As attitudes about cannabis consumption loosen across the United States, criminal penalties for possessing illegal substances are also becoming less strict. It is difficult to keep up with all the recent changes in legislation. Let’s take a look at what the penalties for drug possession are currently (as of September 2015) in the state of South Carolina.
Penalties Based On Amount Of Drug In Possession
As in most states, penalties are assessed based on the weight of the substance in possession. In South Carolina, there are three main categories of penalties for illegal substances: possession, sale, and manufacture. Possession is merely having the substance on your person. Sale, or trafficking, is distributing the substance to others. It is important to note that trafficking does not, by law, necessarily entail an exchange of money. It is common for those caught with small quantities of drugs to claim they are holding it for a friend. However, holding the substance with the intent to distribute it to your friend can constitute sale which is a more serious charge than if you simply had the drugs in your possession. Manufacture is producing or growing a substance. In general, intent is determined by the quantity of drugs present.
Charges For Possession Of Cannabis
Possession of under an ounce of cannabis is treated as a possession-level offense. This is a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail and an up to $200 fine. It is very common for a judge to grant a young or first-time offender deferred adjudication. This essentially means the accused must complete a probation program and their charge is dismissed upon successful completion of the program. Paraphernalia charges are an even more minor offense, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
South Carolina has some of the most stringent drug laws of any state as the courts have decided possession of any amount of cannabis over an ounce exceeds the limits for “personal use” and is enough to constitute trafficking. A trafficking charge is a felony charge and is punishable by up to five years in prison or a $5,000 fine. Penalties increase again at 10 pounds, with up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for first time offenders. Again, at 100 pounds penalties increase to up to 25 years in prison and a $25,000 fine; at 2,000 pounds the fine limit increases to $50,000 and increases again at 10,000 pounds to $200,000. Regardless of the amount, anyone caught selling marijuana to a minor or within a “drug-free zone” can be charged with a felony and imprisoned for up to 10 years and fined up to $10,000.
Most serious of all are manufacturing or cultivation charges. If someone is caught with any number of plants in their possession they face a felony charge with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Over 100 plants and they will go to prison, possibly up to 25 years and additionally may be fined up to $25,000.
You Need A Criminal Defense Attorney
As national views on cannabis consumption continue to progress, penalties will likely become more lenient. However, if you have charged with possession of marijuana it is important to treat it like the serious legal issue that it is. You need knowledgeable and competent representation to help you avoid criminal penalties and mitigate the damage to your finances and reputation. Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at the De Bruin Law Firm today for a consultation.