If you possess a particular type or amount of a controlled substance in South Carolina, you can face a felony charge for drug possession. For example, you can be charged with felony drug possession if you possess any amount of heroin. However, you can be charged with a felony for marijuana possession only if you possess more than one ounce. You can also face a felony charge if you possess certain controlled substances without a valid prescription, including opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine.
At McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, we have years of experience with tailoring criminal defense strategies to our clients’ individual needs. We know how South Carolina prosecutors seek the harshest possible consequences for anyone charged with prescription drug crimes. We are prepared to fight for you.
We represent every person with compassion. We realize how beating an addiction to prescription drugs is as important as beating one’s charges. Our goal will be to help you to rebuild your life after you have been charged with felony possession of prescription drugs. To learn more, call or reach us online today.
How Does South Carolina Define ‘Possession’ of Prescription Drugs?
It is unlawful in South Carolina for a person to knowingly possess a prescription drug without a valid prescription. In other words, to convict you of felony prescription drug possession, a solicitor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
- You knowingly possessed the drug or had control over it, and
- The drug was one that you needed a prescription to lawfully possess.
You can face a prescription drug charge even if the drug was not physically in your possession at the time. For example, if the police search your home and find prescription drugs in your bathroom – an area under your control – then you could be charged based on a theory of “constructive possession” of the drugs.
What Are South Carolina’s Prescription Drug Laws?
South Carolina places controlled substances, including prescription drugs, in one of five “schedules” found in S.C. Code §§ 44-53-190, 210, 230, 250 and 270. They are classified mainly according to the risk of abuse, potential medical use and general danger to a person’s health. For example:
- Schedule I – These drugs have a high potential for abuse, with no accepted medical use in treatment. In other words, under the law, people cannot safely use these drugs even under medical supervision. Schedule I drugs can include opiates and opium derivatives, including heroin.
- Schedule II – These drugs have currently accepted medical uses. However, they carry a high risk of abuse and severe dependence. Most prescription drugs fall into this category, including but certainly not limited to fentanyl, hydrocodone, methadone, pethidine and pentobarbital.
- Schedule III – Like Schedule II drugs, these drugs have a currently accepted medical use but, again, they carry the risk of abuse and dependence. Some compound prescription drugs with limited amounts of codeine, hydrocodone, opium and morphine can be found in this schedule.
- Schedule IV – These drugs have an accepted medical use and carry a relatively low risk of abuse. South Carolina law places depressants such as clonazepam and lorazepam and certain types of stimulants in this schedule.
- Schedule V – These drugs have an accepted medical use and low potential for abuse. A cough medicine with a low amount of codeine in it would be an example of a prescription drug in this schedule.
Federal law also places drugs in a schedule. If you are charged with a federal drug crime, you will be prosecuted in a federal court such as the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. If you are charged with a federal prescription drug crime, it will be important for you to work with a lawyer who understands the many differences between South Carolina and federal drug laws and the different procedural rules that apply in federal court.
What Are the Penalties for Prescription Drug Possession in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, the schedule of the controlled substance will determine the potential penalties that you face if a solicitor charges you with possession. Prescription drugs classified in a higher schedule such as Schedule II typically will result in more severe penalties than prescription medications classified in a lower schedule such as Schedule V. However, other factors can also impact the penalties, including the amount of the prescription drug in your possession as well as your history of criminal convictions.
Generally, possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance without a valid prescription can result in a penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. If you are facing a second offense or a subsequent offense, you could face a felony conviction resulting in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If you are charged with possession of another controlled substance that is not a Schedule I or Schedule II narcotic, and you do not have a valid prescription, you could face up to six months imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense. Subsequence offenses can result in up to one year of imprisonment upon conviction and a fine of up to $2,000.
Can You Be Charged with Other Prescription Drug Offenses in South Carolina?
In addition to possession charges, you can face charges for other prescription drug crimes under South Carolina law such as:
- Delivery of prescription drugs (S.C. Code § 44-53-110(10)) – The actual, constructive or attempted transfer of a controlled drug or paraphernalia.
- Distribution of prescription drugs (S.C. Code § 44-53-110(17)) – To deliver (other than by administering or dispensing) a controlled substance.
- Manufacture of prescription drugs (S.C. Code § 44-53-110(25)) – The production, preparation, propagation, compounding, conversion or processing of a controlled substance.
- Possession of paraphernalia (S.C. Code § 44-53-110(33)) – The possession of any instrument, device, article or contrivance used, designed for use or intended for use in ingesting, smoking, administering, manufacturing or preparing a controlled substance.
- Obtaining prescription drugs by fraud or deceit (S.C. Code § 44-53-40) – The forgery or alteration of a prescription or use of a false name in obtaining a prescription medication.
- Trafficking of prescription drugs (S.C. Code § 44-53-520) – The possession of a large amount of prescription drugs without a valid prescription with the intent to deliver or distribute
These charges are typically felony offenses. Potential penalties will depend on the schedule and amount of the drug, and whether the offender is a first-time or subsequent offender. Penalties can include multiple years of imprisonment and substantial fines. Of course, having a criminal record is a penalty of its own that can limit your ability to obtain certain types of employment or credit. In order to give yourself the best chance of avoiding these penalties, you should work with a Rock Hill drug crime defense lawyer who will know how to protect your rights and build the strongest defense possible.
Get Help from a Rock Hill Prescription Drug Charge Attorney
At McKinney, Tucker & Lemel, LLC, we will analyze the details of your case and build a defense strategy that is tailored to your particular circumstances and goals. We have years of experience with handling a variety of criminal defense cases in South Carolina. We are committed to providing compassionate and experienced representation to anyone facing prescription drug charges in Rock Hill. Contact us now to discuss your case in a confidential consultation.