Drug Charges for a First-Time Offender in South Carolina
When you find yourself cuffed, sitting in the back of a police cruiser, there is no such thing as a minor arrest, even for a first time offender. You are heading to jail. In South Carolina, it is illegal to possess, sell, or use controlled substances. Possessing any controlled dangerous substance in Columbia, South Carolina could result in you having to face drug charges.
What is Considered a Controlled Substance in South Carolina?
You can face drug charges for any controlled substance found on your person, in your vehicle, or within your private property. An illegal controlled substance is defined as any substance deemed dangerous that has no medical use. In some cases, the definition of a controlled substance can be expanded to include a prescription drug that is commonly abused or obtained through illegal means. So do not believe the myth that you are “safe” from drug charges if it is a prescription drug.
Possessing even a small amount of an illegal substance can leave you facing federal charges, heavy fines, and a potential jail sentence depending on the nature of your charges, the number of drugs found, and the distribution method used (if trafficking).
What Drug Charges Could I Be Face in Columbia, SC?
The most common types of drug offenses that South Carolinians are charged with include the following:
- Drug Possession – This charge is usually given for small amounts of drugs found on your person, vehicle, or property
- Drug Possession with intent to distribute (PWID) – This involves larger quantities of drugs that exceed personal use. These drugs may also be packaged in a way to indicates there was an intent to deliver the drugs to others
- Trafficking – This charge is given for very large quantities of drugs that are clearly meant for distribution. Those facing trafficking charges could deal with both state and federal penalties.
- Paraphernalia – You can also face drug charges for possession of drug paraphernalia such as scales, pipes, and needles.
Depending on your charges and whether or not this is your first offense, you may face jail time and hefty fines, not to mention the challenges you may face getting a job or with child custody cases. For this reason, you should always reach out to an experienced drug defense attorney when facing charges in Columbia, South Carolina. An attorney can use years of experience to help reduce or completely eliminate your charges.
How Many Years Will First-Time Drug Charges Stay on Your Record in Columbia, SC?
Drug charges in SC stay on your criminal record for life unless you are able to have them expunged. A simple possession of Marijuana charge, under some situations, is eligible for expungement after three years.
South Carolina laws are very specific about expunging and how long those charges must remain on your record before they are eligible for removal.
To qualify for expungement for a first offense drug charge, you must plead guilty under the conditional discharge law and successfully complete any sentencing requirements. The sentence is “held in abeyance” until the person complies with the conditions imposed by the sentencing court (usually a fine and/or jail time).
When the first-time offender meets the conditions, both the guilty plea and the sentence will be “discharged” or dismissed. This will open the door for a possible expungement.
A first-time offender convicted under the provisions of the Youthful Offender Act, if eligible, can qualify for expungement. In order to qualify, for at least five years after completing their first offense conviction, they must remain clean, meaning no arrests and no convictions.
Can You Get Misdemeanor First-Time Offender Drug Charges Dropped in South Carolina?
It is possible to get first-time charges dropped. The prosecutors can drop or dismiss a case for any reason within their discretion. They might offer a first-time offender a chance to participate in the Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program. The offender cannot have a prior record and can only participate in the program once.
The program may require random drug screening, community service, and counseling. If the first-time offender completes the program successfully, they dismiss the charges. If not, the case goes back to court.
Is It Possible to Reduce a Felony Drug Charge to a Misdemeanor in Columbia, SC?
An attorney can speak to a prosecutor about lowering the charge based on the facts of your case. Sometimes issues relating to probable cause, illegal search, or assorted other problems with an arrest can lead to negotiations for a reduction of charges.
Again, it depends on the offender’s prior record, facts, and circumstances surrounding the case as well as careful analysis of the statutory law and appellate decisions that apply, as well as consideration of applicable constitutional rights.
Should I Consult with a Drug Defense Attorney in Columbia, SC?
An attorney is on your side when it comes to drug charges in Columbia. If you find yourself arrested for drug-related crimes, then it is time to reach out to the criminal defense attorneys at Kendrick & Leonard in Columbia, South Carolina to discuss the details of your case.