What does “simple possession” mean in SC?
Most people know that “simple possession” means getting charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana, but how much marijuana is “simple possession?” And what happens if you are charged with more than that amount?
Did you know that simple possession doesn’t just refer to marijuana? A small amount of any type of controlled substance is considered “simple possession,” and, as with marijuana, there are “threshold weights” that determine whether you get charged with simple possession or a more serious drug offense.
Below, we will discuss the basics of simple possession charges in South Carolina, including:
- What simple possession means,
- The threshold weights for different types of drugs,
- The potential penalties for simple possession in SC, and
- When you can get simple possession charges dismissed and expunged through a pretrial diversion program.
What is “Simple Possession?”
“Simple possession” doesn’t just refer to marijuana charges. Every controlled substance has a “threshold weight” – unless there is evidence of an intent to distribute the drug, simple possession should be the appropriate charge any time the drugs found weigh less than the threshold amount.
If the drugs found weigh more than the threshold amount, the charges could be possession with intent to distribute or drug trafficking depending on the drug weight.
Threshold Weights for Simple Possession in SC
The “dividing line” between simple possession and possession with intent to distribute varies depending on the type of drug:
- Simple possession of Marijuana: 28 grams,
- Simple possession of Hashish: ten grams,
- Simple possession of Powder Cocaine: one gram,
- Simple possession of Crack Cocaine or Cocaine Base: one gram,
- Simple possession of Meth: one gram,
- Simple possession of Heroin: two grains (note this one is “grains” not “grams”),
- Simple possession of LSD: 50 micrograms, and
- Simple possession of MDMA/ Ecstasy: 15 dosage units.
Any drug weight that is less than the threshold amount listed is charged as simple possession unless there is evidence of an intent to distribute. Any drug weight greater than the threshold amount is usually charged as possession with intent to distribute.
Note that, although the statute creates an “inference” of intent to distribute based on the drug weight, the inference is rebuttable and the state must still prove that the defendant intended to distribute the drugs – otherwise, the defendant can still be convicted of the lesser included offense of simple possession.
What is “constructive possession?”
Constructive possession is a “legal fiction” that allows the state to say that you “possessed” drugs even though the drugs were not “in your possession.”
For example, if drugs are found in your vehicle, hidden in your house, or on the ground near where you were standing, you can still be charged with simple possession (or PWID or trafficking, depending on the drug weight) if the state can prove:
- That you had “dominion and control” over the drugs, and
- That you had knowledge the drugs were there.
“Mere presence” is not enough to convict a person, however – if the jury finds that you did not have the ability to control the use and disposition of the drugs or that you did not know the drugs were there, you should be acquitted of the charges.
Potential Penalties for a Simple Possession Conviction in SC
The potential penalties for a simple possession conviction could include a fine, jail time, both, or a suspended sentence and probation, depending on the type of drugs, the number of prior drug convictions, the court you are in, and the mitigation that you present to the court at sentencing.
For example, the maximum penalty you could receive based on the drug type and number of prior convictions includes:
Simple Possession Charges
Possession of Marijuana 1st Offense
Possession of Marijuana 2nd Offense
Possession of Hashish 1st Offense
Possession of Hashish 2nd Offense
Possession of Powder Cocaine 1st Offense
Possession of Powder Cocaine 2nd Offense
Possession of Powder Cocaine 3rd Offense
Possession of Cocaine Base/ Crack Cocaine 1st Offense
Possession of Cocaine Base/ Crack Cocaine 2nd Offense
Possession of Cocaine Base/ Crack Cocaine 3rd Offense
Possession of Meth 1st Offense
Possession of Meth 2nd Offense
Possession of Meth 3rd Offense
Possession of Heroin 1st Offense
Possession of Heroin 2nd Offense
Possession of Heroin 3rd Offense
Five years (increased fine)
Possession of LSD 1st Offense
Possession of LSD 2nd Offense
Possession of LSD 3rd Offense
Five years (increased fine)
Possession of MDMA/ Ecstasy/ Molly 1st Offense
Possession of MDMA/ Ecstasy/ Molly 2nd Offense
Possession of Non-Narcotic Prescription Drugs 1st Offense
Possession of Non-Narcotic Prescription Drugs 2nd Offense
Pretrial Diversion/ PTI/ Conditional Discharges for Simple Possession
Several pretrial diversion programs could be available depending on the nature of the charges, your mitigation, and your prior convictions, including:
- A conditional discharge – results in dismissal and expungement of your charges after completion of community service hours (and possibly other requirements if you receive the conditional discharge in General Sessions Court),
- PTI/ Pretrial Intervention – results in dismissal and expungement of your charges after completing community service and other requirements through the PTI program,
- Drug court – the most involved type of pretrial intervention that requires a guilty plea, drug court attendance, counseling, and other requirements that must be completed before the plea is reopened, your charges dismissed, and your record expunged.
Can Simple Possession be Expunged?
Simple possession charges can be expunged if:
- You pled guilty under the Youthful Offender Act (YOA) (after five years),
- You complete a pretrial diversion program, or
- It was a first-offense conviction for simple possession of any controlled substance (after three years).
Simple Possession/ Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers in Myrtle Beach, SC
If you have been charged with simple possession in SC or if you believe you are eligible to get your criminal record expunged, call the Myrtle Beach drug defense attorneys at Coastal Law now at (843) 488-5000 or fill out our online form to set up a free consultation about your case.