You don’t have to be a drug kingpin like Walter White in Breaking Bad to find yourself with a criminal charge related to crystal meth. In fact, meth charges are unique in South Carolina because there are so many charges that do not apply to other drugs. For instance, you can be hit with additional charges if you’re messing around with meth in the presence of a child.

Law enforcement and the courts take meth charges very seriously. These charges have very harsh penalties in part due to the very harmful effects meth has on its users. If you’re charged with a meth crime, you need an attorney to help you understand your charges and assist you in making decisions about your case.

But before you consider making decisions about your case, let’s cover the basics of meth charges, starting with a little bit about each type of charge.

Paraphernalia charges

Drug paraphernalia is pretty much anything designed to help a person use drugs. Examples include bongs, chamber pipes, carburetor pipes, cocaine spoons and vials. Cigarette papers and tobacco pipes do not count as paraphernalia because they’re designed to help you smoke tobacco.

In addition to it being illegal to have paraphernalia, it’s also illegal to sell, manufacture or intend to sell paraphernalia.

But when it comes to methamphetamine (and cocaine and cocaine base as well), possessing paraphernalia is evidence enough to charge you with intent to manufacturing meth. Lawyers call it a prima facie case. Its as simple as you have meth paraphernalia, and therefore, you intend to manufacture meth.

Simple possession of meth

Simple possession of meth means the police say they caught you with a small amount of meth — less than 1 gram. This amount is so small that it is reasonable to believe you only had enough for yourself, and you were not intending to sell any or give any away.

The penalty for methamphetamine possession depends on how many prior drug convictions you have on your record:

Offense Category Jail Time Fine
First Misdemeanor 0 to 3 years $0 to $5,000
Second Felony 0 to 5 years $0 to $7,500
Third Felony 0 to 10 years $0 to $12,500

Simple possession is the least serious criminal charge related to methamphetamine. As the amount of drugs you have increases, so does the seriousness of the crime the police can charge against you. The next most serious charges are manufacturing and possession with intent to distribute (PWID).

Manufacturing meth and PWID meth

PWID means you have more than enough meth that the police believe your stash is more than enough for you, so much in fact that they believe you intend to give or sell some of it to other people. The amount of meth you need in your possession to be charged with PWID is 1 gram or more.

The penalties for PWID meth and manufacturing meth are the same:

Offense Category Jail Time Fine
First Felony 0 to 15 years $0 to $25,000
Second Felony 5 to 30 years $0 to $25,000
Third Felony 10 to 30 years $0 to $50,000

The most serious meth charge you can have leveled against you is trafficking.

Trafficking meth

Trafficking methamphetamine is the most serious meth charge you can have. It means the police believe you are working in a large-scale drug operation. You’re not just a street corner pusher. You’re in the big leagues.

To be charged with trafficking, you need to have at least 10 grams, but as the amount you’re caught with goes up, so do the penalties for a conviction. Here are the penalties for trafficking 10 to 27 grams:

Offense Category Jail Time Fine
First Felony 3 to 10 years $25,000
Second Felony 5 to 30 years $50,000
Third Felony 25 to 30 years $50,000

These are the penalties for trafficking 28 to 99 grams.

Offense Category Jail Time Fine
First Felony 7 to 25 years $50,000
Second Felony 7 to 30 years $50,000
Third Felony 25 to 30 years $50,000

Once you get up to 100 grams, the number of offenses don’t matter. Your sentence depends on the amount of meth and the judge’s discretion in your sentencing within the allowable range:

Offense Category Jail Time Fine
100 to 199 grams Felony 25 years $50,000
200 to 399 grams Felony 25 years $100,000
400 grams or more Felony 25 to 30 years $200,000

These penalties are harsh as it is, but if you commit your crime in the presence of a child, you may have additional charges coming your way.

Meth charges related to children

South Carolina law relates two methamphetamine charges to the presence of children. First, you can be charged with exposing a child to meth if any one of the following are true:

  • A child is in the presence of paraphernalia or other chemicals used to manufacture meth.
  • A child is present where meth or components used in making meth are found.
  • You knowingly permitting a child to be in an environment where a person is selling meth or intends to sell meth.

Here are the penalties for an adult exposing a child to meth:

Offense Category Jail Time Fine
First Felony 0 to 5 years $0 to $5,000
Second Felony 0 to 10 years $0 to $10,000

As an adult, you can also be charged with unlawful conduct toward a child if the child was present while meth was being made. This charge is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine up to the discretion of the court.

So clearly, you don’t want to commit a meth crime in front of a child.

Disposal of waste from meth production

You also don’t want to be caught dumping waste from manufacturing meth. The police can get you coming and going on this one. As you’ve seen, it is illegal to manufacture meth, but it is also illegal to dispose of the byproducts of the manufacturing process.

These are the penalties for disposing of waste from meth production:

Offense Category Jail Time Fine
First Felony 0 to 5 years $0 to $5,000
Second Felony 0 to 10 years $0 to $10,000

Additionally, you can be ordered to pay restitution to governmental agencies if your waste requires emergency or environmental response.

Fighting your meth charge

If you’ve been charged with any of the drug crimes described above, you need an attorney on your side explaining what’s going on and helping you make decisions about your case. Contact the attorneys at Coastal Law. Dial (843) 488-5000 to discuss your situation.

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