How are the penalties for drug charges determined?

If you or a loved one faces serious drug charges, the first thing you want to know is often what penalties you could face. There is a wide range of penalties for drug charges, which can make the situation seem even more overwhelming.

To determine the specific penalties, it is often helpful to understand the different drug schedules.

What are the drug schedules?

South Carolina law organizes different controlled substances into different categories called “schedules.” This organization depends on the characteristics of these substances. For example:

  • Schedule I: The law defines drugs in this category as ones with no medical purpose and a high chance of abuse, such as opioids and marijuana.
  • Schedule II: Substances in this category still have a high chance of drug abuse, but they often have a medical use, such as painkillers and stimulants.
  • Schedule III: Like substances in Schedule II, these substances have official medical purposes, but a lower chance of misuse, such as sedatives and barbiturates.

Substances in Schedules IV and V have medical uses and lower chances of misuse as well.

Almost every state organizes controlled substances in this way. However, South Carolina law is incredibly specific in how it defines certain substances.

Why should you know this information?

It is critical to know about the different drug schedules and categories because the potential penalties for criminal drug charges depend on:

  1. The specific charge (such as possession or distribution);
  2. The individual’s circumstances, including their criminal record; and
  3. The type of drug and the schedule it falls under.

For example, a charge of marijuana possession is a misdemeanor that could result in:

  • At least 30 days of jail time; and
  • A fine up to $200.

On the other hand, charges involving the distribution of heroin, another Schedule I drug, is a felony that could lead to:

  • At least five years of jail time; and
  • A fine up to $5,000.

While you do not have to understand the comprehensive details of South Carolina’s drug schedules, being aware of them is important if you face drug charges. Understanding the law can help you understand the charges you face, as well as how you can fight them and defend your rights and future.