If you’re charged with a drug crime, you undoubtedly have many questions. Others who have been in your shoes had the same questions, so you’re not alone. South Carolina drug charges can be confusing, and you need to understand what you’re facing so you can make the best choices possible regarding your case. Here are answers to some of the most common drug charge questions.
- How long do drug charges stay on your record?
- Are drug charges considered violent crimes?
- Can drug charges be federal?
- Can drug charges be expunged?
- Can a drug charge affect financial aid?
- Can misdemeanor drug charges be dropped?
- Can a felony drug charge be reduced to a misdemeanor?
- Can drug dealers be charged with manslaughter?
- Does being charged with a drug offense mean that a person must be convicted?
- Can I buy gun if I have a misdemeanor drug charge?
- Can a drug trafficking charge be expunged?
- Do drug charges get dropped at the age of 18?
- Does a drug conviction disqualify you from the military?
- What does drug conspiracy charge mean?
- Is paraphernalia a criminal charge?
- What drug charges are felonies?
- What is dangerous drug charge?
- Will a drug paraphernalia charge show up on my record?
1. How long do drug charges stay on your record?
Drug charges stay on your criminal record for life unless you are able to have them expunged. This depends on the law that applies. There are some situations where a Simple Possession of Marijuana charge is eligible for expungement after three years. South Carolina expungement laws are very specific about which charges can be expunged and how long those charges must remain on your record before they are eligible to be removed. Consult an attorney to see if and when you can apply to have your record expunged.
2. Are drug charges considered violent crimes?
Simple drug charges, like possession for example, are not considered violent crimes. However, manufacturing, trafficking and the like are usually considered violent crimes with enhanced penalties.
3. Can drug charges be federal?
Both the federal government and South Carolina have drug laws on the books. So the answer to this question depends on who is charging you with a drug crime. These crimes can have federal charges, state charges or both. Typically, federal drug charges include drug trafficking, drug manufacturing, drug conspiracy and protected location offenses such as proximity to a school.. Sometimes a case may start out as a State charge and then become a Federal case if the United States Attorney’s Office elects to adopt it and can do so under an applicable federal statute
4. Can drug charges be expunged?
A first offense simple possession of marijuana and some other illegal drug charges can be expunged provided you pled guilty under the conditional discharge law and successfully completed any sentencing requirements. In the context of “conditional discharge,” use of the word “sentence” warrants explanation. If a person pleads guilty under this unique law, they can be sentenced to a fine or jail time.
However, that sentence is held in abeyance until the person complies with the “conditions” imposed by the sentencing court. If those conditions are met, both the guilty plea and associated sentence will be “discharged” or dismissed opening the door for expungement as is the case with any dismissal. Person who are convicted under provisions of the Youthful Offender Act, if eligible, also have expungement opportunities if they are not arrested and convicted of an offense for at least five years after completing the sentence for their first offense.
5. Can a drug charge affect financial aid?
Yes, drug charges can affect financial aid for students looking to go to college. Each financial aid program has it’s own rules. Three big scholarship programs in SC — LIFE Scholarship, HOPE Scholarship and Palmetto Fellows Scholarship — have stipulations regarding criminal offenses. This is just one of many reasons you should never plead guilty or no contest to a drug charge simply to get it behind you. Depending upon the charge, a person’s criminal record, if any, the facts of the case and the law that applies, there may be several other options to pleading guilty just to conclude the case. Criminal convictions can impact you in ways you may not have considered. The record a school or employer can acquire and review doesn’t read “2 grams of marijuana.” It reads “drug conviction” and the stigma of that follows you anywhere.
6. Can misdemeanor drug charges be dropped?
Yes, it’s possible misdemeanor drug charges can be dropped. Under our law, prosecutors can drop or dismiss a case for any reason within their discretion. A prosecutor might offer a possession first offender the chance to participate in the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) Program if the person is eligible. Prosecutorial referral to the PTI program is discretionary. A person cannot have a prior record and can only participate in the program once. The program may require random drug testing. community service and counseling. If a person completes the program successfully, the charges will be dismissed. If not, the case is referred back to court. Importantly, our law prohibits a prosecutor or court from requiring that a person plead guilty to be able to be referred to the PTI program.
More information about this program can be found here
7. Can a felony drug charge be reduced to a misdemeanor?
Yes, a felony charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor. Your attorney can discuss speak with the prosecutor about lowering the charge based on the facts of your case. Sometimes an attorney can raise issues relating to the probable cause of the arrest, illegal searches, or various other problems with the arrest to negotiate a reduction in charges. Again, it depends upon a person’s prior record, facts and circumstances of the case and careful analysis of the statutory law and appellate decisions that apply as well as consideration of applicable constitutional rights.
8. Can drug dealers be charged with manslaughter?
Yes and no. The law requires that there be proof of a causal connection between a person act and an outcome and knowledge the elements of the crime. If a drug dealer sells what is offered as a controlled substance and knows that the substance contains poison, deadly chemical, then he may very well be charged with some degree of homicide. On the other hand, if a dealer sells someone a small quantity of a controlled substance that, in and of itself is not fatal when used, and the purchaser dies, probably not. The answer to a question, criminal responsibility depends upon knowledge, intent and causation.
9. Does being charged with a drug offense mean that a person must be convicted?
Any criminal case can be won, including drug cases. However, what constitutes a “win” can vary from case to case. A person facing a mandatory minimum of 25 year on prison without parole, whose case ends in a four year sentence might very well call that a “win.” Another person who faces a sentence of zero to five years may consider a probationary sentence a “win.” Each case is different, and drug charges can sometimes be beaten. Your attorney will comb through the facts of your case and analyze the evidence the prosecution has against you, how that evidence was obtained and how it was handled between the time it was collected to the date of your trial. An attorney’s experience and skill often makes the biggest difference in the result of a drug case.
10. Can I buy gun if I have a misdemeanor drug charge?
This depends on the facts of your case. Many drug convictions cause you to lose your ability to own or possess a firearm. You can still own a gun if you’re convicted of simple possession of marijuana. Generally, a person cannot possess a firearm if they are charged or convicted with a crime punishable by a year or more in prison. Also, a person cannot possess a firearm if they are convicted of misdemeanor criminal domestic violence.
11. Can a drug trafficking charge be expunged?
Generally no. Some minor first offenses, however, can be expunged three years after the date of conviction. Click here for a list of violations that are eligible for expungement.
12. Do drug charges get dropped at the age of 18?
Drug convictions don’t suddenly go away when you turn 18. You can, however, apply for expungement if you and your conviction meets the requirements of South Carolina law. You must have been charged as a juvenile rather than an adult, and the particular crime must qualify for expungement.
13. Does a drug conviction disqualify you from the military?
Yes. If you are shown to have had drug dependence or have two or more convictions in your past, you can be disqualified from military service. Click here for a list of disqualifiers.
14. What does drug conspiracy charge mean?
A drug conspiracy charge means the prosecution says you and at least one other person planned a drug crime, and at least one of you carried it out.
15. Is paraphernalia a criminal charge?
Possession of paraphernalia such as a bong or pipe is a misdemeanor charge, and it can result in a civil fine of up to $500. It can also appear on your arrest record.
16. What drug charges are felonies?
Manufacturing, distributing, administering with intent to commit a crime, trafficking and some possession charges are felonies. To find out whether your charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, speak with your attorney. He or she can explain exactly what charge is being leveled against you and what the potential punishments are for conviction.
17. What is dangerous drug charge?
A dangerous drug charge involves those that are most addictive and harmful to a user’s health. LSD, heroin, mescaline, ecstasy (MMDA), cocaine, methamphetamines, methadone, steroids, Valium, Xanax, and other prescription drugs are considered dangerous drugs under federal law.
18. Will a drug paraphernalia charge show up on my record?
First off, you do not want anything on your record at all IF you can avoid it. Yes, a drug paraphernalia charge is a misdemeanor, and it will show on your criminal record. It will not, however, show on your driving record. The charge is easily expungeable after 3 years if you are eligible. Pretrial interventions are usually available for such charges, so consult an attorney before you plead guilty to a paraphernalia charge.