How to Beat a drug charge in south Carolina
What are the best defenses to beating a drug possession charge? Generally, there are four common defenses good defense attorneys can assert to challenge and attack the state’s case against you.
Hi, my name is Dale Savage and I’m a criminal defense attorney here in Charleston, SC. Today we’re talking about drug charges and the defenses you can assert to help you fight your case.
Four (4) most Common Defenses
When it comes to drug possession laws in South Carolina, there are four – common defenses your lawyer needs to review from the evidence in your case:
- The traffic Stop and was it lawful
- The search police conducted (did it meet the requirements under the 4th Am)
- Mere presence; and
- Possession – can the state prove constructive possession.
1. Traffic Stop
When it comes to traffic stops, police need a legal basis for the stop to be lawful. That legal standard is called reasonable suspicion and it means that the police must have observed some type of traffic infraction to lawfully conduct that traffic stop. It can be as simple as a speeding infraction, no tag light, a seat belt violation or no turn signal. Now that many traffic stops are recorded on police dash cam videos, its important that your attorney review the traffic stop evidence to see if the state met the reasonable suspicion legal standard. If not, then your attorney can argue it was an unlawful seizure and any evidence recovered following that stop may be deemed inadmissible as fruit of the fruit of the poisonous tree.
2. Search and Seizures
Following the traffic stop, the second defense will be to challenge any searches conducted by police where they found drugs inside the vehicle. Even if the traffic stop is lawful police cannot search your vehicle without consent or a valid legal basis. A search without your consent requires police to have probable cause that there is contraband inside the vehicle. Your attorney needs to review any video evidence or police reports that should provide the facts detailing what established probable cause. If no probable cause can be established, then the search is unlawful under the 4th Am and the evidence will be inadmissible against you in court.
3. Mere Presence
What if you were a passenger in a vehicle that was subject to a search by police following a traffic stop where drugs were recovered? Do you have any defenses in that scenario? Yes, it’s called mere presence. Mere presence is a legal defense that says although you may have been near the drugs you did not have possession of the drugs. It’s not enough that police found you inside a vehicle where drugs were recovered. The state must show that you had the authority to exercise dominion and control over the drugs. Passengers are not typically in this position, that authority is usually held by the drive or owner of the vehicle.
Which leads us into possession of drugs.
There are two types of possession in South Carolina. Actual possession where the drugs are recovered from your person or constructive possession which requires that you had the authority to exercise dominion and control over the drugs or the place where they are found.
- In a vehicle, if you are a passenger who does not have drugs on their person, your lawyer should argue that you were merely present in the vehicle and did not have the authority to exercise dominion and control required to establish constructive possession.
- In a residence where you live but do not own our courts have said you may have had the right to access the area where the drugs were found but this doesn’t mean you had dominion and control over the property and therefore no constructive possession.
If you are facing a drug charge and want to discuss your potential legal defenses, please call me at (843) 530-7813. I hope this video was helpful and thanks for watching.