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Does South Carolina Have Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Offenses?

Most drug crimes in South Carolina carry mandatory minimum sentences, despite recent legislative efforts to relax the law. In April 2021, the South Carolina House passed a bill that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and reduce the amount of time drug offenders would need to serve. However, since then, the bill has been stalled in the state Senate.

Except for simple possession, all drug convictions result in some jail time, at least for repeat offenders. The length of the sentence depends on the type of crime and the drug involved, with crimes for Schedule I drugs carrying the harshest penalties.

Drug distribution and possession with intent to distribute (PWID) have the same mandatory minimum prison sentences, as follows:

  • Five-year minimum for a third offense involving marijuana
  • Five-year minimum for a second offense involving cocaine, crack cocaine or heroin
  • 10-year minimum for a third offense involving cocaine, crack cocaine or heroin

Drug trafficking is treated as the most serious of all South Carolina drug crimes. Selling/trafficking less than 10 pounds of marijuana does not have a mandatory minimum for a first offense, but it is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Trafficking/selling more than 10 pounds of marijuana carries these mandatory minimums:

  • 10 to 100 pounds, first offense — 1 to 10 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine
  • 10 to 100 pounds, second offense — 5 to 20 years in prison plus a $25,000 fine
  • 10 to 100 pounds, third offense — At least 25 years in prison and a $25,000 fine
  • Above 100 pounds — At least 25 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000 depending on the weight

Trafficking in cocaine, crack or methamphetamine also has severe penalties based on the quantity of drugs involved:

  • 10 to 28 grams, first offense — 3 to 10 years in prison plus a $25,000 fine
  • 10 to 28 grams, second offense — 5 to 30 years in prison plus a $50,000 fine
  • 10 to 28 grams, third offense — 25 to 30 years in prison plus a $50,000 fine
  • 28 to 100 grams, first or second offense — 7 to 30 years in prison plus a $50,000 fine
  • 28 to 100 grams, third offense — 25 to 30 years in prison plus a $50,000 fine
  • Above 100 grams — At least 25 years in prison plus fines up to $200,000 depending on the weight

Finally, trafficking/selling morphine, opium or heroin carries mandatory minimums as follows:

  • 4 to 14 grams, first offense — 7 to 25 years in prison plus a $50,000 fine
  • 4 to 14 grams, second offense — at least 25 years in prison plus a $100,000 fine
  • 14 to 28 grams — at least 25 years in prison plus a $200,000 fine
  • Above 28 grams — 25 to 40 years in prison plus a $200,000 fine

Until drug sentencing reform goes forward in the state legislature, anyone convicted of a drug crime in South Carolina faces the possibility of extremely harsh sentences. If you are accused of any drug offense, contact Jack B. Swerling, Attorney at Law in Columbia for advice. I have more than 40 years of experience helping clients fight drug charges. Call me at 800-701-0599 or contact me online.

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  • Columbia Office
    1720 Main St
    #301
    Columbia, South Carolina 29201-2850
    Phone: (803) 765-2626
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Jack Swerling In The News >>

  • Jack Swerling, Derrick Mobley and Alissa Wilson were successful in having a Judge rule after an extensive hearing, that the defendant was immune from prosecution based on the “Stand Your Ground” law in a murder prosecution. The Judgment was handed down on March 29, 2021.
  • Jack Swerling, Gregory Harris and Alissa Wilson obtained a Not Guilty Verdict in Lexington County on March 3, 2022. An Orthopedic Surgeon was charged with Involuntary Manslaughter in the accidental shooting death of a friend.
  • “When Jack is on my docket, I tell my law clerks, ‘You do not want to miss this. You are seeing one of the greatest trial lawyers in the state’s history.'” -South Carolina Circuit Court Judge
  • Jack was selected to Super Lawyers Magazine Top Ten List for 2019. Each year Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in South Carolina via a selection process involving peer evaluations, independent research and professional achievement. The South Carolina lawyers who receive the highest points during this selection process are further recognized in the South Carolina Super Lawyers Top Ten List.
  • USA v. FRANK*: In a child pornography case, Swerling was successful in obtaining a 22 level variance reducing the defendant’s sentence from 8 years to 6 months.
  • STATE v. BORIS: The defendant was found not guilty by reason of insanity in a case where the defendant was involved in a shoot-out with 3 police officers.
  • STATE v. TYGER: Jack Swerling obtains a not guilty verdict in a criminal sexual conduct case in Beaufort County.
  • Pre Trial Dispositions: STATE v. DWAYNE: Mr. Swerling successfully argued for the dismissal of stalking and unlawful use of telephone charges brought against a prominent businessman in Florence County.
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