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Whalen Montalvo

Greenville Drug Charge Attorney

Your Greenville Drug Charge Defense Team

South Carolina takes drug crimes incredibly seriously and the state will often treat individuals accused of possession, distribution, or trafficking, harshly. Those charged with drug crimes can face serious consequences, such as fines, probation, and jail time. Most drug crime arrests are for simple possession or driving under the influence of a drug.

If you have been charged with a drug crime, you need a passionate and aggressive attorney on your side, such as those at Whalen Montalvo. Our proven methods serve to protect your individual rights, as we strive to obtain the best possible results for your case. An experienced attorney can help unpack your case and determine how best to contest your charge and minimize harm.

Our Strategy Against Drug Charges

At Whalen Montalvo, our results speak for themselves. But successfully resolving a drug crime or other criminal case is a process that starts with a firm foundation. Defendants may look far and wide, but only our legal team has a solid plan for:

  • Jail Release: Extended pretrial detention basically transforms the presumption of innocence into a presumption of guilt. Most jurors assume that if a person is behind bars, s/he probably did something wrong. Additionally, many incarcerated defendants accept unfavorable plea bargain offers, just to “get it over with.”
  • Investigation: A drug crime investigation begins with the official police report. However, we never take this report at face value. Instead, our Greenville drug crime lawyers dig deeper, looking for weaknesses in the state’s evidence.
  • Legal Analysis: Sometimes, the facts alone do not determine the outcome of a drug crime case. Prosecutors must prove every element of the offense beyond any reasonable doubt. Sometimes, the state simply does not have enough evidence. Other times, a drug crime affirmative defense, like entrapment, could apply.

We use similar plans to obtain successful outcomes in other areas of law, such as military law, personal injury, and real estate transactions.

Drug Charges We Can Help You Fight

One secret to the success of our Greenville drug crime lawyers is that we develop a plan exceedingly early on. This hit-the-ground-running approach serves our clients very well in the three most common kinds of drug cases in Greenville County.


As mentioned, international and interstate drug trafficking investigations once dominated drug trafficking criminal prosecutions. Authorities still aggressively pursue such large-scale operations.

However, much of the battle has shifted to the living room and desk drawer drug trafficking operations. People who sell a little marijuana or give an unused prescription pain pill to a co-worker face almost the same consequences as international drug lords.

In both situations, over-reliance on informer testimony is often the weak spot in the state’s case. Many police informants earn seven-figure payouts. Others receive leniency in exchange for the information they provide.

Many people will say almost anything for money or love. It is very difficult for prosecutors to overcome what is essentially a presumption that the informant is unreliable. Prosecutors cannot work backward in this area. They cannot argue that if the information was accurate, the tip was reliable. Courts assess informer-provided information based on the facts known at the time.

Affirmative defenses, like the aforementioned entrapment defense, also apply in a few cases. Basically, a defendant must prove that law enforcement induced him/her to commit the crime and that s/he had no predisposition to commit that offense. The no-predisposition element is usually the hardest element of this doctrine for a Greenville drug crime lawyer to prove in court.

A lot is at stake. If the evidence is weak, or the defense may apply, prosecutors often reduce trafficking charges to simple possession charges.


Drug possession charges are deceptively complex. To obtain convictions, prosecutors must prove three elements in court:

  • Proximity: Under South Carolina law, “proximity” is almost the same thing as “ownership.” The owner of a house possesses everything in that house, just like the owner or driver of a vehicle possesses everything inside that car.
  • Knowledge and Control: This element is basically an extension of proximity. Assume Frank is behind the wheel when officers search his car. Billy, a backseat passenger, has drugs under his seat. If prosecutors charge Frank with possession, they may be hard-pressed to show that Frank knew about those drugs, and especially hard-pressed to show he had control over them.
  • Illegality: A substance is not illegal just because a police officer says it is illegal. Marijuana is a good example. This substance, which is usually illegal in South Carolina, is physically identical to hemp, which is usually legal in South Carolina.

South Carolina also has a very broad drug-free zone law. Enhancements apply if the defendant possessed drugs within a half-mile of a school or park. It does not matter if the drug transaction involved a child or even if children were present in the area at the time.

Almost every street corner in Greenville is within a half-mile of a prohibited zone. So, prosecutors can tack on additional charges almost at will.

The broad nature of this law makes it very important for a Greenville drug crime lawyer to focus on the evidence in the case, as outlined above.

Procedural defense could apply in these cases as well. In most cases, officers cannot search homes, cars, or any other personal property unless they have valid search warrants.


It is against the law in South Carolina to operate a motor vehicle “under the influence of any other drug or a combination of other drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.”

The drug could be an illegal street drug, like marijuana, a semi-legal prescription pain pill or antidepressant, or even a 100 percent legal over-the-counter drug, like Unisom or NyQuil.

Prosecutors normally rely on Field Sobriety Test results to establish impairment and loss of function. These tests include:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), or the DUI eye test,
  • Walk and Turn (WAT), or the walking-a-straight-line test, and
  • One-Leg Stand (OLS).

All these tests have some scientific limitations. In fact, the issues in the HGN test are so significant that most Greenville County judges only allow prosecutors to use HGN test results in limited situations.

To make the connection between poor performance on the FSTs and drug impairment, prosecutors often call DRE (drug recognition expert) officers to the stand. These “experts” are usually police technicians with limited training and experience. Generally, the more drugs they recognize, the higher they climb on the corporate ladder.

Drug Crimes in Greenville FAQs

The changing and aggressive nature of drug crimes in South Carolina creates many questions in the minds of many people. Our Greenville drug crime lawyers are always available to answer these questions.

Is it against the law to use drugs?

To many people, the answer to this question is “no.” Increasingly, to many jurors, drug use is a health and safety issue, not a criminal law issue. As further evidence of this shift, former President Barack Obama pardoned thousands of people who were sentenced under harsh drug laws, like the ones in South Carolina.

This opinion is especially strong in simple drug possession cases with no drug-free sone enhancement, and unenhanced DUI cases. Prosecutors are aware of this shift, which is one reason they are more motivated than ever to make favorable deals in drug crime cases.

How do I find the right lawyer to defend me against drug charges?

Defendants need experienced lawyers to handle drug crime cases. Their lawyers must also be accessible and dedicated to criminal defense.

Experience should go beyond years of experience. It must include trial experience. Your attorney must be with you until the end of the line. Accessibility means your Greenville drug crime lawyer, and not an assistant, handles most of the work in your case. Dedication means a focus on protecting individual rights.

What is the difference between drug possession and drug trafficking?

Prosecutors often use circumstantial evidence, like cash and weapons, to enhance possession charges to trafficking charges.

During press conferences, officers lay out all seized items on one table, as if they were all connected. In reality, however, there may be little relationship between a gun in a house and drugs in a car.

If someone brought marijuana to my party, can I be charged with drug possession?

Drug possession is more than possession. The state must also prove the defendant knew about the drugs and had control over them.

Additionally, the seized drugs are only admissible in court if officers had a valid search warrant, or if a narrow search warrant exception applied.

Is there a marijuana breathalyzer in South Carolina?

Not yet. But marijuana breathalyzers may soon be available in the Palmetto State, as several are in the late stages of product development.

For now, prosecutors must depend entirely on circumstantial evidence, such as the field sobriety test results and the defendant’s statements about drug use, to prove DUI-drug charges in court. Many of the FSTs are based on shaky science, and the defendant’s statements are only admissible in some situations.

Answers to FAQs on a website provide valuable information about criminal matters. But they cannot substitute for a one-on-one meeting with a Greenville drug crime lawyer who focuses on your specific case.

Work With a Diligent South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer

Prosecutors work hard to obtain drug crime convictions. A defendant needs an equally hard-working attorney. For a confidential consultation with an experienced drug crime lawyer in Greenville, contact Whalen Montalvo at (864) 770-7710. Convenient payment plans are available.

James M. Whalen

I grew up right here in Greenville, South Carolina. Following highschool, I attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where I was an NCAA Scholar-Athlete for the Rhodes Lynx soccer program.

I completed my law degree at University of South Carolina School of Law, where I was on the mock trial team and an editor for the Journal of Law and Education. Following graduation, I served as a judicial law clerk for Senior Judge Robert H. Hodges, Jr. on the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. My experience in D.C. trial courts solidified my desire to become a trial lawyer.
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Contact Us

Get the best legal representation possible. Give the Greenville, SC attorneys at Whalen Montalvo a call today at (864) 770-7710 or use our online form.

Contact Our Attorneys

Get the best legal representation possible. Give the Greenville, SC attorneys at Whalen Montalvo a call today at (864) 770-7710 or use our online form.