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Understanding Drug Crime Sentencing

Experienced Columbia Attorney Assists at Drug Crime Sentencing

Through knowledge of the penalties for drug use in South Carolina

In 2019, the U.S. Congress passed The First Step Act, the most significant sentencing reform in a generation, reversing some of the effects of mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes. Within a single month after its passage, more than 1,000 prisoners saw their sentences for drug offenses reduced. However, this reform has had the greatest impact on low-level offenders. Federal sentencing guidelines for drug trafficking are largely unchanged and the sentences remain very severe. If you are accused of a drug crime, you can rely on Jack B. Swerling, Attorney at Law, in Columbia, SC to fight for at every stage of the process, including sentencing.

Federal sentencing for drug possession crimes in South Carolina

The severity of a drug possession sentence generally depends on three factors: the drug involved, the amount involved and whether the offender has previous drug convictions. Here are examples of penalties for crimes involving certain controlled substances:

  • Marijuana — Possession of less than one ounce earns up to 30 days in jail for a first offense and up to one year for a second offense. If the amount is one ounce or more, the charge is possession with intent to distribute, which carries a prison term of up to five years for a first offense, up to 10 years for a second offense and five to 20 years for a third offense.
  • Cocaine — Possession of less than 10 grams gets up to three years in prison for a first offense, up to five years for a second offense and up to 10 years for a third offense.
  • Possession of heroin, morphine or other opiates — If the weight is less than four grams, the sentence for a first offense is up to two years in prison; for a second offense, up to five years.
  • Trafficking in heroin, morphine or other opiates — If the weight is at least four grams but less than 14, the sentence for the first offense is seven to 25 years in prison; for the second offense, a minimum of 25 years. If the weight is 14 grams or more, the minimum sentence is 25 years.

Federal judges are heavily influenced by advisory sentencing guidelines. Therefore, you need an experienced drug crime lawyer who knows the guidelines and can effectively argue for their favorable application in your case.

Federal sentencing for drug trafficking crimes in South Carolina

Once the amount of the controlled substance reaches a certain level, the authorities can charge possession with intent, drug trafficking or distribution. The penalties for these crimes are much more severe:

  • Marijuana trafficking — If caught with 10 pounds or more and convicted, a defendant can be sentenced to one to 10 years in prison for a first offense, five to 20 years for a second offense and up to 25 years for a third offense. If the weight is 100 pounds or more, the minimum sentence is 25 years.
  • Cocaine trafficking — This offense starts at 10 grams but less than 28 grams. The sentences are three to 10 years in prison for a first offense, five to 30 years for a second offense and 25 to 30 years for a third offense. If the weight is greater than 28 grams of more, the sentence for a first offense is seven to 25 years; for a second offense, seven to 30 years; for a third offense, 25 to 30 years. If the weight is 100 grams or more, the minimum sentence is 25 years.
  • Trafficking in heroin, morphine or other opiates — If the weight is at least four grams but less than 14, the sentence for the first offense is seven to 25 years in prison; for the second offense, a minimum of 25 years. If the weight is 14 grams or more, the minimum sentence is 25 years.

If the crime of trafficking occurs in or on, or within one thousand feet of a school, playground or public housing, or within 100 feet of a public or private youth center, public swimming pool, or video arcade facility, the defendant is subject to twice the maximum punishment for a first offense and three times the maximum punishment for a second offense.

Defending against drug charges in South Carolina

At the sentencing phase, the defendant’s prior record and willingness to cooperate in the investigation factor heavily into the outcome. Mr. Swerling explains your options in great detail so you have all the information you need to make a decision about the strategy to pursue.

Contact a seasoned South Carolina criminal defense lawyer

The sooner you retain Jack B. Swerling, Attorney at Law, in Columbia for defense of your criminal case, the sooner he can begin working to protect your rights. If you have been arrested, are facing drug trafficking charges or have learned you are the subject of a drug trafficking investigation, call him at 800-701-0599 or contact him online.

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  • Columbia Office
    1720 Main St
    #301
    Columbia, South Carolina 29201-2850
    Phone: (803) 765-2626
    Fax: 803-799-4059

Jack Swerling In The News >>

  • 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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