6 Truths and Myths About Drug Charges in SC
Many people think they understand all they need to know about drug charges.
The truth is South Carolina drug laws can be confusing and you are bound to have some questions. If you’re charged with a drug crime, the last thing you want to do is rely on your own knowledge -- no matter how accurate it is -- and go without an attorney on your side. Even if you know every word of the law, an experienced defense attorney is an advisor and ally you want with you as you navigate the legal system.
Busting common myths about drug charges
There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there about drug charges. All criminal cases are different, so even if a friend or family member tells you how their case went, you can only rely on that information so much. You need to apply the law to your specific circumstances, and a criminal attorney can help you do just that.
Here are six myths you may have heard about drug charges along with the straight truth.
1. Myth = Pot is legal if I have a medical condition.
Truth = Marijuana possession is NOT legal in South Carolina. Even if you have been issued a medical marijuana card by another state, you don’t want to get caught with marijuana in SC. Some states have legalized the possession and use of medical marijuana, but South Carolina is not one those states.
2. Myth = My drug charges will be dismissed if I wasn’t read my Miranda warnings.
Truth = In some rare cases this is true, but it is certainly not always true. Miranda warnings are not required to be read to you whenever the police talk with you. An officer must read you your Miranda rights only if you are (1) in custody, and (2) being interrogated. If these two major requirements are met and you gave incriminating statements to the police but weren’t read your Miranda warnings, then, your statement may get thrown out. If the only evidence against you is your statement, then your whole case MAY get thrown out. If there is other evidence, then your statements may get thrown out, but the other evidence can still be used in the case against you. There still are some exceptions, but that is something an experienced criminal attorney can go over with you.
3. Myth = I don’t need a lawyer for my marijuana possession charge because I’ll just pay the fine, and that’s cheaper than paying a lawyer.
Truth = You could possibly be given a fine, but you could also get jail time or probation on top of it. Some drug charges in South Carolina get a fine, jail time or both. Even if you only get a fine, drug charge penalties are increased if you have a prior conviction for a drug offense. Any prior conviction for any drug will affect your sentence if you are charged again in the future. These charges are taken very seriously, and a lawyer may have been able to help you get your charges reduced or even dropped. You will never know how much better your case could have turned out if you don’t hire a lawyer.
Drug charges can affect so many aspects of your life including background checks performed on you. If you are charged with first-time simple possession of marijuana, a lawyer could help negotiate a conditional discharge for you and get your charge expunged. None of this would be possible without the help of an experienced attorney!
4. Myth = I was riding with my friends in someone else’s car. We got pulled over, and drugs were found in the car. I can’t be charged with drug possession because the drugs weren’t mine.
Truth = It depends on the facts of the case, but you can and probably will be charged with drug possession. If the drugs were found in the backseat where you could have reasonably had access to them, you can be charged with drug possession even if they weren’t your drugs. If everyone in the car can get to the drugs, everyone in the car can be charged.
5. Myth = I am facing drug charges, but I don’t have any previous charges on my record. I won’t go to jail for a first-time drug charge.
Truth = While the emphasis of penalties for first-time charges is on rehabilitation, it is very possible you could be sentenced to jail even if it is your first drug offense. The type of drug and how much you had on you are very important factors here.
First, let’s look at how the amount of drugs can change the charge. Say you have a first-time charge for marijuana possession. Well, that charge will get you up to 30 days in jail and a $100 to $200 fine. But let’s say you had much more marijuana but it was still your first charge. If you had enough to increase the charge to possession with intent to distribute, you’re looking at up to 5 years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
Now, let’s change the marijuana possession charge to a cocaine possession charge. SC law and common sense tell you cocaine is a harder drug than marijuana. For a cocaine possession charge, you’re looking at up to 3 years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
6. Myth = I have a prior drug charge conviction on my record from 10 years ago, but that conviction won't affect my current drug charge.
Truth = It depends on the drug and the charge.
If your first offense was for a marijuana possession charge, and your current charge is also for marijuana possession, the lookback period on prior convictions is five years. If you’ve had more than one marijuana possession charge in your past, all subsequent charges are deemed second offenses.
For other drug charges, the lookback period is 10 years. But once you have reached your second offense, you no longer have the lookback period for your offenses to reset to zero.
Get help with your drug charge
If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, don’t rely on what friends or family have told you. Get an experienced drug charge attorney who can apply the law to your specific circumstance. Call Lori Murray at 803-779-4472 to discuss your case right away.
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