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When you’re cuffed and put in the back of a police cruiser, there’s no such thing as a minor arrest. You’re heading to jail, and even if you get out on bond, you still have to come back and answer to the charges against you.

Both possession and possession with intent to distribute (PWID) charges are taken very seriously. They each come with meaningful consequences, so you and your attorney need to make informed choices when dealing with the legal system.

Is there a difference between a possession charge and a PWID charge?

When you’re charged with possession of a drug, it means that you have a small amount of drugs on your person that appear to be for your own use. Possession with intent to distribute means you have a larger quantity of drugs on your person than would typically be for personal use. This means the amount makes it seem like you don’t just have the drugs for yourself, and you intend to give or sell the drugs to other people.

Let’s look at an example. Say a drug dealer and his customer are caught by the police immediately after completing a sale. The customer is caught with a very small amount of drugs. This leads to a possession charge. The dealer is caught with several tiny plastic bags of cocaine. This leads to a PWID charge.

The meaning of “possession” and “PWID” doesn’t change when dealing with different types of drugs. What does change is the penalty associated with a certain drug. Some drugs carry short jail sentences and small fines, while others carry longer jail sentences and very costly fines. For example, possession of cocaine can carry more jail time than possession of marijuana.

If you’ve been arrested on any drug charge, you certainly have questions. Here are some of the common questions clients ask us about their possession and PWID charges.

Common Questions About Possession Charges

Possession charges may seem like nothing compared to other criminal charges, but they have significant consequences if you're convicted. You need to understand what the police say you did starting with the legal terms they use to describe the accusation.

What does possession mean?

Possession means you have a small quantity of drugs that's believed to be for your own use. You don't have to be “on drugs” to be charged with possession. You just have to have the drugs on your person or in a place you can access, like your vehicle or home.

What does simple possession mean?

"Simple possession" is another term for possession. Calling it simple possession makes it easier for police officers, prosecutors and defense attorneys to distinguish it from PWID.

Is simple possession a misdemeanor or felony?

This depends on the drug and how many times you have been convicted of possession before your current charge. Marijuana possession charges are misdemeanors. For more serious drugs, your first possession charge is a misdemeanor, then any subsequent possession charges are felonies.

What is the sentence if I am convicted of possession?

Your potential sentence depends on the drug. Harder drugs have stiffer sentences. For instance, a first offense of methamphetamine possession can earn you up to three years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. On the other end of the spectrum, a first offense of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana will get you up to 30 days in jail and a $100-$200 fine.

Common Questions About PWID Charges

While possession is the least serious drug charge, the next one up in severity is PWID. It comes with harsher penalties.

What does PWID mean?

When you’re charged with PWID, it means you have a larger quantity of drugs than what qualifies as simple possession. The police believe you intend to give or sell the drugs to other people. Because of the quantity, the police think you cannot mean to use the drugs all by yourself.

Is PWID a misdemeanor or felony?

PWID charges are always felonies.

What is the sentence if I am convicted of PWID?

The sentence for a PWID charge depends on the drug. For example, a first offense of PWID for marijuana has the sentence of up to five years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. A first offense with cocaine is punishable by up to 15 years in jail and up to a $25,000 fine. The same goes for methamphetamine.

Is PWID a “violent” crime?

No. In South Carolina crimes are considered to be either violent or nonviolent. One use of this designation is when deciding where to place an inmate in the system. (It’s also used for other things.) Both possession and PWID charges are classified as nonviolent crimes.

Can I be charged with possession and PWID at the same time?

No. You can’t be charged with both simple possession and PWID at the same time for the same particular drugs.

When does a simple possession charge become a PWID charge?

In deciding whether to charge you with simple possession or PWID, the amount of the drugs is the deciding factor. There are different thresholds for different types of drugs. For example, if you possess more than 28 grams of marijuana, you will be charged with PWID. If you possess more than 1 gram of cocaine, cocaine base, or meth, you will be charged with PWID.

Guiding you through the legal system

If you have been charged with one of these crimes, you may find yourself wondering what the real difference is between a possession charge and a PWID charge. No matter which drug charge you have against you, you need an attorney by your side to advise you through the legal system. The attorneys at The Giese Law Firm are ready to come alongside you in this difficult time and help you get through it with the best possible outcome. Call 803-708-6767 to discuss your case with an attorney.

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Barney Giese

Keith Giese