South Dakota and federal law prohibit individuals from possessing, selling or distributing controlled substances such as cocaine. You may face severe penalties if caught with even a small amount of the substance, and a harsh sentence may be handed down even if you don’t have a history of drug offenses.
Cocaine possession is a felony
The state classifies possession of cocaine as a Class 4 felony, which carries a penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A more lenient sentence may be handed down to those who are charged with simple possession of cocaine. This charge generally applies in cases where a defendant is found to have a quantity of the substance sufficient for personal use. However, other facts in your case may also influence whether you are offered a plea deal or any leniency from a judge during sentencing.
Enhanced penalties may apply
If you are caught with more than a gram of cocaine, authorities may pursue a possession with intent to distribute charge. A conviction on such a charge may result in a prison sentence of up to 99 years and a fine of up to $50,000. If you are convicted of intent to sell to a minor, you will spend at least five years in jail for a first offense and at least 15 years for a subsequent offense.
Possible defenses against a drug charge
It may be possible to assert that you had no intent to possess or distribute cocaine. Instead, you may claim that someone put it in your backpack or brought it into your home without permission. It may also be possible to assert that a drug charge should be dropped because authorities found something that only looked like cocaine.
A conviction on a drug charge may cause a significant interruption to your life even if you avoid jail or prison time. Therefore, it may still be worthwhile to mount a zealous criminal defense even if you are offered what seems to be a favorable plea deal in your case.