Evidence Requirements Of A South Carolina Marijuana Trafficking Charge
The actual or constructive possession of marijuana in South Carolina comes with serious consequences. In the last legislative session, one South Carolina lawmaker did seek to change state marijuana laws with an amendment to legalize medical marijuana in the state. However, fellow legislators shut down his effort.
Because it is against South Carolina law to possess even a small amount of marijuana, law enforcement officers take the offense seriously. Recently, drug trafficking and possession charges were filed against a Timmonsville man after an investigation lead to a large amount of marijuana at his home.
After an initial investigation by narcotics investigators, Florence County Sheriff's Office deputies sought a warrant to search the home. The search turned up more than 10 pounds of marijuana in the home. The charge of Trafficking in Marijuana brought against the man is a felony with a maximum criminal sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Actual and constructive possession and knowledge
While it is unclear exactly what facts supported the warrant in this case, in some cases possession and knowledge can become issues. In any prosecution for trafficking marijuana, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was "knowingly in actual or constructive possession or ... attempt[ed] to become in actual or constructive possession" of ten pounds or more of marijuana.
Often there is no direct evidence of possession or knowledge, so circumstantial evidence becomes important. The actions or words of a suspect may support that he or she was trying to buy a large amount of marijuana, but there must be substantial circumstantial evidence.
What constitutes substantial circumstantial evidence?
In one case decided by the South Carolina Supreme Court several years ago, the issue was whether enough circumstantial evidence was presented to support a marijuana trafficking conviction. In the case, border agents found a large quantity of marijuana in a furniture shipment. The shipping documents listed a store in South Carolina.
Undercover agents followed the shipment. At one store, a car and moving truck approached the big rig. A passenger in the car indicated that the semi should follow and they formed a caravan. When the semi became stuck on a dirt road, the agents called off the operation and arrested the drivers of the moving van after the car sped away.
The Supreme Court found that travel and a moving truck rental receipt along with testimony from the agent that drug transactions involved an "inner circle" was not enough circumstantial evidence to prove knowledge that the truck contained marijuana. Suspicious behavior on its own was not enough to support the conviction, which was overturned.
As this case demonstrates, when sufficient evidence does not exist, charges may be dropped or a conviction later reversed. Criminal law is a complicated field, highly dependent on case law. If you have been charged with a marijuana offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can provide advice and ensure your rights are protected.