In Ohio law, “drug abuse” is a term that describes a variety of drug-related offenses related to the possession, manufacturing, sale, or distribution of illicit drugs. A number of those offenses are felonies, and when you’re convicted you’ll have a felony drug abuse offense on your permanent criminal record. With a felony drug abuse conviction on your record, you face more serious penalties if you’re convicted of a second or subsequent offense later.
If you’ve been charged with one of the many types of felony drug abuse charges in Ohio, it’s strongly recommended that you seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney instead of trying to go it alone. Felony charges are always serious, but with drug charges you may be facing additional penalties if a prosecutor can prove you committed the offense near a juvenile or a school, and you risk losing your driver’s license for years in addition to significant prison time and fines. An experienced Columbus drug lawyer may be able to help you avoid the penalties you face.
What is Felony Drug Abuse?
Simply put, felony drug abuse is defined as any drug abuse offense that would be a felony in Ohio or any other state, or under federal law. Ohio Rev. Code 2925 defines drug abuse offenses as any violation of a list of assorted offenses. The ones that may be felonies under Ohio law include:
- Theft of Drugs (Ohio Rev. Code 2913.02) — This offense involves stealing any dangerous drug from the owner. Theft of drugs typically is a fourth-degree felony, but is a third-degree felony if there’s you have any previous felony drug abuse conviction.
- Corrupting Another with Drugs (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.02) — There are a number of behaviors that are defined as corrupting another with drugs. They can include examples such as giving someone drugs who is harmed by an overdose, giving drugs to a juvenile, or using deception to give someone drugs such as telling someone the drug is something harmless when in fact it’s an illegal drug. Corrupting another with drugs may be a fourth, third, second, or first-degree felony depending on the circumstances and the drug involved whether the offense was committed near a school or juvenile.
- Drug Trafficking (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.03) — Trafficking boils down to unlawfully selling, offering to sell, distributing, or preparing for transportation any controlled substance. This offense may be a fifth, fourth, third, second, or first-degree felony depending on the drug involved, the quantity of the drug, and whether the offense was committed in the vicinity of a juvenile or a school.
- Manufacturing a Controlled Substance or Cultivating Marijuana (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.04) — This involves making an illegal drug or growing marijuana. Manufacturing a controlled substance can be a third, second, or first-degree felony depending on the type of drug. Cultivating marijuana can be a fourth, second, or first-degree felony when large amounts are involved. The degree of felony for both offenses is affected by the quantity of the drug and whether the offense is committed near a school or juvenile.
- Illegal Assembly or Possession of Chemicals for Manufacturing Drugs (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.041) — This offense involves having in your possession one or more of the chemical components to make illegal drugs, or assembling those components with the intent of manufacturing the drug. This offense typically is a third-degree felony unless committed in the vicinity of a juvenile or school, in which case it becomes a second-degree felony.
- Funding Drug or Marijuana Trafficking (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.05) — When you knowingly provide money or objects of value to another person for the purpose of having that person obtain illegal drugs, you may be charged with funding drug trafficking. This offense may be a third, second, or first-degree felony depending on the type and quantity of the drug involved.
- Illegal Administration of Anabolic Steroids (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.06) — This offense involves administering, prescribing, or distributing any unapproved anabolic steroid medication. It’s a fourth-degree felony.
- Possession of Controlled Substances (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.11) — Possessing illegal drugs can fall anywhere on the range of felonies from fifth-degree to first-degree. The severity of the charge is affected by the type and amount of the drug involved. Some forms of this offense involving small quantities of certain substances may be misdemeanors.
- Permitting Drug Abuse (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.12) — You can be charged with permitting drug abuse when you allow any real property or vehicle you own, including a car, boat, or plane, for activities defined as drug abuse in Ohio Rev. Code 2925. Generally this offense is a serious misdemeanor, but it may be a fifth-degree felony when the underlying drug abuse offense is corrupting another with drugs or drug trafficking.
- Deception to Obtain a Dangerous Drug (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.22) — In a nutshell, this offense is about using deception to get a drug prescription or to get a prescription drug dispensed. A conviction can be anything from a fifth-degree felony to a first-degree felony, depending on the quantity and type of drug involved.
- Illegal Processing of Drug Documents (Ohio Rev. Code 2925. 23) — Essentially, this offense involves faking a prescription. It can be a fifth or fourth-degree felony, depending on the type of drug involved.
- Tampering with Drugs (Ohio Rev. Code 2925. 24) — This offense involves altering or adulterating any dangerous drug or dangerous drug packaging. It is a third-degree felony, but if the tampering causes physical harm to someone it becomes a second-degree felony.
- Abusing Harmful Intoxicants (Ohio Rev. Code 2925. 31) — This offense involves unlawfully possessing or using a harmful intoxicant to get high, such as illegally and obtaining laughing gas. It’s typically a serious misdemeanor offense, but can be charged as a fifth-degree felony if you have a previous drug abuse conviction.
- Trafficking in Harmful Intoxicants (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.32) — This offense involves dispensing or distributing the harmful intoxicant to someone else. For example, if a dental assistant gives a friend some nitrous oxide gas so that that person can get high, the dental assistant might be charged with trafficking in harmful intoxicants. The offense is a fifth-degree felony unless you have a previous drug abuse conviction, in which case it may be a fourth-degree felony.
- Illegal Dispensing of Drug Samples (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.36) — If you give someone a drug sample when you’re not authorized to do so, you may be charged with illegal dispensing of drug samples. That could include an example such as a pharmaceutical sales rep who gives samples of narcotic pain medicine to a friend who doesn’t have a prescription for the drug. This offense is a fifth-degree felony when a Schedule I or II drug is involved, or a fourth-degree felony when committed near a school or a juvenile. For Schedule III, IV, or V drugs the offense is a misdemeanor.
- Counterfeit Controlled Substance Offenses (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.37) — These offenses relate to the possession, manufacture, sale, or delivery of fake drugs or devices used to produce a fake trademark on a counterfeit drug. Possession of counterfeit drugs is a serious misdemeanor, but the other offenses listed under this statute are fifth-degree or fourth-degree felonies, depending on the nature of the charge.
Penalties for Felony Drug Abuse
Felony drug abuse isn’t really a charge on its own with its own penalties. The penalties you face will depend on the underlying charge, such as drug trafficking or tampering with drugs, and what degree of felony is assigned to that charge as well as any specific penalties imposed by statute for that offense. If you’re convicted of a charge designated as a felony drug abuse offense, you face stiffer penalties if you’re charged with another drug abuse offense in the future.
In general, felony penalties include:
The typical sentencing range for felonies under Ohio Rev. Code 2929.14 is:
- First-Degree Felony — 3 to 11 years
- Second-Degree Felony — 2 to 8 years
- Third-Degree Felony — 9 to 36 months
- Fourth-Degree Felony — 6 to 18 months
- Fifth-Degree Felony — 6 to 12 months
Some felony drug abuse offenses impose mandatory prison time when you’re convicted. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can discuss with you the sentencing range and any mandatory sentencing provisions for your individual charges.
The statutory fines for felony convictions in Ohio are:
- First-Degree Felony — up to $20,000
- Second-Degree Felony — up to $15,000
- Third-Degree Felony — up to $10,000
- Fourth-Degree Felony — up to $5,000
- Fifth-Degree Felony — up to $2,500
For the most part, fines may be at the discretion of the court with Ohio Rev. Code 2929.18 setting maximum amounts that may be imposed per felony type. Some offenses require the court to impose the maximum fine. Your defense lawyer can discuss with you what kinds of fines you might expect if convicted of your specific charge or charges.
Drivers License Suspension
Most felony drug abuse offenses include a provision that a judge may suspend or revoke your driver’s license.
Forfeiture of Criminal Proceeds
One penalty that is specific to felony drug abuse offenses is the forfeiture of property related to the offense on conviction. Ohio Rev. Code 2925.42. The idea is that you shouldn’t profit from a felony drug abuse offense, so the statute allows the court in lieu of the usual felony fines to impose a fine when you plead guilty or are convicted of up to twice the gross profits or proceeds you received from the felony drug abuse activity. For example, if you plead guilty to or are convicted of drug trafficking and there’s evidence to prove you received $50,000 in proceeds from selling illicit drugs, you could be fined $100,000 — well more than the $20,000 maximum felony fine in Ohio Rev. Code 2929.18.
If you’re convicted of a felony drug abuse offense, there are a number of other negative effects you’re likely to experience as a result of now having a permanent criminal drug history. Some possible consequences include:
- Failing to pass background checks for job or rental housing applications
- Denial of immigration visa, green card, or citizenship application and deportation to your home country if you’re not a U.S. resident
- Loss of your professional license if you’re a doctor, lawyer, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, or other licensed professional
- Loss of your commercial driver’s license
- Denial of admission to a college or university and ineligibility to receive federal financial aid for higher education
Defenses to Felony Drug Abuse
Because the term “felony drug abuse” can mean so many different drug crimes, how your lawyer approaches your defense will very much be specific to your individual charges and circumstances. When your lawyer is fighting a possession charge on your behalf, he or she is likely to employ different strategies than when fighting a trafficking or corrupting another with drugs charge.
However, there are some common themes in defense of drug cases, and your lawyer may apply one of these to your case:
- The prosecutor can’t prove that the drug was an illegal controlled substance
- The police had no reasonable suspicion to arrest you
- The police had no probable cause to search you or your property
- The police didn’t get a warrant before searching you or your property
- The police used illegal surveillance or wiretapping against you
- The police violated your constitutional rights