You can get a conditional discharge in SC for first offense possession charges or first offense disorderly conduct charges.
Below, we will go over the basics of conditional discharges in SC, including:
- The types of charges that are eligible for a conditional discharge,
- How conditional discharges work,
- Conditional discharges in the magistrate court, and
- Conditional discharges in General Sessions Court.
Conditional Discharge for Drug Offenses in SC
Conditional discharges are only available in simple possession cases, and they are not available for more serious drug offenses like drug trafficking, drug distribution, possession with intent to distribute (PWID), or drug manufacturing.
Although simple possession of marijuana is the most common charge for conditional discharges, any simple possession charge is eligible – possession of cocaine, crack cocaine, meth, or prescription pills, for example.
How Does a Conditional Discharge Work?
To get a conditional discharge, you must plead guilty to the charges (or be found guilty at trial), the prosecutor and judge must agree to the conditional discharge, and you must pay a $150 fee (or $350 if your case is in General Session Court).
The court can then “defer further proceedings” without entering the judgment of guilt while you comply with terms and conditions which will usually involve community service hours and may require drug treatment or counseling.
Once you complete the community service hours (or other requirements imposed by the court), your case is dismissed, and you can get the arrest expunged. If you don’t complete the requirements, your conviction is entered, you are sentenced, and you now have a drug conviction…
You don’t need to have a clean record to be eligible for a conditional discharge, but you can’t have any prior convictions for drug offenses.
In most cases, the requirements to complete a conditional discharge will include:
- Community service hours,
- Substance abuse assessment or counseling if the court orders it, and
- Supervision by the probation department (if the conditional discharge was in General Sessions Court).
You can only get one conditional discharge in SC – even though your record is expunged, SLED will keep a record of your discharge to ensure that you only complete the program once.
Completing a conditional discharge does not make you ineligible for other types of pretrial diversion, though. For example, future minor offenses could be sent to the pretrial intervention program, alcohol education program, drug court, or another form of pretrial diversion.
Conditional Discharge in General Sessions Court
In General Sessions Court, you will be placed on probation if you receive a conditional discharge, and you will need to pay additional fees to the probation department.
Once your community service hours and any other requirements ordered by the court have been completed, your case is dismissed, and you can apply for an expungement.
Conditional Discharge in Magistrate Court
If you enter a conditional discharge in the magistrate’s court, you will not be placed on probation. In most cases, the court will just require you to complete the community service hours and provide documentation of your hours to the court.
Once the community service is complete and the court has received your signed timesheet, your case is dismissed, and the charges are expunged from your record.
Conditional Discharges for Public Disorderly Conduct in SC
Many people don’t know that conditional discharges are also available for disorderly conduct charges in SC – they are not just for drug offenses.
SC Code § 16-17-530 gives the court authority to order a conditional discharge for a person charged with public disorderly conduct if they have “not previously been convicted of an offense pursuant to this section or any similar offense under any state or federal statute relating to drunk or disorderly conduct.”
As with drug offenses, you don’t have to have a clean record to be eligible for a conditional discharge – you just can’t have any prior disorderly conduct charges on your record.
A conditional discharge for public disorderly conduct works the same as a conditional discharge in a drug case – you must first plead guilty, and then the court will defer proceedings until you have completed community service hours (or whatever other conditions the court orders).
The fee is $150 (disorderly conduct charges are always a magistrate-level offense).
If you complete the requirements, your case is dismissed, and you can get the charges expunged. If you do not complete the requirements, the conviction is entered, and you will have to serve the sentence (up to 30 days or a fine).
Whether the conditional discharge is for a drug offense or a disorderly conduct charge, once the requirements are completed and the case is expunged, you are allowed to deny that the arrest ever happened:
No person as to whom the order has been entered may be held pursuant to another provision of law to be guilty of perjury or otherwise giving a false statement by reason of his failure to recite or acknowledge the arrest, or indictment or information, or trial in response to an inquiry made of him for any purpose.
Keep in mind that you do not have a right to a conditional discharge – you or your attorney will need to persuade the prosecutor and the court that a conditional discharge is appropriate in your circumstances.
Simple Possession Lawyers in Conway, SC
If you have been charged with a drug crime or believe you are under investigation in SC, get a local criminal defense attorney with over twenty years of trial experience on your side as soon as possible.
Contact criminal defense Lawyer Johnny Gardner today for a free consultation to find out how we can help.