If you have been arrested and charged with possession of marijuana in South Carolina, a conviction could mean fines, jail time, and other consequences. This is true even if you just had a joint for your own personal use. If you are being charged with intent to distribute, trafficking, or cultivation, the consequences could be far more severe.
10 Important Facts about Marijuana Cases in South Carolina
When facing any type of criminal charge, it is important to learn as much about your case as possible so that you can make informed decisions about protecting your legal rights. Here are 10 important facts about facing marijuana charges in South Carolina:
1. Marijuana is Still Illegal in South Carolina.
While it is now legal to possess and use marijuana in many states across the country, marijuana is still illegal in South Carolina. Possessing an ounce or less for personal use is a misdemeanor. All other marijuana-related offenses are felony crimes under South Carolina law.
2. If You Legally Purchased Marijuana in Another State, You Cannot Bring it to South Carolina.
Since possessing marijuana is illegal in South Carolina, you cannot legally buy marijuana in another state and bring it to the Charleston area. Not only would bringing marijuana into the state violate South Carolina law, but it would likely violate the law of the state where you purchased it as well.
3. Potential Penalties for Marijuana Possession in South Carolina Start at 30 Days in Jail and a $200 Fine.
As a misdemeanor offense, possessing an ounce or less of marijuana in South Carolina carries penalties of up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine. This is for a first-time offense. If you have previously been convicted for marijuana possession, you could be facing up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
4. If You Had More than an Ounce in Your Possession, the Penalties Increase Substantially.
If you had more than an ounce in your possession, you can be charged with a felony. Possessing more than an ounce is considered prima facie evidence of intent to sell, which means that you will need to convince the judge or jury that all of the marijuana in your possession was for personal use in order to avoid being convicted of a more serious crime.
5. The Penalties for Sale, Trafficking, and Cultivation are Even More Severe.
The penalties for selling or trafficking up to 10 pounds of marijuana include up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The same penalties apply to cultivate up to 100 plants. Sale, trafficking, and cultivation crimes involving more than 10 pounds or more than 100 plants can carry penalties of up to 25 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.
6. Possession of Drug Paraphernalia is a Separate Offense.
If you were charged with marijuana possession, there is a decent chance that you were also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a civil offense that carries up to a $500 fine.
7. You Can Be Found Guilty in South Carolina Based on “Constructive Possession.”
In order to be found guilty of marijuana possession, you do not actually have to have marijuana on your person at the time of your arrest. South Carolina law recognizes the principle of “constructive possession,” which says that you can be found guilty if you have the ability and intent to exercise “dominion and control” over marijuana or the premises on which marijuana is found. However, in constructive possession cases, it is a defense to argue that you were unaware that marijuana was present.
8. There are Many Potential Defenses to Marijuana Charges in South Carolina.
In both actual possession and constructive possession cases, there are many potential defenses to marijuana charges in South Carolina. As a result, regardless of the circumstances involved in your case, you should never assume that you will be found guilty at trial. In fact, depending on the circumstances of your case, you could even have defenses if the police arrested you while you were smoking.
In marijuana cases, potential defenses range from innocence (i.e. the marijuana was someone else’s) to asserting violations of your constitutional rights. If the police or prosecutors violated your rights, they may not be able to use key evidence against you, and this means that they might not be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
9. There are Special Programs Available for First-Time Possession Offenders.
If you are a first-time offender and you were arrested with an ounce or less of marijuana, you may be eligible for a pre-trial intervention program or a conditional discharge.
With a pre-trial intervention program, if you complete community service, pass all required drug tests, attend substance abuse counseling, and meet certain other requirements, the consequences of your arrest can be reduced substantially. With a conditional discharge, you enter a guilty plea and go on probation for a period of three to 12 months; and, provided that you satisfy all of the terms of your probation (including passing all required drug tests), at the end of your probation your guilty plea will be expunged.
10. Hiring an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer is the Best Way to Protect Yourself.
When facing a marijuana charge (or any other criminal charge) in South Carolina, the best way to protect yourself is to hire an experienced defense attorney. You should speak with an attorney as soon as possible, as there are steps that can be taken before trying to reduce your chances of a conviction. To discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation, contact Deaton Law Firm, LLC today.
Request a Free Initial Consultation in Goose Creek or North Charleston
If you have been charged with marijuana possession, distribution, or cultivation in the Charleston area, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a free initial consultation. To schedule an appointment in Goose Creek or North Charleston, call us at 843-225-5723 or tell us how to reach you online today.