The fine line between drug possession and possession with intent

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2023 | Drug Charges |

There are multiple laws that limit what people can lawfully do with controlled or prohibited substances in South Carolina. The lowest-level charges relate to possession, and those accused of selling, manufacturing or trafficking such substances generally face more serious charges and far more substantial criminal penalties.

Someone who might expect to face possession charges after a recent arrest in South Carolina may end up shocked when prosecutors pursue more serious allegations instead. Claims that someone possessed a drug with the intent to traffic or distribute it could very well lead to felony charges and far more serious criminal penalties than simple possession. What many people do not realize is that there is actually a very fine line between possession and possession with intent in many cases.

How does the state establish the intent to distribute?

There are multiple ways for prosecutors to build a case against someone that they believe intended to distribute drugs to others. Sometimes, the basis for such claims is someone’s prior criminal record or their known association with those involved in drug trafficking. Other times, it may be the type of drugs that police found in their possession or the amount of drugs.

For example, if someone has different types of narcotic pain relievers in their possession, police officers may not believe them when they claim those drugs were only for personal use, which means that prosecutors may pursue possession with intent charges. The same thing could happen when someone has a large amount of a single drug in their possession.

It could also be other items found at the same time as the drugs that will make the state suspect that someone intends to distribute the drugs to others. Paraphernalia used for immediate consumption, weighing out or repackaging the drugs could all help the state build a claim that someone possessed those drugs with the intention to distribute them to others.

More serious charges require careful consideration

It is generally not in the best interests of someone accused of a drug offense to simply plead guilty, and the risks of pleading guilty increase dramatically with the severity of the accusations brought against someone. When the charge involves an intent to distribute the drugs and could lead to a felony criminal record, a guilty plea might leave someone struggling to pass a background check for the rest of their life and at risk of major fines or long-term incarceration.

Learning more about state laws can be a very good starting point for those hoping to mount a thorough defense against a claim that they possessed drugs with the intent to distribute them to others.


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