The possession, possession with intent to distribute, distribution, sale, purchase, manufacture, and trafficking of controlled substances are unlawful in South Carolina, and law enforcement and the Circuit Solicitor’s Office vigorously prosecute these offenses. If you are convicted of a drug offense, you face lengthy prison terms, hefty fines, onerous conditions, strain on your ability to support your family, and a lifetime of difficulty with obtaining employment, renting a home, and even gaining custody of your children. Therefore, it is vital that you utilize everything in your arsenal to fight the charges. This includes hiring a competent and aggressive South Carolina criminal defense lawyer with experience with arguing cases before judges and juries, negotiating with prosecutors, and investigating and analyzing evidence. Li Law Firm, LLC can assist you with protecting your constitutional rights and defending against unfair or false accusations.

Common Illegal Drugs

South Carolina divides drugs into six schedules: I-VI. Schedule I drugs are the most severely punished. They are highly addictive street drugs that are not accepted for use in the treatment of a medical condition. Common Schedule I drugs include:

  • Opiates like heroin
  • Hallucinogens like MDMA, ecstasy, and LSD
  • Stimulants like Mephedrone
  • Depressants like Qualuudes

Schedule II drugs are highly addictive and tend to be abused but can sometimes be utilized in the treatment of medical disorders. They include:

  • Opiate-based painkillers like morphine
  • Stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall
  • Depressants like PCP
  • Cocaine

Schedule III drugs have a moderate potential for addiction and are accepted as treatment for medical conditions, including:

  • Depressants like anesthetics and sedatives

Schedule IV drugs have a low potential for addiction, are commonly used for medical treatment, and have a low risk of dependence, such as:

  • Depressants like clonazepam
  • Stimulants like weight loss pills

Schedule V drugs also have a low potential for addiction, are widely used in the medical community, and have a limited risk of dependence like:

  • Tylenol with codeine

Schedule VI drugs have a low potential for addiction but are not accepted for treatment of medical conditions, such as:

  • Marijuana

Types of Drug Offenses in South Carolina

Possession – It is illegal to possess a Schedule I-VI controlled substance. While street drugs with no medical use are always illegal, possession of prescription drugs only becomes unlawful when you do not possess a valid prescription. Due to their highly addictive nature and potential for abuse, these pharmaceutical drugs are heavily regulated by the state of South Carolina. Possession can be actual, such as in your hand or pocket. It can also be constructive. You constructively possess the drugs if they are not found on your person but you have the intent and present ability to exert control over these drugs. Constructive possession is commonly alleged when the drugs are found in cars, homes, bags, or on the ground near a person.

Manufacture, Distribution, and Possession with Intent to Distribute – Manufacturing involves the growing, production, concoction, or gathering of ingredients of a controlled substance. Distribution involves the transfer or sale of a controlled substance from one person to another. Possession with intent to distribute (PWID) involves possession of an amount of drugs larger than would be possessed for personal use, coupled with some indicia of intent to transfer or sell said drugs.

Trafficking – Trafficking is possession of a large amount of a controlled substance. Intent is not required.

Penalties for Drug Offenses in South Carolina

Penalties for drug offenses in South Carolina vary depending on (1) the type of offense, (2) the controlled substance, and (3) the amount. Below are penalties for commonly prosecuted drugs.


  • Possession (< one oz.): Up to 30 days in jail or a $100 to $200 fine
  • Manufacture, distribution, or PWID: Up to five years in prison and/or up to a $5,000 fine
  • Trafficking (10 to 100 lbs.): One to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine


  • Possession: Up to two years in prison and/or up to a $5,000 fine
  • Manufacture, distribution, or PWID: Up to 15 years in prison and/or up to a $25,000 fine
  • Trafficking (10 to 28 grams): Three to ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine


  • Possession (< 1 gram): Two to five years in prison and at least a $5,000 fine • Manufacture, distribution, or PWID: 15 to 20 years in prison and at least a $25,000 fine • Trafficking (>100 grams): 25 years in prison and a $50,000 fine

Defending Against Drug Charges in South Carolina

The exact defenses that are best for your case will vary depending on the facts. However, common defenses include:

  • Lack of probable cause for arrest
  • Lack of reasonable suspicion for Terry stop
  • Lack of valid search warrant
  • Lack of consent to search
  • Incriminating statements were solicited without Miranda warnings
  • Valid prescription exists
  • Misidentification
  • Lack of knowledge
  • The drugs belong to someone else
  • Lack of intent to distribute or manufacture

Search Warrants in South Carolina

If a police officer has probable cause to believe you have drugs on your person, he can search you for contraband. In addition, you can be searched incident to arrest if you are already being arrested for something else. However, in order to search your home, the officer needs to obtain either your consent or a search warrant. Do not feel pressured to give consent. If you give consent and drugs are found in your home, you have limited constitutional rights.

A search warrant is a legal document signed by a judge that gives law enforcement authority to enter a specific address. When the police effectuate the search warrant, they must knock and announce themselves before entering. They will then turn your home inside out, looking for drugs.

There are very few exceptions to the search warrant requirement for houses, cars, trailers, storage units, businesses, and more. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can evaluate your case to determine whether the search was proper.

Schedule a Free Drug Offense Case Evaluation with Li Law Firm, LLC Today

Were you charged with possessing, manufacturing, distributing, intending to distribute, or trafficking a controlled substance? Li Law Firm, LLC is here to assist you with fighting your charges, protecting your rights, and pursuing justice. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact Li Law Firm, LLC in Columbia, South Carolina at (803) 719-7585.