Possession of cocaine is a serious felony drug offense in Ohio that can be punishable by years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. Consequently, being charged with cocaine possession can be a terrifying and stressful experience. You face not only the disruption to your life of a potentially lengthy prison sentence and the financial devastation of trying to figure out how to pay hefty fines, but a felony conviction also can cost your employment, your housing, and have a damaging effect on many other aspects of your life.
If you’ve been charged with possession of cocaine, it’s important that you seek the help of an experienced Columbus cocaine possession lawyer. With the aid of an attorney, you may be able to avoid some of the more serious consequences of a felony conviction by getting your charge reduced or getting your case dismissed if the law or the evidence is on your side.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine for purposes of Ohio’s criminal drug laws includes the leaves of the coca plant and any of its compounds, salts, isomers, derivatives, or extracts unless the leaves or extract do not contain cocaine. That includes powder cocaine as well as crack cocaine.
Cocaine is listed as a Schedule II drug under Ohio Rev. Code Ohio Rev. Code 3719.41 along with other narcotics such as raw opium, hydrocodone and oxycodone. Schedule I drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse and restricted medical value.
Possession of any quantity of cocaine is a felony crime in Ohio under Ohio Rev. Code 2925.11(C)(4). To convict you, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You possessed cocaine
- You knew that the substance in your possession was cocaine
- You intended to possess it
The idea of possession isn’t always clear-cut. Possession can by physical, such as having a quantity of cocaine in a purse or backpack or in your pocket. But possession also can be constructive, meaning that you don’t have the cocaine on your person, but it’s somewhere you can easily access it to take possession. You may be charged based on constructive possession when the cocaine is found in your car or in your apartment, or even in the possession of another person if you gave it to them to hold and you had the ability to retake possession.
The idea at the heart of making a case for possession is that of “dominion and control.” If you exercise dominion and control over the cocaine, you may be deemed to possess it. So if you can readily grab the cocaine out of your glove box, or command the other person to return it to you, and then would have it in your physical possession, the cocaine would be under your dominion and control.
Penalties for Possession of Cocaine
Penalties are set in the Ohio Revised Code and vary depending on the amount of the drug in your possession and the degree of felony conviction. Penalties also may be affected by previous felony drug convictions and may increase if the offense is committed in the vicinity of a juvenile.
Additionally, any drug conviction in Ohio may result in a driver’s license suspension.
Statutory penalties for cocaine possession in Ohio include:
- For less than five (5) grams, possession of cocaine is considered a fifth degree felony punishable by six (6) to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $2,500
- For five (5) to 10 grams, possession of cocaine is considered a fourth degree felony punishable by six (6) to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000
- For 10 to 20 grams, possession of cocaine is considered a third degree felony punishable by nine (9) months to three (3) years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 *
- For 20 to 27 grams, possession of marijuana is considered a second degree felony punishable by two (2) to eight (8) years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 **
- For 27 to 100 grams, possession of marijuana is considered a first degree felony punishable by three (3) to 11 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 **
- For more than 100 grams, possession of cocaine is a first degree felony punishable by three (3) to 11 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 ***
* Some prison time is mandatory for a second subsequent felony drug conviction.
** Some prison time is mandatory.
*** Maximum prison term is mandatory if defendant is a major drug offender.
Other Consequences of an Ohio Drug Conviction
In addition to criminal penalties, a felony possession of cocaine conviction can have serious consequences that last the rest of your life. Felony convictions in general can prevent you from getting a job or renting an apartment. If you’re a lawyer, doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or some other profession that is licensed by the state, a felony conviction may result in your license being suspended or revoked.
Drug convictions will be a barrier to pursuing a college or graduate degree, and even if you can get admitted to a college or university with a felony conviction on your record you won’t be able to get federal financial aid such as grants or student loans.
A felony conviction also may affect your immigration status and applications for residency or citizenship, and may have a bearing on your custody of your children if you find yourself involved in a custody dispute.
Possible Defenses for Possession of Cocaine
Because possession of cocaine is such a serious charge, it’s important to have a criminal defense attorney at your side who will vigorously defend you in court. A skilled lawyer will comb through every piece of evidence and every facet of the prosecutor’s argument to look for weak spots to attack in the effort to provide enough reasonable doubt that a jury may find you innocent, or the prosecutor might be willing to negotiate.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, there may be several options available for fighting your charge and trying to get your case dismissed or your charge — and penalties — reduced.
The most common defense strategies include:
- Presenting evidence to show that the drug was not under your dominion and control
- Presenting evidence to show that you didn’t know what the substance was, or had no intent to possess cocaine
- Preventing evidence that was obtained improperly or illegally from being used against you in court
- Showing that the police violated your constitutional rights through an illegal search, illegal wiretapping or surveillance, or failing to properly administer your Miranda rights warning
- Arguing that the officer had no reasonable suspicion to seize you
- Arguing that the state can’t prove that the substance they found is actually cocaine
Charged with possession? Contact a Columbus cocaine possession lawyer today.
Whether you have been charged for the first time or a subsequent time, having an experienced Columbus drug crimes lawyer on your side to evaluate the evidence and reduce the penalties you face is imperative to protecting your freedoms. If convicted of cocaine possession, you face months or even years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines, and irreparable harm to your reputation. Call us at (614) 500-3836 or via email at [email protected] for a free consultation. We are available 24/7.
For over a decade, the Columbus criminal defense attorneys at LHA have successfully represented clients on criminal offenses ranging from minor misdemeanors to first degree felonies. That extensive previous experience will enable us to better help you.