Here in Greenville and in South Carolina generally, there are three broad categories of drug crimes: possession, possession with intent to distribute (“PWID”) and trafficking. Mere possession is a misdemeanor; the other two are felonies. The penalties are different depending on the drug(s) you are found possessing. If you are arrested and charged with a drug crime, it is important to seek a proven criminal defense attorney like those at the Law Office of H. Chase Harbin. It is important to convince the prosecutors and the jury that your case is a possession case, not a PWID case. Well-trained and experienced lawyers can accumulate the right types of evidence that can help prove to the jury the lesser misdemeanor charge is the proper charge. Here are some of the differences between possession and PWID.
Greenville Criminal Defense: Simple Possession
Simple possession is the most common form of drug offense in Greenville and South Carolina. As noted, the punishments and fines vary depending on the drug or drugs that you are caught with in your possession including marijuana, possession of methamphetamine, cocaine, opioids and other schedule 1 narcotics.
Simple possession is also the easiest drug offense to prove. Most often, you are found with it on your person. It is also possible for the State to prove what is called “constructive possession” which is possession by virtue of your control over an area — such as a car or bedroom or some such — where the drugs are found.
Greenville Criminal Defense: Possession With Intent To Distribute (PWID)
PWID is also a common drug offense in South Carolina. It is much more difficult for the prosecution to prove. In general, proving PWID can be shown in three ways:
- Weight of the drugs beyond certain levels — more than one gram of cocaine, for example; see S.C.Code Ann. § 44-53-375(B)
- Sale of drug to another — amount or weight is not considered; even one sale will be sufficient
- Sale/distribution paraphernalia — plastic baggies, other packaging, weighing scales, etc.
Importantly, proof of possession is also needed for proof of PWID. As a case example, see State v. Cherry, 606 SE 2d 475 (S. Car. Supreme Court 2004). In that case, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed a conviction for PWID for crack cocaine. The defendant was found in possession of eight rocks of crack cocaine in a bag, the arrest occurred in a high crime area known for violence and drug activity, he had no pipe or other means to use the drugs for personal use, had $322 in cash mostly in $20 bills and a single rock of crack cocaine was — at that time — typically sold for $20. The court held those facts to be sufficient for the jury to convict on PWID charges.
Greenville Criminal Defense: Strategies of Contesting PWID Charges
Talented defense counsel can collect and present many types of evidence to contest PWID charges. The best result, of course, is complete exoneration. But a very good result is getting the jury to convict on the lesser charge of simple possession. Among the potential arguments for the jury:
- Accused did not actually possess drugs
- Accused is a heavy personal user so mount or weight is NOT proof of PWID — a jury is allowed to infer or presume PWID from a large quantity; but many users can quickly use a gram of cocaine
- Presence of pipe or other indications of personal use
- Evidence of past personal heavy use — tending to show the amount would be consumed not sold
- Absence of drug sale/distribution paraphernalia like baggies, packaging, scales — allows for the jury to infer NO PWID; if you are planning to sell and distribute, you need the paraphernalia
- Absence of cash and firearms — often, intent to distribute involves large amounts cash and/or firearms and/or weapons; absence of these can help prove simple possession for personal use
Greenville Criminal Defense Attorneys: Contact The Law Office Of H. Chase Harbin Today
If you have been charged with simple possession PWID or any crime, it is important to have hire a Greenville SC criminal defense attorney who understands your legal rights as a defendant and has ready strategies for helping you avoid conviction and jail time. If you are arrested, it is important to act quickly and contact us here at the Law Office of H. Chase Harbin. Contact us via email or by phone. We provide criminal defense and other legal services for the citizens of Greenville, Pickens and upstate South Carolina.
Chase Harbin is a Criminal Defense Lawyer who practices in Pickens and Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 17 years now. Chase Harbin believes in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.