Drug Distribution Charges in SC

Drug distribution charges can be serious with harsh consequences for a conviction, but you may have defenses based on the facts of your case.

Johnny Gardner Law has extensive experience handling drug distribution charges for clients in Myrtle Beach, Conway, and the Grand Strand area, including jury trials, plea negotiations, and pretrial motions to exclude evidence due to constitutional violations.

Below, we will discuss:

  • Drug distribution charges in SC,
  • How police make drug distribution charges in “drug stings,”
  • Possible defenses to drug distribution charges, and
  • The penalties for drug distribution charges in SC.

What is Drug Distribution in SC?

SC’s drug laws lump together several different types of drug charges for purposes of sentencing – our clients are often confused when they see something like “manufacture /distribute /dispense /deliver /possess with the intent…” on their warrant or bond paperwork.

SC’s drug laws, found in SC Code Section 44-53-370 (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, prescription drugs) and SC Code Section 44-53-375 (crack cocaine or cocaine base and meth), provide the same potential penalties for:

  • Manufacturing drugs,
  • Drug distribution,
  • Possession with intent to distribute, or
  • Conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, or possess with the intent to distribute.

Drug distribution is when a person sells, distributes, or delivers drugs.

Although most cases involve a person accused of selling drugs (usually to an informant or undercover agent), technically the statute makes it a crime to distribute drugs – you could be convicted of drug distribution for just giving someone drugs for free or for sharing drugs with them.

Unlike simple possession, possession with intent to distribute (PWID), or trafficking charges, drug distribution charges are not determined by the weight of the drugs. It doesn’t matter if it is simple possession weight or trafficking weight – if it is being sold or delivered to another person, it is drug distribution.

How are Drug Distribution Charges Made?

In most cases, a “confidential informant” (CI) or an undercover officer will approach a suspect to buy drugs. They are usually wired for video or sound, carrying marked bills, and there may be a van or other vehicle somewhere nearby that is monitoring the transaction for the CI or officer’s safety.

After the deal is done, the CI will return to the narcotics officers who will search him or her, debrief and take a report on any information they provide, and then take the drugs to the station where they will leave them in a drug drop box for the evidence custodian.

Although once is enough, narcotics officers will often return one or more times to make additional purchases before returning one last time with a search warrant for the premises and an arrest warrant for distribution, resulting in numerous charges instead of just one…

Defenses to Drug Distribution Charges in SC

How can you defend against drug distribution charges if they have video, witness testimony, and the drugs that were sold to the CI or undercover agent?

The video of the transaction: If the prosecution doesn’t turn over the video of the transaction, it may be because they don’t have a case. We have seen cases where the video showed someone other than our client selling the drugs, where no one was selling drugs on the recording, or where the agent or CI was doing things that the prosecutor would not want a judge or jury to see…

Mistaken identity: Believe it or not, the police get it wrong sometimes. In a sloppy, incompetent investigation, a confused CI may identify the wrong person as the drug dealer and the police may arrest the wrong person without taking the time to review their video and ask questions.

Entrapment: Entrapment is often difficult to prove, and what many defendants believe should be entrapment just isn’t under SC law. But, if a CI badgers someone to go find drugs for them, usually to get themselves out of trouble, and that person is not someone who is “predisposed” to buy or sell drugs, there may be a valid entrapment defense.

Chain of custody: If the drugs presented at trial are provably not the drugs that were seized during the operation, or if the State cannot produce sufficient witnesses to establish a chain of custody from the CI through the narcotics officer, evidence custodian, officer who transports the drugs to a testing location and back, the chemist who tested the drugs, and anyone else who touched the drugs between the arrest and trial, the drugs are not admissible at trial.

Fourth Amendment violations: If the police violated the Fourth Amendment or other constitutional rights during the operation, search, or arrest, any evidence seized may be excluded because it is inadmissible as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

Every case is unique, and there may be other defenses that are available based on the facts of your case.

Penalties for Drug Distribution in SC

The potential sentences for a drug distribution conviction in SC can be severe – with mandatory minimum sentences and up to 30 years for second offenses in some cases.

The penalties for drug distribution are graduated, meaning they increase based on the number of prior convictions the person has for drug offenses.

Marijuana Distribution Charges in SC

  • First offense – Fines up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison
  • Second offense – Fines up to $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison
  • Third offense – Fines up to $20,000 and no less than five and up to 20 years in prison

Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, or Meth Distribution Charges in SC

  • First offense – Fines up to $25,000 and up to 15 years in prison
  • Second offense – Fines up to $50,000 and no less than five and up to 30 years in prison
  • Third offense or greater – Fines up to $50,000 and no less than ten and up to 30 years in prison

Heroin Distribution Charges in SC

  • First offense – Fines up to $25,000 and up to 15 years in prison
  • Second offense – Fines up to $50,000 and no less than five and up to 30 years in prison
  • Third offense or greater – Fines up to $50,000 and no less than 10 and up to 30 years in prison

MDMA/ Ecstasy/ Molly Distribution Charges in SC

  • First offense – Fines up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison
  • Second offense – Fines up to $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison
  • Third offense – Fines up to $20,000 and no less than five and up to 20 years in prison

LSD Distribution Charges in SC

  • First offense – Fines up to $25,000 and up to 15 years in prison
  • Second offense – Fines up to $50,000 and no less than five and up to 30 years in prison
  • Third offense or greater – Fines up to $50,000 and no less than 10 and up to 30 years in prison

Drug Distribution Defense Lawyers in Conway, SC

Attorney Johnny Gardner has over twenty years of trial experience defending misdemeanors and felonies in SC courtrooms, including drug crimes like drug possession, possession with intent to distribute, drug distribution, and drug trafficking.

If you have been charged with a crime or believe you are under investigation in SC, contact criminal defense Lawyer Johnny Gardner today for a free consultation to find out how we can help.