drugs and handcuffs

The difference between possession with intent to distribute, and illegal drug possession, is significant in the South Carolina justice system. If you face PWID charges, you are more likely to face severe charges, requiring a solid criminal defense strategy. You require a criminal lawyer with profound experience with the SC laws as soon as possible for legal advice and to advocate on your behalf.

The severity of the penalties and criminal charges depends on various factors, including the amount of the drug, other accompaniments such as firearms, DUI, and type of drug. This article explicitly discusses the conditions under which you can be convicted for possession with intent to distribute, the potential penalties, and the “threshold weight” for different drugs.

What is Possession with Intent to Distribute in SC?

The possession of controlled substances is considered a severe offense in South Carolina. The consequences even worsen if the offender is charged with the intent to distribute to others. The PWID is classified as a felony offense if the offender is on a subsequent offense and bumped more if found in possession of more than one controlled substance.

Drug possession is a crime. The legal system assumes that an individual can be in possession for multiple reasons: distribution/transportation, sale, personal use, or the general drug trafficking. If the conviction is possession for personal use, commonly known as simple possession charge, which is associated with personal injury, the offender may face less severe penalties.

There are two major drug possession types: constructive and actual. Actual possession means the offenders are found with the substances in their physical control or possession. For example, the drugs are found in one’s hands in baggies or pocket.

Constructive possession on the other hand means the offender is not in physical possession but knowingly possesses the drugs at a particular place, like in the center console of a car. In this case, multiple individuals in that particular car can be charged because they are believed to have the ability to control the possession or are involved directly or indirectly in the same.

A person may face the same penalties if found with the intent to distribute or have already delivered the controlled substances. But the facts making these two criminal cases are different. For the mere possession, various facts are considered in the prosecution to establish whether there is the possibility of drug paraphernalia to provide evidence of the intent to distribute.

Some evidence includes the division of the substance in different sale bags and presence of scales of weighing. In most cases, the prosecutors rely on the officer’s testimony to establish the offender’s PWID.

What Are the Penalties for PWID in SC by Drug Type?

The penalties for PWID crime vary depending on various factors, such as:

  • The scale of the drug a person possessed during the arrest
  • The nature of the controlled substances-dangerous and highly addictive substances such as heroin attracts harsher penalties than simple possession of marijuana.
  • The criminal background of the offender-first offenses attracts fewer penalties than second offenses and other previous felonies.
  • Evidence supporting the intent to distribute, especially to persons below 18 years
  • Possession of firearms alongside drugs
  • If the proximity of a PWID is within 1,500 feet off a public park, school or church.

In South Carolina, drug substances have a mandatory minimum weight, beyond which the possession becomes a felony trafficking charge. The most common controlled substances laid out in the SC Code of Law are:


Marijuana is one of the most common illicit drugs on the streets in almost every state. It is legal in some states, but in South Carolina, Code Section 44-53-370 specifies the possession of marijuana as a misdemeanor offense. But the PWID marijuana charges remain a serious offense.

It is unlawful to manufacture, transport/distribute or possess marijuana for any unauthorized reason. The PWID penalties of this drug vary depending on the offender’s history.

  • A first offense of between 1 and 10 ounce of marijuana attracts a penalty of between 0-5 years of incarceration or a fine not exceeding $5,000.
  • The second offense attracts incarceration of 0-10 years or a fine not exceeding $10,000
  • Third offense or subsequent offense attracts between 5-20 years of imprisonment or fines up to $20,000

Crack and Powder Cocaine

Unlike most states, SC lacks different criminal penalties for cocaine base and powder cocaine, meaning the PWID of the two substances are considered the same. The possession of these two drugs attracts a felony charge under South Carolina law. Possession of more than one gram of cocaine result in:

  • The first offense attracts 0-15 years of imprisonment or a fine of up to $25,000
  • The second offense attracts 5-30 years of imprisonment or up to $50,000
  • Third offense or subsequent offenses attract 10-30 years’ incarceration or a monetary fine not exceeding $50,000


PWID methamphetamine carries similar potential penalties and threshold weight as powder cocaine or crack cocaine. Their penalties are specified in SC Code Section 44-53-375. The penalties for more than 1 gram of meth are:

  • The first offense attracts 0-15 years of imprisonment or up to $25,000
  • The second offense attracts 5-30 years of imprisonment or up to $50,000
  • Third or subsequent offenses attract 10-30 years’ incarceration or a monetary fine not exceeding $50,000


In Columbia and South Carolina in general, heroin is classified as a Schedule i narcotic drug. PWID heroin attracts similar penalties to PWID cocaine and methamphetamine.

Defending Yourself against PWID Charges in SC

PWID drugs in SC can be a severe offense that can attract a substantial monetary fine or prolonged jail time. However, you can have strong defenses and legal advice from an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The defenses may lead to dismissal of your drug crimes case, winning the trial, or reducing charges from PWID to simple possession.

Some potential defenses for PWID charges depending on the convictions are:

  • The drugs do not belong to you
  • Your rights were violated by the law enforcement during the search
  • You are not aware of the presence of the controlled drugs
  • Challenge evidence, among others.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Drug Defense Attorney

Due to many factors employed to determine PWID charges, the cases often become complicated to defend. But at David Tarr Law, I have profound knowledge of how the SC criminal justice system works and can defend you against the charges effectively. Call me at 803-238-7967 or contact my offices today for free a consultation.

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