When you left home, you never thought you might be arrested for drug possession. However, that is just what happened.
You and your friends were enjoying the evening when you were stopped and searched by police officers. The next thing you heard was, “You have the right to remain silent.” Panic sets in, and you do not know what to do next.
The steps you take next can have a significant impact on the outcome of your criminal case. Whether you are innocent or guilty, you need to treat drug charges very seriously. You could be sentenced to a lengthy jail sentence and required to pay a large fine upon your release.
Understanding Drug Possession Charges in Ohio
The first thing you need to do is understand the criminal drug charges you face. You are likely to be charged under one of two criminal statutes related to drug possession.
Possession of Controlled Substances
Ohio Revised Code §2925.11 states that it is illegal for anyone to possess, use, or knowingly obtain a controlled substance.
Possession with Intent to Distribute
Ohio Revised Code §2925.03 states that it is illegal to do any of the following acts:
- Sell a controlled substance or analog
- Offer to sell a controlled substance of analog
- Prepare to ship, ship, transport, deliver, prepare for distribution, or distribute a controlled substance that you have reason to believe is intended for resale by someone else
Many people refer to possession with intent to distribute as drug trafficking.
Now that you understand the charges you could face, you also need to understand the potential criminal penalties for a drug possession charge.
Penalties for Convictions of Drug Possession in Ohio
The potential penalties for a drug possession charge depend on a few factors. The type and quantity of the controlled substance in your possession impact the severity of your punishment. If you intended to distribute or sell the controlled substance, your punishment could be more severe.
Other factors that could impact your sentence for drug possession includes your previous criminal history. Also, if the drug arrest was near a school or you had a gun or other weapon in your possession when you were arrested, the penalty for a conviction could be worse.
Drug possession charges in Ohio range from a first-degree misdemeanor up to a first-degree felony. The punishment between the least serious offense and the most serious offense is substantial.
The potential sentence for a first-degree misdemeanor drug charge is a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail. However, the potential sentence for a first-degree felony charge is a fine of up to $20,000 and up to ten years in prison.
Controlled Substances Schedules in Ohio
Ohio separates controlled substances into five categories. The drug’s category has an impact on your sentence for a conviction of drug possession. Below are the five schedules and examples of drugs in each category.
Schedule I – No Known Medical Use and High Risk of Abuse
Schedule II – Some Accepted Medical Uses and High Risk of Abuse
- Raw opium
Schedule III – Widely Accepted Medical Uses and Some Risk for Abuse
- Barbituric acid
Schedule IV – Some Accepted Medical Uses and Low Risk of Abuse
Schedule IV – Wide Range of Medical Uses and Low Risk of Abuse
- Drugs with less than 200mg of codeine per 100g
- Drugs with less than 100mg of opium per 100g
Do not assume that a judge will give you a light sentence because a drug has a low risk of abuse. Other factors in your case could result in a harsh penalty regardless of the controlled substance you had in your possession.
What Should I Do While I Am Being Arrested?
Do not resist arrest. If you resist arrest, you could face other criminal charges. Try to remain calm and be polite.
Say as little as possible during your arrest. You are not required to answer questions except your name and address.
Once you arrive at the police statement, request your telephone call and call a criminal defense lawyer. If you do not know a local criminal defense attorney, call a family member or friend and ask them to locate a drug crimes attorney for you.
If the police officers question you, respectfully tell them you are invoking your right to remain silent. Even though the police officers might keep talking or asking questions, resist the urge to respond. The only response necessary is that you do not intend to answer questions without an attorney present.
What Happens Next?
After you are processed through booking, you will be held until you have an arraignment hearing. A judge explains your legal rights and the charges against you.
The judge asks you to enter a plea. If you do not have an attorney at this time, you can plead not guilty.
It is important during the arraignment to request bail. If the judge grants bail, you can pay it and avoid staying in jail until your case is set for a hearing.
Are There Defenses to Drug Possession Charges in Ohio?
As with all criminal charges, you have the right to defend yourself in court against the charges. Whether you have a valid defense depends on the facts of your case.
Some common drug possession defenses used in court include:
- You were not aware that you had the drugs. For example, you were wearing a friend’s coat, and the drugs were in his coat.
- You did not have possession of the drugs. An example might be roommates in the same home or multiple people in a vehicle. Drugs are found in the home or car, but they were not your drugs.
- Illegal searches and seizures. If the police violate your rights by illegally searching you, your vehicle, or your home, all evidence gathered during the illegal search can be thrown out of court.
- Lack of chain of custody. The chain of custody is critical in drug cases. Your case could be dismissed for a chain of evidence error.
- Errors in testing the substance. The state must prove that the substance recovered was an illegal drug. Errors or mistakes at the lab can be a defense to drug possession charges.
- If the police baited you into committing a crime, you could allege entrapment. For example, a police officer tricks you into buying drugs and then charges you with possession of drugs.
The key takeaway is that if you are charged with possession of drugs, you need to remain claim and exercise your legal rights. By exercising your legal rights, you can present a strong defense to the drug possession charges.