In South Carolina, Marijuana is illegal. We do not subscribe to its medicinal use nor do I foresee any changes in that stance for some time to come. Nevertheless, its use is rampant throughout this state as well as nationally as the debate over legalization heats up.
Often times, I am contacted by an out-of-state parent who has a child who was arrested for simple possession of marijuana in South Carolina, more specifically in Myrtle Beach. The following is a run down on what the potential penalties are for Simple Possession of Marijuana, possible outcomes and the reasons you may want to hire an attorney.
Simple Possession of Marijuana less than 28 grams or 10 grams of Hashish
-1 month or fine of not less than $100 nor more than $200
(possible loss of active scholarships or the ability to obtain a scholarship)
Simple possession charges are simple possession because this means that there are no other drug charges on that person's record. Simple possession charges usually only apply to a first offense. There are times when the officer will charge a suspect with this and later upgrade it because he or she checks the records and finds that there is an existing drug charge on the defendant's record.
Conditional discharges are the most commonly offered diversionary type program for defendants that have been charged with a Simple Possession of Marijuana. A conditional discharge is commonly granted with a requirement that the defendant complete 30 hours of community service through a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. This is the most common requirement, but technically a defendant will be on probation and subject to the terms and conditions of that probation, which could require that the defendant enter into a treatment program.
With the conditional discharge, the defendant will be required to plead guilty. That guilty plea will not be entered into the record unless the defendant fails to fulfill the requirements of the probation. Once the defendant completes the terms of the probation (conditional discharge) the defendant will be discharged and the charges dismissed. This will allow the defendant to later expunge these charges from their record. I will cover expungements in a separate blog.
Why do I need an attorney for this you may ask? Well, there are several reasons and there are several reasons why one could accomplish this on his or her own. An attorney could review the evidence against the defendant. It may be a situation where the officer did not follow the law and thereby requires the charges to be dismissed. Obviously, if this be the case, the defendant would not have to plead guilty or enter a conditional discharge program. A lay person would not pick up on this. There are situations where the officer and/or judge may not issue the standard 30 days of community service or may not wish to offer this at all. An attorney could negotiate to accomplish having this offered and offered with an acceptable probation term. There are many pitfalls to representing oneself. As the old saying goes, a person representing themselves has a fool for a client. That being said, if one feels that he or she could take this charge and will suffer no repercussions for it but feel they don't have the money to pay the fine, then probably that person could represent themselves. However, I always recommend hiring an attorney. The cost far outweighs the chance that something could go wrong and affect you for the rest of your life.
If you or someone you know has been charged with simple possession of marijuana, tell them to contact Daniel A. Selwa, II immediately and I will provide them with the help they need.