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Susan Williams

Everything You Need to Know About Cocaine Charges in SC

Are you facing cocaine charges in South Carolina? If the answer is "yes," then you've got a legal fight ahead of you.

Long after the euphoria of cocaine wears off, the sobering truth of facing a cocaine charge in State or Federal Court is no joke.

Did you experiment with coke at a wild party one night? Maybe police crashed the place when the neighbors complained about the noise? Did you know that possession of any amount of cocaine is illegal?

Or do you use cocaine for a pick-me-up to get through long hours at a high-stress job?

Cocaine Charges

Whatever your reasons, you'll have to face the consequences of your actions. When you're facing drug charges, how can you know what you're up against? How can you prepare to fight the charges against you?

One way to find out is to talk to a lawyer who has dealt with these types of cases as a prosecutor and defense attorney about your case. A criminal defense attorney knows the laws and understands the system. He or she will be able to help you understand the defenses you may have.

As your lawyer will explain, the State is serious about cracking down on cocaine offenses. If you're caught with the drug in your possession, you'll likely face harsh penalties including fines and jail time.

Wondering how you could be impacted? Here's a breakdown of the types of cocaine charges in South Carolina along with the guidelines used for sentencing.

Possession of Cocaine

Possession of cocaine is the least severe cocaine offense on the books in South Carolina. "Possession" in the legal sense is different than what one may think of in the non-legal sense.

Actual possession means you have physical control or custody of the cocaine. This could mean it was in your pants pocket, your shirt pocket, or on your person.

Constructive possession can be a little bit trickier. You can be in possession of cocaine without having "hands-on" possession of cocaine. If you knew the cocaine was there plus you had the ability to control where the cocaine was, you can be charged with possession of cocaine, even if the cocaine wasn't "on your person" (i.e. in your pants pocket, in your purse, etc.), you can be charged with possession of cocaine. If you knew cocaine was in the trunk of the car you were driving, even if the cocaine did not belong to you, you can be charged with possession of cocaine. Why? You knew the cocaine was illegal and you had control over it (had the key to the trunk, you knew how to open the trunk, you were driving the car).

Note that you can have possession of cocaine even if you don't have physical contact with the cocaine. In the scenario above, you could have never even physically touched the bag the cocaine was in, but you can nevertheless still be charged with possession of cocaine.

Another example is if you make arrangements for someone to send you a package of cocaine (in the mail, UPS, someone dropping it off at your residence, etc.). You may never even physically touch the cocaine. It may not be in your pockets. However, you can still be charged with possession of cocaine. Generally, you have to know the cocaine is illegal when it is "received" and continue to keep possession of the cocaine even though you knew it was illegal. It will be the State's job to prove these facts beyond a reasonable doubt.

What is possession of Cocaine (1 gram or less)?

For a first offense conviction, you would be facing anywhere from no jail time to up to 3 years in jail. The amount of jail time depends on many different factors, including, but not limited to your prior criminal history and the amount of cocaine that you were convicted of. Notice the table below provides for "up to" certain jail sentences. This may mean, but does not necessarily mean, that you could receive a probationary sentence, but this is no guarantee.

The table below explains some details:

Possession of Cocaine
Classification
Jail Time
Fine
(1 gram or less)

First offense

Misdemeanor Up to 3 years Up to $5,000
(1 gram or less)

Second offense

Felony Up to 5 years Up to $7,500
(1 gram or less)

Third or subsequent offense

Felony Up to 10 years Up to $12,500

*The above penalties are and/or penalties, meaning you may be sentenced to jail time, a fine, or both.

PWID Cocaine

Say you have more than 1 gram of cocaine on you and you have every intention of selling it to make some quick cash.

Maybe you were going to give to a friend. Maybe you were holding it or transporting it for a coworker. You might have even been a passenger in a car where cocaine was found. You may have been in a residence where you don't even live, the police busted the place, and you didn't even know the cocaine was there. Maybe your roommate had cocaine in your residence without your knowledge. You may have defenses. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help you review your options.

What is "PWID"?

PWID stands for "possession with intent to distribute." In other words, police would find cocaine, and either because of the amount found and/or the way the cocaine is packaged, an inference could be made you had the intent to distribute it. This can be a charge even if you did not intend to distribute it.

How do the police determine intent?

Law enforcement will look at how the cocaine was packaged. Was the cocaine all in one bag? Was it in different packages that may infer someone was going to distribute or sell it? Are the different packages different weights or roughly the same weights? For example, 3 bags found to have the exact same weight can be inference of intent to distribute. If ziplock bags are used, are all 3 of the bags found the same type of ziplock bag? Do the bags zip, fold? Are the bags printed? Is there a box of these type of bags found in your residence?

These are all factors that law enforcement could consider in determining whether to charge someone with PWID cocaine. And PWID Cocaine is a felony. Whether it's your first, second or third, etc. cocaine charge.

Why the harsher penalties for a PWID conviction?

Because lawmakers, law enforcement, and others believe distributing cocaine is harmful to more than just yourself—other people can be negatively affected by addiction, drug-related theft or violence.

Just how harsh are the penalties for PWID?

The below table provides some details. Note that for each offense, you could face jail time, a fine, or both.

PWID Cocaine
Classification
Jail Time
Fine
First offense Felony Up to 15 years Up to $25,000
Second offense Felony From 5 to 30 years Up to $50,000
Third or subsequent offense Felony From 10 to 30 years Up to $50,000

*The above penalties are and/or penalties, meaning you may be sentenced to jail time, a fine, or both.

Trafficking Cocaine

Trafficking cocaine in South Carolina is a felony. A trafficking charge means that you have 10 grams or more of cocaine. The police may believe you are part of a drug ring. They police may think you are dealing drugs. If you have a large amount of cash also in your possession, the police may infer you are part of a larger drug ring.

What is "trafficking cocaine" (10 - 400 or more grams)?

Trafficking refers to the distribution of drugs, which includes the intent to sell or transport the drugs. Why would you be charged with cocaine trafficking? If you were caught with 10 grams or more of cocaine, you will likely be charged with trafficking cocaine.

Drug offenses are graduated offenses, which means each time a person is convicted of a drug case, the penalties may increase. Keep in mind that the Court may consider a person's prior criminal convictions of drug related and/or non-drug related offenses. The penalties depend on the amount of cocaine found at the time of the arrest as well as the number of past convictions and types of prior convictions. Note that the penalties below have mandatory jail or prison time. Probation is not an option if you are convicted. However a criminal defense attorney can help you determine any defenses you may have.

See more details in the tables below:

Trafficking: 10 to 28 grams of cocaine

Trafficking Cocaine
Classification
Jail Time
Fine
(10-28 grams)

First offense

Felony From 3 to 10 years $25,000
(10-28 grams)

Second offense

Felony From 5 to 30 years $50,000
(10-28 grams)

Third or subsequent offense

Felony From 25 to 30 years $50,000

*The above penalties are and penalties, meaning you will be sentenced to jail time AND a fine, not either/or.

Trafficking: 28 to 100 grams of cocaine

Trafficking Cocaine

(28-100 grams)

Classification
Jail Time
Fine
(28-100)

First offense

Felony From 7 to 25 years $50,000
(28-100)

Second offense

Felony From 7 to 30 years $50,000
(28-100)

Third or subsequent offense

Felony From 25 to 30 years $50,000

*The above penalties are and penalties, meaning you will be sentenced to jail time AND a fine, not either/or.

Trafficking: 100 grams of cocaine or more

Trafficking Cocaine
Classification
Jail Time
Fine
100 to 200 grams Felony 25 years $50,000
200 to 400 grams Felony 25 years $100,000
400 grams or more Felony From 25 to 30 years $200,000

*The above penalties are and penalties, meaning you will be sentenced to jail time AND a fine, not either/or.

It's important to note that drug trafficking is considered a "violent" offense in the state of South Carolina.

Why does that matter?

Because being convicted of a violent crime affects where you'll be placed as an inmate within the department of corrections—and your placement will affect you for years if you have a long sentence.

"Proximity" Offenses: Special Charges For Schools and Parks

As if dealing with cocaine charges weren't bad enough, you can be charged with another crime if your drug offense takes place near a school or public park.

Either buying or selling cocaine within a half-mile radius of a school or park can result in this separate "add on" charge. The charge also applies if you're in a school, or on the grounds of a school or park.

What is required?

How can law enforcement get a proximity charge to stick? The prosecutor/solicitor has to prove that you knew you were near a school or park while committing a drug crime. Both the knowledge and the act are required.

Keep in mind that a proximity charge is a separate offense from the underlying drug charge, meaning additional fines and jail time on top of the penalties you already face for your drug conviction.

Purchasing or selling drugs near a school or park

Charge
Classification
Jail Time
Fine
Purchase/Sale in proximity Misdemeanor Up to 1 year Up to $1,000

*The above penalties are and/or penalties, meaning you may be sentenced to jail time, a fine, or both.

PWID and trafficking near a school or park

Charge
Classification
Jail Time
Fine
PWID or trafficking in proximity Felony Up to 10 years Up to $10,000

*The above penalties are and/or penalties, meaning you may be sentenced to jail time, a fine, or both.

South Carolina considers the sale or distribution of cocaine near schools and parks a "serious" offense, which could result in harsher sentencing. Under the SC 2 strikes/3 strikes law, if you receive 2 or more "most serious" convictions, or you receive 3 "serious" convictions, you could be facing life without the possibility of parole (LWOP).

Facing cocaine charges? What happens now?

A conviction for a cocaine-related offense could have an adverse impact on your life for years to come. Are you facing charges for a cocaine-related offense? You may want to discuss your case with an attorney who can help prepare your defense.

Are you ready to talk to a lawyer? Set up a free consultation so our team can examine the facts of your case. You don't have to fight this battle alone.

Just call (843) 607-9800 or contact us through our online form.

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.