What is the Penalty for Simple Possession in South Carolina?

The penalty for simple possession in South Carolina depends on the substance and the amount involved. Our Columbia criminal defense lawyers at Shealey Law Firm explain simple possession penalties and how you can minimize what you are facing in your case.

Penalty for Simple Possession in SC

The penalty for simple possession of marijuana in SC is up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $100 to $200. (S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(5)). Other substances and greater quantities of marijuana possessed carry more serious penalties.

South Carolina Drug Possession Penalties Chart

Attempted possession Any 30 days $500 S.C. Code § 44-53-420(B)
Marijuana < 1 oz. 30 days $100-$200 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(5)
Marijuana, second offense < 1 oz. 1 year $200-$1,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(5)
Marijuana > 1 oz. 6 months $1,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(a)
Marijuana, second offense > 1 oz. 1 year $2,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(a)
Cocaine Any 3 years $5,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(3)
Cocaine, second offense Any 5 years $7,500 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(3)
Cocaine, third offense Any 10 years $12,500 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(3)
Fentanyl > 2 grains 5 years $5,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(4)
Fentanyl, second offense > 2 grains 10 years $7,500 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(4)
Fentanyl, third offense > 2 grains 15 years $10,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(4)
Heroin/LSD Any 2 years $5,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(1)
Heroin/LSD, second offense Any 5 years $5,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(1)
Heroin/LSD, third offense Any 5 years $10,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(1)
Methamphetamine, cocaine base < 1 gram 3 years $5,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-375(A)
Methamphetamine, cocaine base, second offense < 1 gram 5 years $7,500 S.C. Code § 44-53-375(A)
Methamphetamine, cocaine base, third offense < 1 gram 10 years $12,500 S.C. Code § 44-53-375(A)
Other, Schedule I-V Any 6 months $1,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(2)
Other, Schedule I-V, second offense Any 1 year $2,000 S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(2)


If a possession charge includes intent to deliver or distribute (PWID), the potential penalties are greater.

Possession of large amounts of a drug may result in charges of trafficking in a controlled substance, with greater penalties. For example, being in actual or constructive possession of 10 pounds or more of marijuana is felony trafficking in marijuana. The offense carries a mandatory term of 1 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. (S.C. Code § 44-53-370(e)(1)(a).) Similarly, possession of more than one gram of cocaine or two grains of heroin creates a presumption of intent to deliver or distribute (S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)(5).)

How much time will I serve for simple drug possession?

Remember, being charged with simple drug possession does not mean you will serve the maximum amount.

  • You have a right to contest the charges against you. If you’re found not guilty, there is no sentence or penalty.
  • You can motion the court to throw out evidence. If the police violated your rights, the court may suppress evidence, making it impossible for the state to proceed with the charges.
  • A plea bargain may be possible. The state may allow you to plead guilty to a lesser charge. If they do, you face only the potential penalties for the less serious charge.
  • There are diversion programs. There are multiple diversion programs that may be appropriate for a drug charge, including conditional discharge, drug court, and eventual expungement.
  • The court has sentencing discretion. The court may sentence you within the range of possible penalties. They may order you to serve less than the maximum or may choose to impose no jail time.

Having a drug possession attorney represent you may reduce the penalties you face or result in having the charges against you thrown out. As defense lawyers for drug possession charges, we look at all the ways to fight the charges against you and work toward the best possible outcome for your situation.

What Is Simple Possession?

Simple possession is a criminal charge of having a small amount of drugs on your person or in your custody. There is no allegation of selling or distributing the drugs. Rather, simple possession is the charge used when the person has the drugs for personal use.

How does the State of South Carolina define possession of drugs?

Possession of drugs in South Carolina may be actual or constructive. Actual possession is when drugs are found in the physical custody of the person being charged. Constructive possession is having dominion or control or the right to exercise dominion or control over the drugs.

Actual vs. constructive possession of drugs

Actual possession is when drugs are on your person. They might be in your hands, in your pocket, your backpack, or next to you in a vehicle. Constructive possession means you are the one in charge of the drugs or in charge of the premises where they are found. That may mean the drugs being found in your house or your vehicle. Construction possession can be proven by circumstantial evidence.

See State v. Muhammed, Opinion No. 3076, 1999.

How Much Is a Simple Possession Charge in SC?

A simple possession charge in SC depends on three things:

  • What drug did you possess?
  • How much of the drug did you possess?
  • Do you have any prior convictions?

These three factors determine the maximum penalties for a simple possession charge. An offense may be a misdemeanor or a felony.

Within the maximum penalties, the court has sentencing discretion. The court may consider mitigating circumstances, your criminal history, and any other relevant factors.

How long does simple possession stay on your record?

Simple possession stays on your record forever unless it is expunged or the conviction is reversed.

Can a Simple Possession Charge Be Expunged?

Yes, a simple possession charge can be expunged in South Carolina. S.C. Code § 22-5-910(A) allows expungement for a crime carrying a penalty of up to 30 days jail and a $1,000 fine. There is a three-year waiting period; however, any charge that was dismissed or resulted in a finding of not guilty may be expunged immediately.

What Is “Conditional Discharge” for Simple Possession?

Conditional discharge may be available for your simple possession charges. Under S.C. Code § 44-53-450, you may qualify to have your charges deferred without a finding of guilt. You must complete a term of probation. If probation is unsuccessful, a conviction enters. If the terms and conditions are fulfilled, the court discharges the person and dismisses the charges against them.

Conditional discharge for possession of a controlled substance may be available if you are charged under the following statutes:

  • S.C. Code § 44-53-370(c)
  • S.C. Code § 44-53-370(d)
  • S.C. Code § 44-53-375(A)

When the terms of conditional discharge are complete, you may apply for a court order to expunge official records relating to the arrest, indictment, or case status. The state keeps a non-public record.

You may have only one conditional discharge.

What To Do When Faced with Simple Possession Charges in SC

When you’re faced with simple possession charges in SC, take them seriously. It can impact your freedom, future employment, ability to serve in the military, and immigration status. Involve a lawyer as soon as possible.

Contact a Lawyer for Charges of Simple Possession in SC

Shealey Law Firm is a team of criminal defense lawyers who represent people facing simple possession charges in SC. Contact us today.


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