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The Real Scales of Justice: The Unknown Accuracy of a Scale Wins a New Trial in a Drug Dealing Case

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One South Carolina Supreme Court case shows how weight is vital to drug charges—and how proving weight can be an unexpected stumbling block for the state. It’s called State v. Daniel Herrera, and the court issued it on January 30, 2019.

Herrera got convicted of trafficking ten to 100 pounds of marijuana. The Supreme Court first dispelled any doubt about what trafficking is: it’s possessing—not selling—a legally-defined amount of drugs.

Herrera disputed the weight of the drugs, allegedly 10 pounds 2.78 ounces, which is just over the minimum limit for the trafficking charge. One of his primary arguments attacked an unlikely source. While most drug cases revolve around constitutional rights violations by officers, Herrera questioned the accuracy of the scales that weighed the drugs.

The primary investigating officer testified he didn’t know if the scales were calibrated. The Supreme Court agreed. The Court ruled the lack of evidence on scale calibration left its reliability to mere speculation. The Court pointed to rulings from other states invalidating drug-weight evidence when experts couldn’t testify about scale calibration or calibration procedures. The Court overturned the conviction and gave Herrera a new trial.

Almost all South Carolina drug charges are based on the weight of the drug you get caught with. In fact, the only difference between possession, possession with intent to distribute, and trafficking drugs—whether it’s cocaine, crack, meth, or marijuana—is the amount found on you. You don’t have to deal drugs to be convicted of dealing.

Drug charges threaten you with prison time. Often, they can only be won with highly technical defenses. Call us toll free at 888-230-1841 to schedule a free strategy session to answer your questions and start mapping a defense. Wondering how we’ll treat you? Just read these reviews.

 

Rob Usry
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Rob is a South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.
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