What’s the procedure after a marijuana arrest? If you are charged with possession of marijuana in SC, you may be scratching your head and asking, “Why?”
Although small amounts of marijuana are either legal or decriminalized in most of the states now, SC is not one of them. Police in SC can take you to jail for an ounce, a quarter bag, a joint, or even some shake on the floorboard of your car.
When you get out of jail, you will be facing a criminal charge, usually in either the magistrate court (county) or the municipal court (city), that will result in a drug conviction on your record if you don’t take it seriously.
Once you’ve been charged with possession of marijuana in SC, what happens next? How can you avoid a criminal conviction and the possibility of jail time for marijuana?
Charged with Possession of Marijuana in SC – What’s the Procedure?
When you are released from jail (or when the officer gives you the ticket, if you are fortunate enough not to go to jail), you are given a court date in either the magistrate or the municipal court.
That court date is not really a “trial date” – it’s the day you are expected to show up in court, plead guilty, and be sentenced. If you ask for a bench trial on the initial court date, odds are the judge will ask the cop what happened, ask you what happened, and then find you guilty…
So, what can you do?
Get an attorney. Get a marijuana defense lawyer immediately – do it long before your initial court date, let your attorney know that you cannot have a drug conviction on your record, and then let them handle your case for you.
What will your attorney do?
Possession of Marijuana in SC – Procedure Before Trial
What’s the procedure before trial?
Your attorney might show up on your initial court date to attempt to negotiate with the police or the court. In most cases, however, your attorney will file a jury trial request before your initial court.
Once that is done, your initial court date will change, your attorney will be able to investigate your case and request all evidence from the prosecutor or officer, and you will not have another court date until your case is scheduled for a pre-trial conference or roster meeting.
If there is a chance that you will be convicted at trial and if you are eligible, your attorney may attempt to negotiate pre-trial diversion – that could be what is called a conditional discharge, where you do community service (and possibly other conditions imposed by the court) and your case is dismissed, or it could be through the pretrial intervention (PTI) program.
If your attorney is confident that you will win at trial, either with pretrial motions or with the jury, your attorney may attempt to negotiate a dismissal or take your case to trial…
In any case, you make the final decision as to whether you accept a plea offer, accept pretrial diversion, or exercise your right to a jury trial.
Possession of Marijuana in SC – Procedure at Trial
If your attorney recommends a trial, it could be for any of a number of reasons depending on the facts of your case. For example:
- There was a clear constitutional violation like an illegal search;
- You were charged based on “constructive possession,” but the drugs were not yours;
- The prosecutor will not be able to prove your case based on the evidence they provided to your attorney;
- There are other legal issues that your attorney believes you can win with the court;
- There are factual issues that your attorney believes you can win with the jury; or
- You aren’t guilty (if you aren’t guilty, you don’t plead guilty).
What Happens if I’m Convicted of Possession of Marijuana in SC?
If you are convicted of simple possession of marijuana (less than an ounce) and it is your first offense, you could be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail or you could be fined by the court. More importantly, you will have a drug conviction on your record that you may or may not be able to get expunged down the road.
Can I Get a Possession of Marijuana Conviction Expunged in SC?
There are several ways that possession of marijuana can be expunged in SC:
- If the charges are dismissed or you are acquitted at trial;
- By completing a conditional discharge (a conviction that is expunged when you complete community service);
- Through PTI (you complete the program before trial and there is no conviction);
- If you are convicted of simple possession, you can get the conviction expunged three years later if there are no other convictions on your record.
What Happens if I’m Acquitted or the Charges are Dismissed?
If you are charged with possession of marijuana in SC and you are acquitted at trial or the charges are dismissed before trial, the clerk of court is supposed to automatically expunge all records of your arrest and prosecution, the judge is supposed to sign an expungement order, and that order is supposed to be mailed to you and your attorney.
Although SC law requires the clerk of court to do this automatically, it may not happen. Some clerks of court across the state are ignoring the law and refusing to expunge records of dismissals or acquittals unless the defendant or their attorney call and complain…
If your record has not been expunged within a reasonable time after your case has been dismissed or after you were acquitted at trial in the magistrate or municipal court, call your attorney and ask them if they can check on the expungement for you.
If you are charged with possession of marijuana in SC and you enter a pretrial diversion program, your arrest record will be expunged after you complete the program. If your case was dismissed through pretrial diversion, however, you must follow through and get the expungement through that diversion program.
If you completed a conditional discharge, the court that granted the conditional discharge will be responsible for the expungement, but, if you completed pretrial intervention (PTI), you must get the expungement through the PTI office.
SC Marijuana Defense Lawyers in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you have been charged with possession of marijuana in SC, the SC marijuana defense lawyers at Coastal Law will investigate your case, negotiate a dismissal or other resolution that you agree with, or take your case to trial.
Call now at (843) 488-5000 or send a message through the website to speak with a SC marijuana defense attorney today.