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Prosecutor Must Prove Actual Weight of Drugs, Not Fillers

Posted On: January 20th, 2017   |   Posted by: Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP

When you are arrested for possessing, manufacturing, or selling drugs, the level of the offense depends on the type and amount of the drug based on weight. The weight of the drug you are accused of having is very important to your case. An incredibly small amount can lift your charge to a higher felony that adds years to a potential prison sentence. For instance, 20 grams of cocaine is charged as a third-degree felony while 21 grams will be charged as a second-degree felony. However, not all drugs are pure. In fact, a significant amount of illegal drugs manufactured and sold on the streets are mixed with other substances, known as fillers. In the past, prosecutors would weigh the total amount of the controlled substance and filler to determine the charge. A recent Ohio Supreme Court decision changes this procedure. Now, prosecutors are required to measure the actual weight of drugs without fillers in order to determine the appropriate charge.

If you have been charged with a crime based on the weight of a drug including the filler, call a Columbus criminal defense lawyer from Luftman, Heck & Associates as soon as possible. You may be able to fight your charges or sentence. Call us today at (614) 500-3836.

Ohio Supreme Court Case State v. Gonzales

In State v. Gonzales, the Ohio Supreme Court looked at whether the weight of cocaine mixed with another substance met the threshold for a specific charge or whether the prosecutor must charge based on the weight of only the cocaine. The issue arose because Rafael Gonzales was arrested for buying cocaine from a confidential informant. Of the two imitation bricks of cocaine Gonzales purchased, one contained cocaine weighing 139.2 grams in total and the other contained a tracking device. The bag that held the cocaine weighed between 3 to 20 grams. The prosecutors charged Gonzales with having more than 100 grams of cocaine, which is a first-degree felony and labels an individual a major drug offender. The prosecutor did not investigate whether the bag contained filler and if so, how much. At trial, the jury found Gonzales guilty of possessing cocaine equal to or more than 100 grams, which led to a mandatory prison sentence of 11 years.

Gonzales appealed to the Sixth District Court of Appeals. The appellate court reversed the decision upon finding the state must prove the defendant actually had the alleged weight of cocaine and not a cocaine mixture based on the clear wording of Ohio’s law. The state appealed to the Supreme Court, which took the case because the Second District Court of Appeals had decided differently in a similar situation.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed with the Sixth District’s finding. The Supreme Court found that not only was Ohio’s statute unambiguously clear in its meaning of cocaine, but the legislator also intended to reduce the amount of cocaine that caused an automatically elevated sentence. By weighing only the cocaine, the prosecutors would adhere to the letter and intent of the law.

Prosecutors Must Charge Based on Actual Weight of Drugs

The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision is now the clear interpretation of Ohio’s drug law. All prosecutors throughout Ohio must now have illegal substances tested for other materials. If there are fillers present, the drug must be separated from that filler in order to be properly weighed. Prosecutors will only be able to charge defendants based on the weight of the actual drug and not a drug mixture, unless a statute particularly allows that.

Contact a Columbus Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help

This ruling may be good news for many defendants. Drugs like cocaine are often cut with other substances, diluting the purity of the drug. By weighing only the amount of the actual illegal substance, defendants are likely to face slightly lower sentences. However, whether or not this adjustment leads to an abundance of lower drug charges remains to be seen. For individuals accused of possessing relatively pure drugs, it is unlikely to make a significant difference

If you are currently facing drug charges, contact a Columbus criminal defense lawyer from Luftman, Heck & Associates right away. Defense attorneys must be vigilant regarding prosecutor’s actions in drug cases now. We will ensure that the substance you are accused of possessing is properly tested, separated, and weighed.

For more information about your options for defending against drug charges, call Luftman, Heck & Associates at (614) 500-3836.

I can FINALLY breathe easy now. I want to thank Mr. Bowen and all the attorneys that helped me with this case.

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