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Understand Drug Trafficking Penalties in Ohio


Basic drug trafficking penalties

A person convicted of drug trafficking under Ohio state law receives stiff penalties: jail or prison time, criminal fines, and an automatic driver's license suspension, to name a few. Personal property, such as cash or cars, used while committing the offense can also be seized and not returned.

Anyone facing trial for drug trafficking needs representation from an experienced and tough Columbus criminal defense attorney who knows how to handle drug cases. Why? For one, the penalties are often mandatory. For another, maybe more so than in any other type of charge, drug charges are often wrought with issues in the way an officer handles the investigation - issues that may lead to evidence being suppressed. You'll want an attorney experienced in drug crimes who will know how to spot and argue the issues particular to your case.

The Details

What is drug trafficking?

Drug trafficking is a felony in Ohio. The exact penalty depends on the type of drug involved, the amount (meaning weight) of drug involved, and the circumstances involved. To explain the last criteria briefly without getting too technical, trafficking near a school and providing drugs for a person younger than 18 bring stiffer penalties than trafficking out of one's home, or selling drugs to an adult.

Drug trafficking charges do not just apply to those who "sell" drugs. Instead, a trafficking charge can be brought against anyone suspected of packaging to sell, gifting, shipping, transporting, selling, trading, preparing, or distributing a substance defined as a controlled substance under Ohio law. You can learn more about what counts as controlled substances here. A brief list includes:

  • Amphetamines, including prescription AD/HD medications
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • Prescription antianxiety medications like Xanax
  • Prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin
  • Prescription sedatives like Ambien
  • Steroids

As a crime, trafficking encompasses more than drug dealing, which is really just selling or bartering. Trafficking also covers actions like advertising on websites and arranging sales with a cellphone. A person who portions out doses of a controlled substance can face a trafficking charge, as can someone who is found with a controlled substance in their car.

Why does the amount of drug, or the type of drug matter?

Key to a trafficking charge and its potential penalty is (1) what type of drug is found; and (2) how much of that drug police find. An Ohio drug trafficking penalties attorney can explain all the differences. Essentially, trafficking any amount of anyputs a person at risk for a felony prosecution. The degree of the felony increases with the weight or dosage of the drug seized.

As an example, here's a generalized difference between marijuana and cocaine: A few grams of marijuana will generally be treated as a low-level fifth degree felony punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Trafficking a kilogram of cocaine will be treated as a first-degree felony punishable by up to 11 years in jail and $20,000 in fines.

Special Note on Marijuana and Drug Trafficking:

You might be surprised to see marijuana listed as the type of controlled substance that is serious enough to have such stiff penalties. With all the recent fuss in the media about legalization of marijuana, its easy to become confused about the law when it comes to this specific drug.

Just know that while possessing it in smaller amounts is usually just a minor misdemeanor, trafficking it is a felony. And "trafficking" means not only selling marijuana, or packaging it - but also "gifting" marijuana as well. Know that "gifting it" in the amount of twenty grams or over is not a misdemeanor-it's a felony.

Furthermore, cultivating marijuana is also a separate charge, and a serious offense. And even if you're just possessing a small amount of marijuana, know that you are still subject to a driver's license suspension if you get convicted of that charge.

Contact Campbell Law if you've been charged with a marijuana offense.

What does the driver's license suspension entail?

A convicted drug trafficker loses their personal driver's license and any commercial driver's license they hold for at least six months. And depending on the degree of your charge, your license could be suspended for even longer.

What types of property can be seized?

Cars, homes, industrial equipment, household items such as scales and baggers, and money are subject to seizure and destruction or sale. Police will often impound a suspected trafficker's vehicle immediately. Getting it back, even after being found not guilty, can be difficult.

What does it mean for a drug trafficking penalty to be mandatory?

Federal laws have recently been changed to reduce mandatory minimums for many drug offenses, especially those related to crack cocaine. Ohio law has not been altered in the same way. This means judges in state courts usually have little discretion when pronouncing prison terms and criminal fines for drug traffickers. They must impose exactly the penalty set by statute.

Consult a Drug Trafficking Lawyer in Columbus, OH

Successfully fighting an Ohio drug trafficking conviction requires challenging police procedure, evidence handling and interpretation, charging strategies, and witness testimony. The defense attorney must be fully involved in the case, and fully invested in her client, from the very first day. April Campbell, who has handled many different types of drug offenses, both at the trial level and on appeal, can provide these services for you. contact her online or call (614) 356-8515 to schedule a no-cost consultation.

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