Caught Selling? Fighting Drug Distribution Charges

Written By: Moermond & Mulligan, LLC

Last Updated: 06-07-2024

Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2024 at 9:00 am    

Caught Selling_ Fighting Drug Distribution Charges Image

Drug distribution charges in Ohio can be daunting, but you shouldn’t try to handle your defense yourself. A seasoned criminal defense attorney should be prepared to dissect the prosecution’s case, expose any weaknesses, and employ strategic defenses tailored to your unique situation.

What Is Drug Distribution?

Ohio’s drug trafficking laws are comprehensive and designed to address a range of substances and scenarios. Is drug distribution the same as trafficking? What is the legal definition of the distribution of drugs in Ohio? In Ohio, drug distribution involves more than just the illegal sale of controlled substances like heroin or cocaine.

What does illegal distribution mean? Illegal distribution means the distribution of prescription medications outside of legal medical practices. Critical elements of the drug trafficking statute include:

  • Selling or Offering to Sell: The statute specifically makes it a crime to “sell or offer to sell” any controlled substance or prescription medication without authorization. This means that any transaction where drugs are exchanged for money, goods, or services, even if the suspect didn’t complete the exchange, can lead to charges of drug distribution.
  • Preparation to Sell: What is the charge of intent to distribute in Ohio? Actions that demonstrate an intent to sell, such as dividing drugs into smaller portions or repackaging prescription pills, are also covered under this law. These preparations show intent to distribute, whether the drugs are street drugs or medications intended for legitimate medical use (although manufacturers, licensed health professionals, pharmacists, and some others are exempt from this law).

This comprehensive approach ensures that both illicit drugs and prescription medications are regulated to prevent abuse. Distributing prescription medications without proper authorization is just as illegal as selling controlled substances and carries severe consequences.

When Is Drug Distribution a Federal Offense?

Drug distribution charges escalate to the federal level under certain circumstances. If the activity crosses state lines, involves importing or exporting drugs across U.S. borders, or occurs on federal property, the crime becomes a federal offense.

Additionally, federal agencies like the DEA may take jurisdiction if the distribution is part of a more extensive network or conspiracy that operates over multiple states. Large quantities of drugs or the involvement of dangerous substances like fentanyl can also trigger federal charges. Being charged at the federal level often leads to more severe penalties and longer sentences than state charges.

Penalties for Drug Distribution Convictions

Ohio’s penalties for drug distribution are structured according to the degree of the felony or misdemeanor. These penalties vary based on the type and quantity of the drug and the distribution’s proximity to sensitive areas like schools. What amount of drugs is considered trafficking in Ohio? What is the sentence for MDO in Ohio? Major drug offenders can be charged, depending on the degree, based on:

Fifth-Degree Felony

Often the starting point for distributing controlled substances such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines in small quantities. Penalties include fines up to $2,500 and 6 to 12 months in prison.

Fourth Degree Felony

This level of crime applies to 200 to 1,000 grams of marijuana, 10 to 50 doses of heroin, or 5 to 10 grams of cocaine, among others, and penalties include fines of up to $5,000 and 6 to 18 months in prison.

Third-Degree Felony

This degree may apply to larger quantities of drugs or sales near schools or to minors. It carries stiffer penalties, including fines up to $10,000 and prison terms ranging from 1 to 5 years.

Second-Degree Felony

Applies to even larger quantities or more hazardous substances like fentanyl. Convictions can result in fines up to $15,000 and 2 to 8 years in prison.

First-Degree Felony

This type of charge is for the most serious offenses involving large-scale trafficking or distribution of hazardous drugs. The penalties can be severe, including fines of up to $20,000 and 3 to 11 years in prison.

At the federal level, penalties for drug trafficking vary according to the federal sentencing guidelines and differ mainly by quantity and prior convictions. These can range from a minimum of 5 years to life in prison, with potential fines exceeding $10 million for the most serious cases involving large quantities of dangerous drugs. In contrast, do first-time drug offenders go to jail in Ohio? Yes, the amount of instances of drug distribution does not affect sentencing and jail time.

Proving a Drug Distribution Charge in Ohio

When trying to prove someone is guilty of drug distribution in Ohio, the prosecution must prove specific elements beyond a reasonable doubt. These include:

  • Controlled Substance Involvement: The substance in question must be a controlled substance under Ohio law.
  • Knowledge and Intent: The accused must have knowingly or intentionally possessed, manufactured, distributed, or dispensed the controlled substance.
  • Lack of Authorization: The defendant must not have a valid prescription, license, or legal authority to possess or distribute the controlled substance.
  • Intent to Distribute: Evidence must demonstrate that the defendant intended to distribute the substance to others.

Evidence typically used by prosecutors in Ohio may include:

  • Quantity: The amount of the drug seized can indicate intent to distribute.
  • Paraphernalia: The presence of scales, packaging materials, or large amounts of cash can corroborate distribution intent.
  • Communications: Recorded conversations or digital messages discussing distribution can be used as evidence of criminal activity.
  • Witness Testimony: Eyewitnesses, informants, or undercover officers may testify to the defendant’s activities.

Defense Strategies for Drug Distribution Charges in Ohio

Caught Selling_ Fighting Drug Distribution Charges Image 2When building a defense against drug distribution charges in Ohio, experienced attorneys might employ several strategic approaches, including:

  • Suppressing Evidence: Filing motions to suppress evidence based on violations of constitutional rights. This includes illegal searches and seizures or improperly executed warrants.
  • Challenging the Prosecution’s Case: Attacking the credibility of the evidence presented by the prosecution. This includes the accuracy of drug quantity measurements and the reliability of witness testimony.
  • Procedural Discrepancies: Identifying and arguing procedural errors or lapses in handling the case that could potentially lead to a dismissal of charges.
  • Negotiating Plea Deals: Working to reduce the charges from distribution to lesser offenses like simple possession, potentially through plea bargaining if appropriate.
  • Questioning Drug Identification: Disputing the chemical analysis used to identify the substance as a controlled drug to undermine the prosecution’s case.
  • Eyewitness Testimony Scrutiny: Challenging the reliability and credibility of eyewitnesses or informants and pointing out biases or inconsistencies in their testimony.
  • Character Evidence: Presenting character witnesses and other evidence to portray the defendant positively, emphasizing rehabilitation and community contributions.
  • Sentencing Advocacy: Utilizing sentencing guidelines to argue for reduced sentences or alternatives to incarceration, focusing on rehabilitation opportunities.

Why Hire a Cincinnati Drug Distribution Lawyer?

With over 50 years of combined experience, Moermond & Mulligan, LLC provides skilled defense for Ohioans facing drug distribution charges. Our seasoned attorneys understand the complexities of these cases and are ready to fight these drug trafficking charges for your rights. Contact us online or by calling (513) 421-9790 for an initial free consultation, and let us put our experience to work for your drug cases. Consequently, our Cincinnati criminal defense lawyers can help you understand how drug distribution charges affect your record.

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