19 Popular Questions About SC Drug Charges
When you’re up against drug charges in SC, you want as much information as you can get. You can find plenty of articles on attorneys’ websites telling you the fines, penalties and jail time. But what they don’t usually tell you is how these charges can impact your life in other ways.
So we've answered a few for you.
Common questions about drug charges in South Carolina
1. Can you beat drug charges?
It's possible. But each case is different. Beating a drug charge depends on the facts of the case.
Your first step is to hire an experienced drug defense lawyer in SC who can help you devise a legal defense. He or she can examine all of the evidence and inform you of your options.
It's important to note that while it's possible to beat a drug charge, any attorney who can guarantee that isn't telling you the truth.
2. Do drug charges get dropped at 18?
No. Drug charges don’t magically disappear on your 18th birthday. South Carolina does have expungement laws on youthful indiscretions, however. If you've kept out of trouble for five years after your first offense, your juvenile drug charge can be expunged. Your attorney can help you determine your options.
It’s also important to note that juvenile records are sealed to everyone except those in the court and law enforcement. Therefore, a juvenile record will not prevent you from obtaining employment.
3. Can misdemeanor drug charges be dropped?
Yes. In certain cases, misdemeanor drug charges can be dropped. Your attorney can advise you on how likely this is and how to best approach the prosecutor about dropping the charges.
4. Can a felony drug charge be reduced to a misdemeanor?
Yes. It's possible for a felony drug charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor. However, there are no guarantees. Again, consult your attorney on what factors can influence the prosecutor’s decision on this issue.
5. Which drug charges are felonies, and which are misdemeanors?
Some drug charges are felonies, and others are misdemeanors. Felonies tend to carry longer jail sentences, and if there are fines, they are much larger. Misdemeanors tend to have shorter jail sentences and minimal fines. In fact, judges don't have to impose both jail time and fines in misdemeanor cases, but they have the option.
Simply put, here are how drug charges break down between felonies and misdemeanors:
|Sale or Trafficking
|Cultivation of Marijuana
There is one drug charge that's neither a misdemeanor nor a felony: Possession of drug paraphernalia. Paraphernalia possession is a civil citation and comes with a fine of up to $500.
6. How long do drug charges stay on your record?
Drug convictions stay on your criminal record for life, unless you are able to get them expunged.
7. Can drug charges be expunged?
Possibly. South Carolina has very specific laws and procedures for expungement. A few charges are fairly straightforward when it comes to whether they can be expunged. Your first possession offense can be expunged if you received a conditional discharge and completed your sentencing requirements. Juveniles can also have their first offenses expunged after five years of avoiding further drug charges.
8. Can felony drug charges be expunged?
No. South Carolina law only allows for expungement of certain misdemeanors.
9. What is a CDS drug charge?
A drug charge related to controlled dangerous substances (CDS) involves street drugs (like methamphetamine or cocaine) or the compounds used to manufacture them. You may not have the actual drugs themselves, but if you have the means to make them, you could face a CDS drug charge.
10. What are federal drug charges?
All states, as well as the federal government, have drug laws. Federal drug charges are those brought by the federal government. These charges typically involve large quantities of drugs, crossing state borders, or when criminals work together--also known as a "conspiracy."
States bring charges when state laws are broken. Federal charges often overlap state charges and you can be charged both by the state and the federal government. In these cases, the state will often drop their charges and allow the federal charges to proceed because the federal penalties are much stiffer.
Federal and State drug crimes are treated differently, so make sure your attorney has experience defending federal cases when you're charged with a federal drug crime.
11. Are drug charges considered violent crimes?
Most of the time, drug charges are considered non-violent; however, some drug charges are considered violent crimes. Trafficking, manufacturing and similar charges are considered violent. You can read more fully about violent crimes here.
12. Can a drug charge affect financial aid/student loans?
Yes. A drug conviction doesn't necessarily preclude you from receiving financial aid, so you should check with the federal or state program offering the aid to see what their rules are. Some will exclude you, and others may make you complete certain requirements such as drug testing.
While major scholarship programs in South Carolina have their own sets of rules, drug charges can preclude you from receiving financial aid. Again, check with the organization providing the scholarship to see how a drug conviction impacts your ability to receive the scholarship.
13. Can drug dealers be charged with manslaughter?
Yes. In some situations, drug dealers can be charged with manslaughter...even murder. If a drug dealer’s customer dies as a result of receiving a controlled substance from the dealer, the dealer can be charged with manslaughter.
14. What are conspiracy drug charges?
Conspiracy drug charges are brought when more than one person work together to commit a drug crime. Conspiracy charges are most often seen on the federal, not state, level.
15. What is a manufacturing drug charge?
Manufacturing charges are brought against people who are accused of making drugs. For example, cooking methamphetamine and producing cocaine can get you manufacturing charges. Growing a few marijuana plants doesn't constitute manufacturing, but South Carolina has specific laws on growing marijuana, called cultivation.
Drug charges and your future employment
While the fines and jail time associated with a drug conviction have their endings, other consequences can have long-lasting--and even lifetime--implications. If you think pleading guilty or no contest will make everything go away, think again. Before agreeing to anything related to your drug charge, talk it over with your attorney.
16. Will a misdemeanor show up on a background check?
Most likely, yes.
17. Does a drug charge disqualify you from the military?
It can. If you have a chemical dependency or have two or more drug convictions, you can be disqualified of the armed forces.
18. Will a drug charge affect my professional license?
Possibly. It depends on your licensing body’s rules. In many cases, a drug conviction will have some negative impact on your professional license.
19. Will I lose my CDL?
Yes. Your first conviction will result in a one-year suspension. Your second conviction results in a lifetime revocation.
An attorney to build your defense
Columbia, SC Drug Defense Attorney, Lori Murray can help you wrap your mind around the drug charges you’re facing. She has worked these cases from both the prosecution and defense sides, so she knows how to build your case. Email or call Lori at 803-779-4472 to discuss your case.
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