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Ohio Drug Offense FAQs

Ohio’s criminal drug laws are numerous and complex. Many of the statutes are intricately detailed, and for someone charged with a drug offense can be overwhelming. It can be challenging to try to figure out what your charge means and what the potential penalties are. This FAQ page is intended to answer some basic questions that you may have if you or someone you know has been charged with a drug offense in Ohio. However, no FAQ can answer every question. If you have further questions, we welcome you to call us for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case.

What is drug possession?

You may be charged with drug possession in Ohio if you knowingly have an illegal controlled substance, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, or ecstasy in your possession. You also may be charged if you have a prescription drug, such as Xanax, Valium, or Vicodin, without a valid prescription.

Possession can mean that the substance is on your person, or it can mean that the drug is found in your car, apartment, locker, or some other place where you would have access to take possession. You may even be deemed to possess a drug if you give it to someone else to hold, but have the ability to take it back and then have it on your person.

What is drug trafficking?

The term “trafficking” encompasses a few different actions. Trafficking can mean selling or offering to sell a controlled substance. It also can mean distributing a drug, packaging it for distribution, or transporting it. Trafficking doesn’t have to involve a monetary transaction. Simply giving someone a drug, or trading it to someone, also can be considered trafficking under Ohio law.

Doesn’t trafficking involve large amounts of drugs?

In Ohio, you can be charged with trafficking even for selling, giving, distributing, or transporting small amounts of a drug. A trafficking charge isn’t limited to large-scale drug operations. However, the quantity of the drug involved does affect what degree of felony you’re charged with, and the resulting penalties.

What should I do if I’ve been charged with a drug offense?

Drug offenses are serious crimes in Ohio, and if you’ve been charged you should contact an experienced Columbus drug lawyer and at least have a consultation about your options. If you’re convicted, you may face months or years of prison time, thousands of dollars in fines, loss of your driver’s license, and a number of other consequences resulting from a permanent record as a drug offender. A good drug defense lawyer may be able to help you reduce those penalties or get your case dismissed. (Looking for a consultation? Our Columbus drug attorneys are available 24/7 when you call .)

Do I need a Columbus drug lawyer if I’ve been charged with a drug offense?

Every defendant has a constitutional right to self-representation; however, you likely stand a much better chance at a favorable outcome with the help of an experienced Columbus defense lawyer. You may be concerned about the expense of an attorney, but the consequences you face if you’re convicted are likely to be much more costly in the long term and in a number of ways.

What happens if I get convicted of a drug offense?

There are a number of consequences of a conviction for a drug offense. First, there are the statutory penalties, which may include jail time and significant fines. Many drug offenses in Ohio are felonies and the statutory penalties can be severe. You may also lose your driver’s license with Ohio drug convictions, and if you have a professional license such as a law license, medical license, pharmacy license, or nursing license, you may lose your professional license temporarily or permanently, depending on the charge and the policies of the board that governs your license.

Beyond the statutory penalties, a conviction means that you now have a permanent criminal record as a drug offender. That can be an obstacle to getting a job, renting a place to live, going to college, or getting an immigration visa or green card.

What are some defenses to drug charges?

What defenses are available to fight your charge will depend on the nature of the charge, the facts of your case, what evidence the prosecutor has against you, and may also be affected by how the police conducted their investigation. Every case is unique, and so is every defense strategy. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate your case and discuss your defense options. You can also check out this page as a starting point.

Can I go to drug rehab instead of jail?

In some cases, your Columbus drug lawyer may be able to get you an alternate sentence that allows you to go through substance abuse treatment in lieu of a jail sentence. Whether this will be an option for you will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. An experienced drug defense lawyer can explain whether the prosecutor and court in your case might agree to substance abuse treatment for you.

Should I consent to letting police search my vehicle or my residence?

You have a constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. That generally means that police need to get a search warrant before searching you, your car, your home, or any other property that belongs to you. You are never required to consent to a search. In many instances, when police find evidence by searching without a warrant and without your consent, the evidence they found may be kept out of court and may result in your charges being reduced or dismissed. However, if you do consent to a search, then the police no longer are required to get a warrant. If you consent, you lose the ability to challenge the search based on the lack of a warrant.

Can I lose my driver’s license because of a drug charge?

Most drug convictions in Ohio give the court an option to suspend or revoke your driver’s license. Your best chance at avoiding a driver’s license suspension is to seek help from a skilled criminal defense lawyer who may be able to get your charge dismissed or reduced.

Can I lose my college financial aid for drug possession?

If you receive or want to receive federal financial aid, such as Pell grants or student loans, to pay for school, you must fill out a FAFSA form each year. The form asks if you have any convictions for possessing or selling illegal drugs. If the answer is “yes” then you lose eligibility for federal aid. You still may be able to get other forms of aid, but federal aid is a significant portion of the aid many students receive. If you’re concerned about losing financial aid, you should talk to a criminal defense lawyer about options for fighting your drug charge.

How will a drug charge affect my immigration status?

Drug convictions, particularly felonies, can result in your being denied an immigration visa, green card, or citizenship. If you already have a visa or green card, it can be revoked and you can be deported for a drug conviction.

Can I lose my professional license because of a drug charge?

Most Ohio drug laws required that your conviction be reported to professional licensing boards. That means if you have a license to practice law, medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, or any other profession that requires a license in Ohio, your drug conviction will be reported and the board may take action — including suspension or revocation of your license.

Will I go to jail for possession of marijuana?

Your sentence for a marijuana possession conviction depends on the amount of marijuana involved. Possession of very small amounts for personal use is a minor misdemeanor and may only result in a fine. However, the more of the drug you have in your possession, the more severe the potential penalties. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can discuss the possible penalties in your particular situation.

What are the penalties for growing marijuana?

Cultivating marijuana can be a fairly minor charge for small amounts, or it can be a very serious felony. Most Ohio drug laws increase the penalties as the amount of the drug involved in the underlying offense increases. A Columbus drug defense attorney can discuss the possible penalties for growing marijuana and the possible outcomes of your individual charge.

What are precursor chemicals?

Precursor chemicals are ingredients used to make methamphetamine. Ohio has a specific statute regarding purchase of these chemicals, and prohibits the purchase or acquisition of amounts in excess of statutory limits. In general, that prohibition includes over-the-counter drugs that include the drugs ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. When you purchase allergy medications or cold medicine that contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, those purchases are logged in a database. When your purchases exceed the amount in the statute, you may be charged with illegal purchase of precursor chemicals, which can be a serious misdemeanor offense in Ohio.

What are the penalties for possession of methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a dangerous, addictive drug that caught the attention of lawmakers because of its prevalence and because of the serious toll that long-term use takes on a person’s health. Ohio has harsh laws regarding meth possession, and makes possession a felony for even the smallest quantities of the drug. Penalties vary depending on the amount of meth you’re alleged to have possessed, but at a minimum you can be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, and the penalties increase with possession of larger amounts of the drug. A conviction for meth possession also has the potential for suspension of your driver’s license.

What are the penalties for manufacturing methamphetamine?

Manufacturing methamphetamine is at least a second-degree felony in Ohio, and you may be sentenced to years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines if you’re convicted. Even on a first conviction, Ohio law requires that you be sentenced to at least 3 years in prison.

What are the controlled substances schedules?

Ohio drug offenses often involve street drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or meth, but also may involve illegal possession of prescription drugs, such as Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, or Oxycontin. The controlled substances schedules list all of the substances that are designated controlled substances, i.e., those that are regulated by law. The five schedules break controlled substances down into categories based on their dangerousness and medical usefulness. Schedule I drugs are those considered the most dangerous and with no medical usefulness, while Schedule V drugs are those least likely to become addictive and with a high degree of medical utility. You can see this broken down in further detail here.

What are the penalties for possession of a controlled substance?

There is a wide range of penalties under Ohio law for a conviction for possession of controlled substances. The penalty will depend on the type of drug, where it falls on the controlled substances schedules, and the amount of the drug involved. Possession can be a relatively minor offense, or a very serious felony. An experienced drug defense attorney can discuss your individual circumstances and explain to you the possible penalties for your charge. Penalties may include jail time, fines, and loss of your driver’s license.

What is “drug abuse”?

In terms of charges, drug abuse is a broad term that describes a number of possible offenses under Ohio law. You don’t technically get charged with “drug abuse,” but when you’re convicted of an offense that is defined as a drug abuse offense in Ohio, that may affect your sentencing, particularly if you have prior convictions. Drug abuse offenses may include those related to possession, manufacturing or trafficking in drugs. They also include offenses related to permitting drug activity or coercing others into using drugs.

What are the penalties for drug abuse charges?

Because the term drug abuse includes a wide range of offenses, the penalties are varied and depend on the underlying charge.

Can I go to jail for someone else’s drug activities in my house?

In short, yes. Ohio has a charge called permitting drug abuse that makes it a serious misdemeanor to knowingly allow someone else to use your property for any offense defined as felony drug abuse. So if another person gets arrested in your house or your car, or in a property you lease to them, for possession of a sufficient quantity of drugs to make it a felony, you can be charged with permitting drug abuse. That also applies if they’re manufacturing methamphetamine on your property with your knowledge, or dealing drugs on your property, or growing marijuana — even if you’re not personally involved with those activities. As long as you know about the felony drug abuse activities and let them happen, you can get charged.

What does “corrupting with drugs” mean?

Corrupting with drugs is essentially coercing or deceiving someone else into taking drugs, or giving someone drugs with the purpose of causing them to become an addict, or harming someone by giving them drugs. Spiking someone’s drink at a party with a drug could be charged as corrupting with drugs, as could giving someone a sample of heroin with the intent of causing them to become an addict so they’ll then purchase more heroin from you.

What is drug paraphernalia?

Drug paraphernalia is any item that might be used to produce or use illegal substances. That might include a bong you use to smoke marijuana, or a roach clip to smoke a joint, or a needle to inject heroin, or a mirror and razor to cut lines of cocaine.

What are the penalties for possession of drug paraphernalia?

Possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor in Ohio with penalties that can range from a relatively small fine to jail time, depending on the circumstances and nature of the charge. You also face a possible driver’s license suspension if convicted.

What are counterfeit drugs?

Counterfeit drugs are just what they sound like — fake drugs. If you’re in possession or, or try to traffic in, a substance that is made to look like a controlled substance or that you represent as a controlled substance, you can be charged under Ohio law with possession of counterfeit drugs or counterfeit drug trafficking. That might include altering the label on aspirin tablets to make them look like a narcotic pain medicine. Even though aspirin is a legal substance, you can be charged.

If you have been charged with a drug offense in central Ohio, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Columbus drug lawyer. The penalties you face can be reduced or even dismissed depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense and the evidence the State has against you. We can walk you through your legal options in a free legal consultation when you call .

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Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP
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Columbus, OH 43215-5335


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