaking the law in SC if you have it in your possession. Until SC’s laws change to allow marijuana in our state, you will be stuck with marijuana charges.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

In some cases, you can face a marijuana-related charge without even possessing marijuana. If you are found with something that is generally associated with marijuana, you can face a charge of “possession of drug paraphernalia.”

According to South Carolina law, paraphernalia is, “Any instrument, device, article, or contrivance used, designed for use, or intended for use in ingesting, smoking, administering, manufacturing, or preparing a controlled substance.”

There isn’t a complete list of what is considered to be paraphernalia. Common items considered to be paraphernalia include:

  • Hash pipes
  • Water pipes
  • Bongs (including homemade bongs)
  • Roach clips
  • Separation gins (for cleaning marijuana)
  • Electric pipes
  • Ice pipes
  • Digital scales

Since there isn’t a complete list, so for most purposes know that you can be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia if you have anything that could reasonably be considered to be marijuana-related.

Under South Carolina law, it’s illegal to, “advertise for sale, manufacture, possess, sell or deliver, or to possess with intent to sell or deliver, paraphernalia.”

Because there is no set list of what is paraphernalia, the law also lists factors used to decide if something is paraphernalia.

These factors include:

  • What the owner says the paraphernalia item is used for
  • How close the item is to marijuana (or if is there marijuana present at all)
  • Whether the item has marijuana residue on it
  • Whether there is evidence, either direct or circumstantial, that the item was used to process marijuana
  • Whether there are oral or written instructions that indicate the item is used with marijuana
  • Whether there are advertisements that indicate the item is used with marijuana
  • Whether this is a legitimate reason to have the item

If you’re convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia, you could face jail time and/or fines as outlined in the below table.

Classification Jail Time Fine
Misdemeanor Up to 30 days Up to $500

Simple Possession of Marijuana

If you are caught with less than one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana (*there are some exceptions, depending on how the marijuana is packaged), you will be charged with simple possession of marijuana. Often, this is shortened to just “simple possession.”

You can be charged with simple possession if you are found with at least one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana. To be charged with simple possession, you don’t have to be physically holding the marijuana. If it’s in your pocket, in your car, in a car where you were a passenger, in your friend’s house, in your house, you can still face this charge. (There are many other scenarios where you could be charged with simple possession that are not listed here.)

The punishment you could receive if convicted of this charge depends on whether or not it’s your first offense.

Consequences of a Simple Possession of Marijuana can include a fine, or jail time as outlined below.

Offense Classification *Jail Time *Fine
Simple Pos. of Marij. First offense Misdemeanor Up to 30 days 100 to $200
Simple Poss. of Marij. Second offense Misdemeanor Up to 12 months $200 to $1,000
* You could face jail time OR a fine, or both.

A time served sentence may be an option if you served any jail time after your arrest for the charge.

Will I lose my Driver’s License if I am convicted of Simple Possession of Marijuana 1st offense?

No. If this is your first conviction for Simple Possession of Marijuana (which means the quantity of marijuana weighed less than 28 grams), you will not lose your driver’s license if convicted. Under the old law in SC, you would lose your driver’s license or have it suspended if convicted of Simple Possession of Marijuana 1st offense, but this is is no longer the case.

Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana (PWID Marijuana)

You will receive this charge if law enforcement determines that you have marijuana that you intended to sell, trade, or give out. The charge of possession with intent to distribute marijuana is often shorted to “PWID Marijuana.”

If you have more than one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana, you could be charged with PWID marijuana. Usually, you will receive this charge if you have more marijuana than you would be able to use for just yourself, or more than what is typically for “personal use.”

Law enforcement doesn’t just look at the weight of the marijuana to determine how to charge someone; they also consider the way the marijuana was packaged. For example, if you have 28 grams and it is not all in one bag/ package, you could get charged with PWID Marijuana.

Possession with intent to distribute marijuana is a more serious charge than simple possession. As a result, you will face stiffer consequences. Just like simple possession, however, how serious the consequences are will depend in part on whether or not you have prior offenses.

Potential consequences for PWID Marijuana are outlined in the below table.

Offense Classification *Jail Time *Fine
First offense Felony Up to 5 years Up to $5,000
Second offense Felony Up to 10 years Up to $10,000
Third offense Felony 5-20 years Up to $20,000
* You could face jail time OR a fine, or both.

Probation could be an option for First offense or Second offense PWID Marijuana, but not for Third Offense PWID.

Trafficking in Marijuana

You will be charged with trafficking in marijuana if law enforcement thinks that you attempted to move/ transport or have in your possession large amounts of marijuana.

According to South Carolina law, you have trafficked in marijuana if you attempted to “manufacture, distribute, dispense, deliver, purchase, aid, abet, attempt, or conspire to manufacture, distribute, dispense, deliver, or purchase, or possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute, dispense, deliver, or purchase a controlled substance.”

Under what circumstances would you suffer a trafficking charge? To face this charge, you must be caught with more than ten pounds of marijuana.

Because this is one of the most serious marijuana charges, the consequences for this charge are more severe. The specific classification and consequence will depend on the amount of marijuana you had and whether or not you have any prior offenses. Some trafficking cases reach beyond state lines and involve people from different states and/or countries. The DEA or Federal Government could potentially make a trafficking marijuana case if they choose to do so.

Those cases usually involve a conspiracy to traffic marijuana. You likely will face much stiffer penalties and mandatory minimum sentences if you are charged by the feds. If you are facing a federal indictment, you will need an attorney who is licensed in the SC District Court (federal court). Attorney Susan Williams is licensed in SC District Court.

If you’re charged with Trafficking Marijuana on the SC state level, you could face the consequences outlined in the below table. (This table does not include federal marijuana charges.)

Amount of Marijuana Offense Classification *Jail Time *Fine
10 to 99 lbs First offense Felony 1 to 5 years Up to $10,000
10 to 99 lbs Second offense Felony 5 to 20 years Up to $15,000
10 to 99 lbs Third offense Felony 25 years $25,000
100-1,999 lbs Any offense Felony 25 years $25,000
2,000 – 9,999 lbs Any offense Felony 25 years $50,000
10,000 lbs or more Any offense Felony 25 – 30 years with a mandatory minimum of 25 years $200,000
* You could face jail time OR a fine, or both.

Wondering what to do next?

Even if you’re only caught with marijuana paraphernalia, you could face jail time of up to 30 days. If you’re convicted of any of these charges, you could lose your job, lose your opportunities to attend college, or lose your right to rent certain apartments.

If you’re facing a fight against one of these charges, don’t go it alone. You need an experienced legal advocate on your side. Get the help you need today. Dial (843) 607-9800 or contact us through our online form.

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