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Every year law enforcement arrests 1.6 million people for drug crimes in the United States. A vast majority of individuals are arrested for simple drug possession — approximately 1.4 million. In 2018, over 600,000 people were arrested for violations of marijuana laws. Law enforcement agencies have ramped up their efforts to investigate and prosecute drug crimes across the country. Being found in possession of even a small amount of a controlled substance can put your future at risk. Understanding drug laws can be important, especially if you are facing a criminal charge involving a drug crime.

Types of Drug Crimes

Most people assume one or two drug laws make it illegal to possess certain types of illicit drugs. On the contrary, there are several different types of drug laws. The most commonly prosecuted drug crimes are possession of a controlled substance or for possessing drug paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia includes obvious items such as bongs and syringes. However, drug paraphernalia can also include everyday items such as Ziploc bags. The key component and drug paraphernalia charges are whether or not the item in question is commonly used to consume, store, or distribute drugs.

Controlled substances include marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other types of dangerous synthetic drugs. With the rise of prescription drug addiction, it is important to understand that drug crimes also include taking prescription medications when you do not have a valid prescription. 

Law enforcement has been cracking down on possession of Oxycodone and Xanax, for example. Even though the drug is technically legal because you can take it with a prescription, if you do not have a valid prescription, you could face drug charges. Writing a false prescription to obtain prescription medication is also a serious crime.

The severity of penalties for drug charges depends largely on the amount of drugs you are found with. If you have a large amount of drugs in your possession when you are arrested, you will likely face a charge for possession with intent to distribute. Suppose you are only found with a small amount of marijuana. In that case, however, prosecutors will likely only bring simple possession charges and possibly drug paraphernalia charges if they find any items associated with the marijuana nearby. There are also some common enhancements to drug charges, including selling prescription drugs, selling drugs to a minor, and prescription forgery.

The Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony

Misdemeanor charges typically come with less severe punishments and penalties than felony charges. Typically, felony charges carry a penalty of one or more years in state jail. The weight of the drug you are found with when arrested plays an important role in whether you will be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Again, if law enforcement officers found you with half an ounce of marijuana, and there are no enhanced penalty circumstances, you will likely face a misdemeanor charge. 

On the contrary, if you are arrested with over one ounce of marijuana, you have a record of prior criminal offenses, or you sold drugs to a minor, you will likely face felony charges. Additionally, if prosecutors have any evidence that you were involved in distributing controlled substances, you may face felony distribution charges.

State Drug Crimes Versus Federal Drug Crimes

Different types of drug crimes involve different jurisdictions. For example, if you break a federal drug crime law, the FBI and or the DEA will likely investigate your case, and federal prosecutors will bring charges against you. If convicted, you will serve your sentence in a federal penitentiary. When suspects break drug laws, state law enforcement officers investigate their cases, and state prosecutors bring charges against them. 

If you are convicted of a drug crime, you will serve your sentence in a state jail. Typically federal drug laws cover drug manufacturing, conspiracy to traffic drugs, and drug trafficking. If you are involved with bringing drugs across a state border or across the United States border, you will likely face federal drug trafficking charges.

The Impact of a Drug Crime Conviction

Many times, people who are arrested and charged with drug possession assume that it is no big deal. After all, they only had a tiny bit of marijuana when they were arrested, so how could a conviction affect their lives about much? All drug convictions can have a negative impact on your future, including simple drug possession. First, you may face jail time. A disproportionate number of inmates incarcerated in the United States are in prison for non-violent drug offenses.

Even if you do not have to serve a jail sentence, a drug conviction can negatively impact your life. You may not be able to purchase or possess a firearm. Having a criminal record can negatively impact your ability to find housing, get a job, or get an education. You might not be able to secure federal student loans if you have a drug conviction. If you are receiving federal financial aid and you are charged with a drug crime, you will need to pass a drug test or complete one of the state’s approved drug rehabilitation programs.

You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

The consequences of being convicted of a drug crime are significant. Even if you only have a small amount of drugs on you when arrested. The best way to protect your future is to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. At Bannon Law Group, LLC, We have successfully defended many clients against many different drug charges. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.

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Purchasing a home is a big deal, especially if it is your first home. For most people, their homes are the highest-value assets they will ever own. After you sign your purchase contract, most home buyers hire a title and escrow company to investigate their title, as recommended by their broker. There are downsides to hiring a run-of-the-mill title company to handle the legalities of the transfer of title, and the purchase of your home. 

Title Companies and Real Estate Agents do Not Owe You a Legal Duty

Title agents are mainly responsible for making sure your property sale closes on the closing date. They do not act as your legal representative, and they do not have a legal duty to work on behalf of your best interests. On the contrary, a real estate attorney owes his or her client a duty to represent the client’s best interests. Your lawyer only has one main concern, and that is representing your legal interests throughout the sale of the home. Title companies are also limited in what they can do to help you. They cannot do the things that lawyers are trained to do, such as the following:

  • Negotiate on your behalf
  • Push back against requests from the other party that are unrealistic or unfair
  • Advise you when backing out of the deal might be in your best interest
  • Refuse to close the real estate transaction until certain conditions are met 

Title companies may be able to push both parties into closing, but only an attorney can ensure that your legal and financial interests are represented throughout the entire process. Your lawyer owes you a duty to ensure that you receive the best deal possible from the real estate transaction.

You Will Often Save Money by Hiring a Lawyer

Hiring a lawyer to help you through your real estate transaction does not cost much more than hiring a title company. In some cases, the cost will be the same. Even if the cost is the same, lawyers often provide a much better value of the price. Lawyers can negotiate on behalf of their clients, while title companies cannot. For example, a lawyer can call the other party and firmly negotiate, or demand that the other party pay some or all of the closing costs of the transaction. 

If there is a contract dispute or a problem with the title, the title company is limited in how they can address the issue. On the contrary, a lawyer can use his or her legal knowledge to resolve the title issue efficiently and quickly. Lawyers have the overall knowledge of property law that title companies do not have. In many cases, when lawyers are involved in real estate transactions, both parties save time when it comes to closing out the deal. 

Hiring a Lawyer Will Give You Peace of Mind

We have all heard horror stories regarding real estate transactions that revealed extremely serious problems. Perhaps you discover a serious problem with the title. Or, perhaps the property is not zoned correctly. When you hire a lawyer to review your transaction, you will rest easier at night knowing that your lawyer is reviewing the transaction for any potential problems. Lawyers understand the nuances involved in real estate transactions in a way that realtors and title company employees do not. 

Your Attorney can Help You Resolve a Contract Dispute

Sometimes, real estate transactions never actually close. The two major causes of a failure to close involve contract disputes and title issues. Some title issues cannot be resolved in time to close on the house. They may require legal action, such as submitting a quiet title lawsuit. If you have hired a lawyer to represent your best interests, your lawyer will already be familiar with your situation and can quickly take whatever legal action is necessary to keep the deal alive. 

If you have not hired a lawyer at this point, you will need to schedule an initial consultation, meet with a new lawyer, and bring your new lawyer up to speed on the details of your case. All of this will cost you valuable time. While you work to find a new attorney, the issue may escalate between you and the other party. When you have hired your own lawyer from day one, you will be prepared and ready to handle any potential problems that arise during the real estate process.

Real Estate Lawyers are Different From Attorneys

Real estate agents may know a lot about the home buying process. Yet, they will never have the knowledge and experience of lawyers. Even brokers and agents with decades of experience selling properties in your local real estate market do not understand the legal intricacies of real property issues. Also, real estate agents are forbidden from giving any type of legal advice to their clients. The Florida Association of Realtors as well as Florida law prohibit real estate agents from offering legal advice. 

On the contrary, lawyers can edit your purchase agreement to make it better to suit your needs. Most realtors use boilerplate, generic purchase agreements. While those may work in some cases, in many cases, they don’t adequately protect you as the purchaser of the home. Your lawyer can help you negotiate the terms of your purchase agreement so that you won’t have to use the generic boilerplate information. Your lawyer will also go over your purchase agreement with you before you sign it so you will understand how the contract works. This is especially helpful if you are a first-time homebuyer. 

Contact an Experienced Real Estate Lawyer

Are you considering purchasing your first home? If so, we can help. We have helped many clients throughout South Carolina successfully close on their new homes. Contact our experienced Blufton, South Carolina real estate lawyers today to schedule your initial consultation.

five common domestic violence defenses
five common domestic violence defenses

Our nation’s courts take domestic violence charges extremely seriously. Relationships are complicated and both men and women can also be victims of domestic violence. Experts believe that the coronavirus pandemic has caused an increase in domestic violence cases across the country. With job loss and other economic challenges, tensions are on the rise between family members. 

While prosecutors should take domestic violence charges incredibly seriously, false accusations of domestic violence do happen. When someone mistakenly or unjustly accuses someone else of domestic violence, the defendant’s professional and personal lives are at stake. It is incredibly important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the following common domestic violence defenses. 

  1. Lack of Proof

Domestic violence cases often come down to a “he said/she said” situation. In most cases, the majority of evidence in domestic violence cases consists of victim and witness statements. In some cases, a fight does occur, but only escalates into angry screaming and finger-pointing, which is not enough to rise to the crime of domestic violence. Thus, in many domestic abuse cases, you will be able to poke holes in the story. In criminal cases, the prosecution has the burden of proof. 

They must prove all of the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Experienced defense lawyers can poke holes in the prosecutor’s case, showing the judge and jury that the prosecutor has not met his or her burden of proof. If the prosecutor cannot prove the crime, the jury will find the defendant not guilty. The more time defendant’s lawyers spend investigating the case, the more evidence they can typically find to make arguments for lack of evidence. 

  1. Deliberately False Accusations

Unfortunately, men and women have falsely accused a spouse or partner of domestic violence purposefully. Sometimes, in child custody and divorce cases, one spouse will make false accusations against a spouse or partner in order to bolster their own position in custody or divorce proceedings. For example, a mother who is seeking sole custody may make a false domestic violence claim in order to keep her children close. 

The best way to defend against deliberately false domestic violence accusations is to find inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s testimony of what happened to prove that he or she is lying. Defendants can do so by comparing police reports against eyewitness accounts. If the case proceeds to a trial without a plea bargain, your defense lawyer can cross-examine the person who is making domestic violence accusations against you. 

  1. Law Enforcement Officers are Charging the Wrong Suspect

In some cases, domestic violence victims accuse the wrong perpetrator. They either make this mistake or on purpose for their own personal reasons. When victims identify the wrong abuser, it is extremely important to gather as much evidence as possible. Your defense team will need to prove that you had an alibi when the alleged domestic violence incident happened. Doing so will prove that you could not have been at the scene of the domestic violence incident.

  1. Self-Defense

The court system is often extremely harsh when it comes to domestic violence cases. Unfortunately, domestic violence is often messy. Many domestic violence disputes involve two or more people who are both lashing out. When law enforcement officers arrive at the scene of a crime, they often cannot figure out who actually committed a crime. Similarly, they often do not have a clear understanding of who was at fault and whether one person who was involved was engaged in self-defense. 

Every state recognizes a person’s right to self-defense. Anybody who is placed in a dangerous situation must be able to protect themselves from injuries and death. Even if someone is harming you, you always have the right to protect yourself through reasonable force. 

If you used self-defense during a domestic violence incident, you will need to prove that your safety was in imminent danger. You will also need to prove that you were justified in causing physical harm because you were just protecting yourself. 

If you need to make a self-defense claim in a domestic violence dispute, you will have an uphill battle to protect your rights. You will not be appearing as a victim in front of the judge and jury, but rather, you will be seen as the domestic violence offender. The sooner you speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to develop your legal defense, the better. 

The Definition of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence involves causing injury or harm to a household member, or threatening or attempting to cause harm or injury to a household member while being able to carry out the threat of attempted harm. Violating a domestic violence protection order, or trespassing in a domestic violence shelter is also a crime. 

Only certain relationships are considered domestic violence crimes, including spouses, former spouses, people who parent children together, and people of the opposite sex who live together, or who have lived together. Domestic violence crimes that are particularly aggressive are called “domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature.” If you are charged with that crime, it is even more important that you contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. 

Domestic violence crimes can be charged as misdemeanors and felonies. The penalties for domestic violence are serious, and the penalties for aggravated domestic violence are even more severe. The penalties include five years of imprisonment. The facts of the case will determine how prosecutors charge the defendant. 

Contact Our Experienced Domestic Violence Lawyers as Soon as Possible

Domestic violence convictions can be devastating for you and your family. At Bannon Law Group, LLC, our skilled domestic violence lawyers are here to help. We will gather evidence and determine which defenses will be the most valuable in your case. If someone has accused you of domestic violence, contact our law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

five reasons you need an attorney for your real estate transaction

The coronavirus pandemic has made the real estate market somewhat unpredictable. Nonetheless, South Carolina residents have continued buying and selling homes and commercial real estate. Buying or selling property in South Carolina can be an extremely rewarding experience. Whether you are hoping to retire and live in your dream home, invest in a rental or commercial property, or purchase your first home, hiring an experienced lawyer can be extremely worthwhile. 

The process of buying and selling real estate can also be stressful and complicated. You might have many questions, including whether you are making a smart investment. You might also wonder what will happen if the seller or buyer backs out of the deal. If you are investing a significant amount of your savings, you could be wondering how you will be protected if something goes wrong. Hiring an experienced real estate lawyer can help you rest assured that your assets are protected.

Your Attorney Will Offer You Unbiased Advice on Your Real Estate Transaction

If you are hiring an attorney to represent you, you will benefit from the unbiased advice of your lawyer. Lawyers owe their clients a legal duty to protect their best interests. Real estate agents might consider their clients’ interest, but they do not have the same type of legal duty as attorneys. Attorneys owe their clients a duty of confidentiality, meaning they cannot share details about your case to other people without your permission. In other words, your attorney will be able to give you unbiased, confidential advice that is solely in your best interest.

South Carolina Real Estate Transactions are Extremely Complicated

Many real estate transactions are not straightforward. Your transaction could face buy-leasebacks, contingencies, and concessions. Experienced South Carolina real estate lawyers can help you make sure that you understand all of the terms in your real estate contracts. They will thoroughly review your sales contract to make sure there are not any provisions that can harm you in the future. 

Many real estate agents use boiler-plate, generic sales contracts. At Bannon Law Group, LLC, our lawyers ensure that your real estate contract is tailored to your specific transaction and ensures that you are legally protected. Again, your lawyer will have a duty to protect your best legal interests and will focus on doing so. 

The Property Could Have Serious Legal Issues

We have all heard horror stories about people buying homes only to find out that there were serious and expensive legal issues involved with the home. At Bannon Law Group, LLC, we take the time to investigate the terms of purchase, as well as the legal status of the property. If there are easements, liens, zoning restrictions, or title defects, we will find them and make you aware of them. 

Additionally, we will advise you of your options for how to navigate these issues, and whether they are severe enough that you should look for another property. If you do not want to look for another property, we can negotiate with the seller or buyer of the property to possibly offset the expense or challenge of the legal issue. 

We can Help You Save a Real Estate Deal That Might Fall Through

Say you have gotten all of your ducks in a row and put in an offer on your dream property. You are hoping to close in two weeks or less and move into your dream home. Suddenly, an issue arises and it seems like your entire deal will fall through. Perhaps you are a business owner and a property you have had your eye on has finally opened up. You need to buy the property at this exact location, as it is perfect for your business. You make an offer and the seller comes back with an offer that is so high, you could never accept.

In these types of situations, having an experienced lawyer on your side can help tremendously. There is usually a window of opportunity in which you can save a real estate deal. An attorney with extensive experience will be able to help you negotiate a better deal before you consider walking away. If you desire to do so, an attorney can help you get your real estate deal back on track.

Your Attorney can Help You Take Legal Action, Should it Become Necessary

In many cases, no serious legal disputes come up during a real estate transaction. However, there are many different moving parts when it comes to commercial and residential transactions. With all of these, it can be necessary for an attorney to become involved in the process. If your real estate transaction begins to go sideways, your experienced lawyer can help you understand your legal options and provide you with guidance on whether or not you should take legal action against the other party in the transaction. 

You Have a Complicated Real Estate Situation

In some cases, you will need a real estate agent from the start of your transaction. By hiring a lawyer from the outset of a complicated real estate deal, you can help prevent other major problems from happening. Your lawyer will review the situation in an attempt to foresee any problems and respond to problems properly and in a timely manner. These situations include the following:

  • A trust owns the house you are selling
  • You are selling a house due to a divorce
  • A family member is purchasing your property 
  • The property has a lien or judgment against it
  • There are tenants still living in the home

Contact Our Experienced Real Estate Lawyers Today

Hiring a real estate lawyer for your South Carolina real estate transactions can save you significant time and money. At Bannon Law Group, LLC, we have helped many clients in Bluffton, South Carolina, and the surrounding area. Call us today at (843) 865-8922 to schedule your initial consultation.

facing dui charges in south carolina during the coronavirus pandemic

The stress and tension caused by the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in some South Carolina residents drinking more alcohol than normal. Many families have been confined to their houses for over two months. People around South Carolina and the United States have also seen massive job loss, with over 33 million Americans filing for unemployment since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak. The uncertain economic future of many South Carolina residents might lead them to make decisions they would not normally make, resulting in DUI charges


Have DUI Arrests Increased During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

South Carolina DUI arrests have dropped dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Charleston, South Carolina police have reported that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a drop in DUI arrests for driving while under the influence of alcohol. The numbers are likely down because the bars have been closed due to shut-down orders during the pandemic. 

There are also fewer drivers on the road. While some law enforcement agencies have noticed a decline in DUI arrests, law enforcement are still making DUI arrests during this uncertain time. The North Charleston Police Department has reported an increase in DUI arrests, however. 


Defendants Face DUI Charges and Coronavirus-Related Charges

A Midlands, South Carolina, man is facing criminal charges for violating South Carolina’s “home or work” order. He crashed his motor vehicle into a residential home during the first week of April. Nobody was injured in the accident, even though one person was inside the house at the time of the crash, but extensive property damage occurred. Law enforcement cited the man for violating South Carolina’s stay at home order. 

The order requires people to stay at home unless they are an essential worker who is going to work or tending to their other essential needs. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued the stay at home order as an executive order. Law enforcement also charged the man with a DUI. They suspected that alcohol use was involved in the crash. If a jury convicts the man of violating the stay at home order and a DUI, he will face serious penalties including jail time and fines. 


South Carolina Courts Are Backlogged Due to Coronavirus 

All courts in South Carolina shut down for over a week in the middle of March. The Chief Justice then issued some guidance regarding how South Carolina courts can proceed with their operations. The courts have slowly reopened. They are operating somewhat normally, with a few exceptions. Any hearings that require defendants to be physically present at trial, such as in jury trials, have been canceled. Additionally, any hearings that require an attorney to directly examine or cross-examine a witness have been canceled. 

Courts are looking at each criminal case individually. If you have been charged with a DUI in South Carolina, you have a constitutional right to a trial in front of a jury of your peers. The courts have stopped holding jury trials as of right now, creating a serious backlog of DUI cases. 


Defendants Held in Prison are Concerned About Becoming Infected

Some South Carolina residents who have been charged with a DUI or convicted of a DUI and who are waiting to get out on bond or on parole are stuck in jails due to the slow down in the court system. Sitting in a crowded South Carolina jail can be dangerous because of the high transmissibility rate of coronavirus. 

The South Carolina Legislature will return on Tuesday to decide on whether it will pass additional laws to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. It remains to be seen if they will pass any legislation that will aid people in South Carolina jails who are seeking to get out on parole or those who are awaiting a trial. 

So far, the South Carolina judicial system has issued its own rulings and policies regarding coronavirus. We are unsure as of right now when South Carolina courts will begin hearing jury trials again for DUI charges


Your Rights as a DUI Defendant During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The DUI laws in South Carolina have not changed during the coronavirus pandemic. If anything, law enforcement officers are more prone to making arrests when they do see a suspicious driver. There are significantly fewer drivers on the road due to the shutdown order. This makes it easier for law enforcement to spot a potential DUI.

During the pandemic, many things have changed, but your rights as a defendant have not changed. South Carolina residents are still entitled to all of their constitutional rights. Law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that the driver is committing a crime to pull a vehicle over. If they do not, your defense lawyer can request that the judge dismiss your charges because they are unconstitutional.

Additionally, you have a right to a speedy trial under the fifth amendment of the Constitution. Should the coronavirus pandemic continue to drag onward, it is possible that defendants could raise a legal defense under this provision of the constitution. Defendants should not have to wait in dangerous jail systems for months before their trial date, even during a pandemic. After all, our constitutional rights are more important than ever during a crisis.


Contact an Experienced South Carolina DUI Lawyer

For those who are facing a DUI charge in South Carolina, we recommend hiring a skilled DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Now, more than ever, you need someone fighting for your rights who gives your case the undivided attention it deserves. 
If you are currently being held in jail waiting to get out on bail, the lawyers at Bannon Law Group, LLC can help you petition the court and fight to get out of prison to decrease your chances of becoming infected with the coronavirus. Wherever you are in the criminal procedure process, our lawyers can help fight for your rights. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.