Drug Distribution Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC
Although possession with intent to distribute and manufacturing charges carry the same potential penalties, distribution charges in SC are often prosecuted more vigorously and are considered more serious than other drug offenses.
They are more involved and are often the result of extensive planning and undercover operations by law enforcement. Because police and prosecutors are understandably more eager to catch and punish dealers than users, they put more time and resources into distribution cases than most other drug cases, except for trafficking charges.
How Does the State Prove Drug Distribution Charges at Trial?
Most distribution cases involve a “confidential informant” (CI) or an undercover narcotics officer making one or more audio or video-recorded drug purchases from the suspect.
After making undercover buys, narcotics officers will often return with an arrest warrant for distribution and a search warrant for the location of the sales – which often results in additional charges for possession or trafficking drugs.
In many cases, a person who has pending charges for drug offenses agreed to become a CI and go to work for narcotics officers, making cases against other drug users or dealers in exchange for the hope of leniency in their own case.
The CI will be wired for audio or video, searched to ensure they do not have drugs on them before the buy, and then sent to make a drug buy while agents wait nearby, recording and monitoring the transaction. It could happen on the street, in a car in a parking lot, or at someone’s home.
Before trial, it is critical to identify the potential witnesses including the CI, so we can determine if they are a reliable witness, what the state offered them in exchange for their testimony (the police and prosecutor will usually lie at trial and deny that any deals were made), and whether they have other motives to lie about the alleged drug deal.
Other witnesses who were present during the alleged transaction may be able to provide perspective about what actually happened and whether it matches the CI’s testimony.
Before trial, it is also critical for your attorney to view the video or listen to the audio – you would be surprised how many times we have watched a drug buy video and discovered that our client was not on the video…
At trial, the state will have to produce the CI as a witness if they were directly involved in the transaction. The officers will testify as to how they set up the operation and what the CI purchased. They will have to establish a chain of custody for any drugs that were recovered and tested, and they will have to produce the chemist who tested the drugs before the drug report will be admissible at trial.
Penalties for Drug Distribution in SC
Like possession with intent to distribute charges, distribution of marijuana carries a potential sentence of five years on a first offense and up to 20 years for a third offense.
The penalties for distribution of cocaine, crack cocaine, or heroin can range from 15 years for a first offense to as much as 30 years for a third offense – the only drug offense that carries a higher potential penalty in SC is trafficking in heroin.
SC Drug Distribution Defense Attorney in Charleston
If you have been charged with distribution of marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, meth or heroin in the Charleston, Georgetown, or Myrtle Beach areas of Eastern SC, call Charleston, SC criminal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.