Your best chance at avoiding or minimizing the possible effects on your life from a conviction for trafficking in counterfeit drugs is to seek the help of an experienced Columbus trafficking counterfeit drugs lawyer. You may have options for fighting the charge or negotiating a reduction in your charge or penalties, and a good defense lawyer can go over those options with you and aggressively pursue them on your behalf.
Ohio law treats offenses related to drug trafficking very seriously, even when the substance isn’t actually an illicit drug. If you represent a substance as a drug or make it look like a controlled substance, you can be charged with trafficking in counterfeit drugs.
Convictions for making, selling, delivering, or advertising counterfeit drugs are felonies in Ohio, and can have far-reaching impacts on your life. In addition to jail time and hefty fines, you may lose your driver’s license, and might find yourself in jeopardy of losing your livelihood.
Counterfeit Drugs Defined
The legal definition of counterfeit drugs centers on the ideas of representation and belief. In essence, if you lead someone to believe that one substance is a controlled substance, then you may be charged with a counterfeit drug offense.
A substance doesn’t have to be something illicit to be considered a counterfeit drug. It could be something completely harmless — and legal — but still trigger Ohio’s counterfeit drug laws. For example, a news story from Canton in August 2014 detailed the arrest of a man who had made a facsimile of crack cocaine using baking soda. Baking soda by itself is a perfectly legal substance to possess. Most people probably have some in their kitchens. But by making it into something he represented as an illicit drug, the man ended up charged with counterfeit drug trafficking.
Under Ohio Rev. Code 2925, a counterfeit drug may include:
- Any substance that is fraudulently labeled with a drug trademark or trade name
- Any substance with no identifying marks or labels that you represent was made by a pharmaceutical company when in fact it was made by someone else
- Any substance you represent is a particular controlled substance, but in fact is a different substance
- Any substance a reasonable person would think is a controlled substance because of the way it looks, is packaged, is distributed, or is sold
Trafficking in Counterfeit Drugs
Ohio Rev. Code 2925.37 is the statute that criminalizes possession and trafficking in counterfeit controlled substances. The statute covers a broad range of behaviors that could include passing aspirin off as a narcotic pain medicine such as oxycodone or selling a plate that lets a drug counterfeiter stamp a pharmaceutical company’s trademark onto a fake pill to make it look like a prescription drug.
It also includes the simple act of making a statement to someone that the drug you’re handing them will have the effect of a controlled substance, such as giving someone a baggie of oregano and telling them they’ll get stoned if they roll it into a joint and smoke it, or in other words leading them to believe it’s marijuana by representing that it’ll have the same effects as pot even if you don’t actually say that the oregano is pot.
The statute breaks down offenses related to trafficking in counterfeit drugs as follows:
- If you make, sell, offer to sell, or deliver any substance you know is a fake drug, you may be charged with trafficking in counterfeit controlled substances.
- If you make, sell, offer to sell, or deliver any device used to fake a trademark on a counterfeit drug, you may be charged with trafficking in counterfeit controlled substances.
- If you sell, offer to sell, deliver, or give any fake drug to a juvenile, you may be charged with aggravated trafficking in counterfeit controlled substances.
- If you make a direct or indirect representation that a fake drug as an actual drug by telling someone it has the physical or psychological effects of the actual drug, you may be charged with promoting and encouraging drug abuse.
- If you advertise either directly or indirectly that a fake drug is an actual drug, you may be charged with fraudulent drug advertising.
Penalties for Trafficking Counterfeit Drugs
Offenses related to making, selling, delivering, or advertising counterfeit controlled substances all are felonies under Ohio law. Felony convictions can result in significant jail time and fines. Additionally, felony drug convictions come with a possible driver’s license suspension.
The specific statutory penalties for counterfeit drug offenses under Ohio Rev. Code 2925.37 are:
- Trafficking in Counterfeit Controlled Substances — A conviction for this offense is a fifth-degree felony, punishable by a possible prison sentence of 6 to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500. If the offense is committed near a juvenile or a school, it becomes a fourth-degree felony, punishable by 6 to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Aggravated Trafficking in Counterfeit Controlled Substances — This offense is a fourth-degree felony that can carry a prison sentence of 6 to 18 months, as well as a fine of up to $5,000.
- Promoting and Encouraging Drug Abuse — This offense is a fifth-degree felony. A court may impose a prison sentence of 6 to 12 months, and a fine of up to $2,500. When the offense is committed in the vicinity of a juvenile or a school, it’s a fourth-degree felony and can be punished with 6 to 18 months incarceration and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Fraudulent Drug Advertising — This offense is a fifth-degree felony. The possible prison term is 6 to 12 months, and you may be required to pay a fine of up to $2,500. It’s a fourth-degree felony if committed near a juvenile or a school, making the possible sentence 6 to 18 months and the possible fine up to $5,000.
Additional Consequences of Conviction
Conviction for a drug offense is a serious matter in Ohio. You face not only the prospect of months in prison and thousands of dollars in fines, but you also may find that the conviction interferes with your life in a number of other ways.
The effects of a drug conviction on your permanent criminal record may include:
- Being denied employment or losing your existing job
- Landlords refusing to rent to you
- Loss of your professional license, such as to practice law, medicine, dentistry, nursing, or pharmacy
- Being denied admission to college and loss of your eligibility for financial aid
- Loss of your immigration status and/or deportation if you’re not a U.S. citizen
Defenses for Trafficking Counterfeit Drugs
The defenses available to you will vary depending on the unique circumstances of your case and which of the different offenses related to counterfeit drugs you’ve been charged with. You may have a chance at fighting your charge if you didn’t know the substance was a counterfeit drug, or if you didn’t make any representations about the supposed drug or its effects.
In drug cases, successful defenses often rely on challenging the way police handled searches, surveillance, arrests, or handling the evidence. When police make a mistake in the process, such as failing to get a search warrant before searching you or your property or forgetting to administer your Miranda rights warning when taking you into custody, your defense lawyer may be able to convince a judge that evidence obtained through that search or by questioning you after you were arrested shouldn’t be allowed into court.
Other common defenses in drug cases include:
- Getting evidence suppressed because police didn’t document the chain of custody when collecting or storing the evidence
- Getting evidence suppressed because it was obtained through illegal wiretapping or surveillance
- Getting evidence suppressed because it was obtained through the use of drug-sniffing dogs
- Arguing that your constitutional rights were violated
- Arguing that police had no probable cause to search or arrest you
If you have been charged with trafficking fake drugs or real drugs, you need a strong defense to avoid the most severe penalties you face. Call Luftman, Heck & Associates today to speak with a Columbus drug crimes lawyer who can walk you through your options. Reach us 24/7 at (614) 500-3836.
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.