Possession of a Controlled Substance in South Carolina

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All states regulate the possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for illegal personal possession. South Carolina classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine as CDS, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.

This article discusses illegal CDS possession only. Illegally making or selling CDS carries different penalties. For more information on CDS manufacture and sale, see Sale of Controlled Substances in South Carolina.  
                                                                                                                                          
Also, while marijuana is considered a CDS, this article does not cover South Carolina’s marijuana possession and sale laws. To learn more about that topic, see South Carolina Marijuana Laws.

How South Carolina Classifies CDS

South Carolina divides CDS into five “Schedules.” Schedule I lists the most dangerous drugs, which have a high probability of abuse and addiction, and no recognized medical value. Schedules II, III, IV, and V decrease in dangerousness and probability of abuse, and increase in recognized medical uses.

If you’ve been arrested for illegal CDS possession, you’ll need to consult the South Carolina Code that lists precisely which drugs fit into each group. Go to the statute (S.C. Laws Ann. §§ 44-53-190, -210, -230, -250, & -270) and find the substance you're charged with possessing -- it will be listed under one of the five classes.

Penalties for Possessing CDS

It is illegal in South Carolina to possess CDS without a valid medical prescription. Penalties vary according to the type and amount of CDS involved in the violation, as described below. (S.C. Laws Ann. §§ 44-53-370(c).)

Schedule I and II narcotics and other CDS

Possessing a Schedule I or II narcotic CDS and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a misdemeanor. Penalties for a first offense include a fine of up to $5,000, up to two years in prison, or both. Second offenses are felonies, and incur a fine of up to $5,000, up to five years in prison, or both. Third and subsequent offenses incur a fine of fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

Any other Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V CDS

Possessing any other Schedule I,II, III, IV, or V CDS is a misdemeanor (excluding cocaine). Penalties for a first offense include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both. Second or subsequent offenses incur a fine of up to $2,000, up to one year in jail, or both.

Cocaine

Possessing cocaine is a misdemeanor, and (for a first offense) incurs a fine of up to $5,000, up to three years in prison, or both. A second offense is a felony, and incurs a fine of up to $7,500, up to five years in prison, or both. Third and subsequent offenses incur a fine of up to $12,500, up to ten years in prison, or both.

Presumed Intent to Sell CDS

The judge will view what would normally be a CDS possession violation a CDS sale offense (which incurs harsher fines and longer prison terms) if the defendant possessed more than the following specified amounts of certain CDS:

  • one gram of cocaine
  • 100 milligrams of alpha- or beta-eucaine
  • four grains of opium or morphine
  • two grains of herion
  • 100 milligrams of isonipecaine
  • 50 micrograms or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • 15 tablets, capsules, or dosage units of 3- or 4- methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)
  • 20 milliliters or milligrams of gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB)
  • specified amounts of marijuana or hasish

To learn more about CDS manufacture and sales convictions and penalties, see Sale of Controlled Substances in South Carolina.

Talk to an Attorney

CDS possession convictions can incur harsh fines and long periods of incarceration. A local lawyer who practices CDS defense will review the facts of your case, explain your options, and advise you of the possible consequences.

by: , Contributing Author

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