If you’ve been caught by the police with cocaine in your possession, you’re about to face a legal battle.
Depending on how much cocaine police found in your possession, you could be facing charges for:
- simple possession,
- possession with intent to distribute (PWID), or
And just as you would expect, the more cocaine you’re found with, the more severe the charge and the greater the penalties will be.
The other factor in determining the severity of your charge is how many times in the past you’ve been convicted of a drug crime.
So let’s look at each cocaine charge in order of severity from least to greatest.
Simple possession of cocaine
A simple possession charge means the police and prosecution say you had an amount of cocaine that appeared to be for your use alone. They don’t think you intended to give any away or sell any. South Carolina law outlines just how much cocaine qualifies as an amount for personal use — less than 1 gram.
Don’t be deceived by the word “simple” in simple possession. A conviction for simple possession can come with stiff consequences. With these charges a judge has the discretion to sentence you to jail time, a fine, or both.
|First offense||Misdemeanor||0-3 years||$0-$5,000|
|Second offense||Felony||0-5 years||$0-$7,500|
|Third offense||Felony||0-10 years||$0-$12,500|
If you have more than 1 gram of cocaine, the next possible charge is PWID.
PWID is more severe than simple possession, but less severe than trafficking. This charge means you had more than enough cocaine for yourself, but not so much that you look like a major drug trafficker or distributor. The amount of drugs for a PWID cocaine charge is more than 1 gram but less than 10 grams. This amount makes you look like you’re dealing drugs to users.
Logically, the penalties for PWID cocaine are more severe than for simple possession and less severe than for trafficking. A judge can sentence you to jail time, a fine, or both. The penalties look like this:
|First offense||Felony||0-15 years||$0-$25,000|
|Second offense||Felony||5-30 years||$0-$50,000|
|Third offense||Felony||10-30 years||$0-$50,000|
If you have more cocaine on you than than 10 grams, you’ll be charged with the highest level cocaine charge — trafficking.
Trafficking is the most severe cocaine charge there is under South Carolina law. This charge means you were found with so much cocaine that law enforcement believe you’re selling drugs on a scale far beyond the stereotypical drug dealer on the corner. They think you’re part of the illegal outfit supplying those drug dealers.
The penalties for trafficking increase in proportion to the amount of drugs found with you and the number of prior convictions on your record. Different than with simple possession and PWID, this charge comes with jail time AND a fine. Here are the penalties for being caught with 10 to 28 grams:
|First offense||Felony||3-10 years||$25,000|
|Second offense||Felony||5-20 years||$50,000|
|Third offense||Felony||25-30 years||$50,000|
Here are the penalties for trafficking 28 to 100 grams:
|First offense||Felony||7-25 years||$50,000|
|Second offense||Felony||7-30 years||$50,000|
|Third offense||Felony||25-30 years||$50,000|
These are the penalties for trafficking amounts greater than 100 grams. Notice these are not broken down by the number of offenses. They are the same no matter how many prior convictions you have on your record.
|100 to 200 grams||Felony||25 years||$50,000|
|200 to 400 grams||Felony||25 years||$100,000|
|400 grams or more||Felony||25-30 years||$200,000|
These penalties clearly show South Carolina takes cocaine charges seriously. In addition to being the most severe cocaine charge, trafficking is also considered a violent crime. The only implication of this designation as “violent” is where someone who is convicted of the crime will serve jail time in the Department of Corrections. The offender will be housed with others who have committed “violent” crimes.
Beating cocaine charges
Cocaine possession, PWID or trafficking charges will not go away by themselves. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how drug charges work in South Carolina.
In some circumstances, the case can get dismissed because of lack of evidence or problems with the prosecution’s case, for example. Your attorney can go over the facts of your case to see if any defenses you can use to help create the best possible outcome.
Getting assistance with your cocaine charge
If you are facing a cocaine charge, don’t wait to call a lawyer. If you’re facing a cocaine charge, please get the help of a South Carolina criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
To speak with one of our defense attorneys about your drug charge, use this form, or call (843) 488-5000.