Drug Distribution Charges in Charleston, SC
If you’ve been charged with drug distribution in SC, you might be feeling hopeless – they have a video, right? Witnesses? A confidential informant? How can you defend against distribution charges?
First, get an experienced drug distribution defense lawyer on your case who can investigate your charges, review the state’s evidence, and answer your questions. You may have defenses you are unaware of, or the state may not have the solid evidence they claim to have…
Below, we will discuss the basics of drug distribution charges in SC, including:
- How police make drug distribution cases,
- The types of evidence we see in most distribution cases,
- Common defenses against drug distribution charges in SC, and
- The potential penalties if you are convicted of drug distribution.
Drug Distribution Charges in SC
SC Code Section 44-53-370 (all drugs except cocaine base and meth) and SC Code Section 44-53-375 (cocaine base and meth) make it a crime to:
…manufacture, distribute, dispense, deliver, purchase, aid, abet, attempt, or conspire to manufacture, distribute, dispense, deliver, or purchase, or possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute, dispense, deliver, or purchase a controlled substance or a controlled substance analogue…
[or] to create, distribute, dispense, deliver, or purchase, or aid, abet, attempt, or conspire to create, distribute, dispense, deliver, or purchase, or possess with intent to distribute, dispense, deliver, or purchase a counterfeit substance.
Distribution doesn’t just mean drug sales, although most distribution cases are based on sales to undercover informants. You could be charged with distribution based on giving drugs to people or sharing drugs with people.
Note that it is also a crime to distribute a counterfeit controlled substance – if you try to rip off an undercover agent by selling them a bag of baking soda, you can still be charged with drug distribution in SC.
How Narcotics Officers Make Drug Distribution Cases?
In most cases, narcotics officers get other defendants to do their jobs for them. In many cases, narcotics officers will tell a person who has just been arrested for drugs that the police will help them on their charges if they help the police make more drug cases.
Then, like an endless pyramid scheme, they send their new CI out, wearing a wire, to buy drugs from all their friends – never realizing that, if they had talked to their criminal defense lawyer first, they might have gotten the same or a better outcome…
Narcotics officers can and do lie to suspects and defendants. Police have no authority to bind the solicitor’s office, and prosecutors can ignore law enforcement’s recommendations.
I have seen cases where an informant made multiple drug buys for law enforcement, but then 1) refused to make a buy from a friend or family member or 2) bought from everyone they know but the narcotics officer or prosecutor say they don’t believe it. Then the defendant is punished with a harsher sentence than they would have gotten if they had just called their attorney at the beginning.
More commonly, I see cases where a defendant is sucked into working for law enforcement, only to find that their “help” consists of pleading to their charges with a recommendation of prison time or probation – exactly what would have happened if they had kept quiet and hired an attorney…
There are situations where it is in someone’s best interests to help law enforcement, but it is uncommon, and it should never be done without first consulting your defense lawyer.
How do You Defend Against Drug Distribution Charges in SC?
Is there no hope if you are charged with drug distribution and the police say they have video of you selling the drugs?
Every case is different, and your attorney must 1) conduct an independent investigation of your charges, the officers involved, and the informant, and 2) review all evidence the prosecutor intends to use against you including any video or audio recordings of the alleged transactions.
There are some common defenses that we see in drug distribution cases, however, including:
- No video: your attorney must review the video of the transaction before advising you as to how you should proceed in your case. Why don’t prosecutors want to show you the video? Believe it or not, we have seen videos where our client was not the one selling the drugs or was not even in the room when the transaction happened.
- Fourth Amendment violations: if police committed constitutional violations while conducting the undercover sting or while executing a search warrant, the evidence they find can be suppressed at your trial – which could mean your case is dismissed for lack of evidence.
- Mistaken identity: we have also seen cases where an informant, in their eagerness to please narcotics officers, identified the wrong person as the seller and law enforcement simply took their word for it.
- Entrapment: if an over-eager CI or narcotics officer pushes you into finding drugs for them, and if you were not predisposed to sell drugs, you may have an entrapment defense. Law enforcement officers are supposed to be finding and arresting drug dealers, not manufacturing crimes so they can make arrests.
- Chain of custody issues: unless you are charged with distributing a counterfeit controlled substance, the drugs cannot be admitted into evidence unless the state establishes a reasonably complete chain of custody from the arresting officer to the chemist who tested the drugs to the courtroom.
- Mitigation: you may be charged with a distribution offense that carries prison time, but if you do not have a significant prior record and you can provide mitigation materials to your attorney – successful substance abuse treatment, clean drug screens, public service, education, employment, and character witnesses, for example, your attorney may be able to get your charges reduced, keep you out of prison, or even get you into a pretrial diversion program like drug court.
Potential Penalties for Drug Distribution Charges in SC
A conviction for drug distribution can have serious, life-changing consequences, including mandatory minimum prison sentences and maximum sentences up to 30 years in prison. The chart below contains the fines and penalties for the most common drug distribution charges in SC:
|Charge||Potential Fines||Potential Prison Term|
|Distribution of marijuana 1st offense||Up to $5000||Up to five years|
|Distribution of marijuana 2nd offense||Up to $10,000||Up to ten years|
|Distribution of marijuana 3rd offense||Up to $20,000||Up to 20 years|
|Distribution of cocaine, cocaine base, or meth 1st offense||Up to $25,000||Up to 15 years|
|Distribution of cocaine, cocaine base, or meth 2nd offense||Up to $50,000||5-30 years|
|Distribution of cocaine, cocaine base, or meth 3rd offense||Up to $50,000||10-30 years|
|Distribution of heroin 1st offense||Up to $25,000||Up to 15 years|
|Distribution of heroin 2nd offense||Up to $50,000||5-30 years|
|Distribution of heroin 3rd offense||Up to $50,000||10-30 years|
|Distribution of MDMA/ Ecstasy 1st offense||Up to $5000||Up to five years|
|Distribution of MDMA/ Ecstasy 2nd offense||Up to $10,000||Up to ten years|
|Distribution of MDMA/ Ecstasy 3rd offense||Up to $20,000||5-20 years|
|Distribution of LSD 1st offense||Up to $25,000||Up to 15 years|
|Distribution of MDMA/ Ecstasy||Up to $50,000||5-30 years|
|Distribution of MDMA/ Ecstasy||Up to $50,000||10-30 years|
Drug Distribution Defense Lawyers in Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC drug crimes defense attorney Grant B. Smaldone accepts criminal defense cases in the Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, and Myrtle Beach areas of SC, including drug distribution charges. If you’ve been charged with any drug offense in South Carolina, including:
- Simple possession,
- Possession with intent to distribute,
- Manufacturing, or
Call now at (843) 808-2100 or send us a message for a free consultation about your case.