What You Should Know About Ohio Drug Possession Laws

ohio drug laws controlled substances

Ohio drug possession laws are codified by Ohio Revised Code Section 2925.11 and define possession of controlled substances as “knowingly obtaining, possessing, or using a controlled substance”.

Ohio drug laws classify controlled substances into five “schedules.” These schedules range from the most serious (Schedule I) to the least serious (Schedule V).

Possession of more serious drugs carries more severe penalties, while the penalties for possessing less serious drugs are not as harsh.

Ohio law provides different “bulk amounts” for each type of drug. These are benchmarks used to measure the appropriate penalty based on the quantity of the drug.

Criminal penalties for possessing a controlled substance can include prison sentences, fines, or both.

If you have been arrested for a drug possession crime in Ohio, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer today. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer gives you the best chance to reduce or eliminate your criminal charges.

Recent Case Result: Drug Crime Reduced to Disorderly Conduct

Ohio Drug Laws on Controlled Substances

Ohio drug laws follow federal classifications of controlled substances into five “schedules”:

  • Schedule I. Schedule I drugs are those that have a high potential for abuse and have no accepted medical uses. Examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and marijuana. But the Ohio Legislature has now enacted laws providing for medical use of marijuana with an approved license.
  • Schedule II. Schedule II drugs are drugs with a high potential for abuse but with limited accepted medical uses. These drugs are considered dangerous and can lead to severe mental and physical dependence. Cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, and fentanyl are some examples of Schedule II drugs.
  • Schedule III. Schedule III drugs are drugs with a moderate to low potential for abuse or dependence and have accepted medical uses. Ketamine and anabolic steroids are examples of Schedule III drugs. 
  • Schedule IV. Schedule IV drugs have a low potential for abuse or dependence. These drugs also have known medical uses. For example, Xanax, Valium, and Ambien are Schedule IV drugs.
  • Schedule V. Schedule V drugs have the least potential for abuse and the most common medical uses. Antidiarrheal and cough suppressants are examples of Schedule V drugs.

Whether a drug is a Schedule I or II controlled substance or a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance is important for criminal charges, penalties, and sentencing.

Related: Client with Possession of Heroin Charge Gets Diversion Program

Ohio Penalties for Possessing Controlled Substances

Penalties for possession of controlled substances depend on factors such as the type and the amount of the substance. For example, possession is more severely punished when it involves possession of Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances. 

The penalties for possessing a controlled substance also depend on how much of the substance the accused possessed.

Some controlled substances, including marijuana, LSD, heroin, and cocaine, are measured by weight. Other controlled substances are measured by what Ohio drug laws call a bulk amount.

Each controlled substance is assigned a bulk amount by statute. Penalties depend on whether the defendant possessed less or more than the bulk amount.

Note that possession is not a crime if the person has a valid prescription for the controlled substance. Many controlled substances, particularly Schedule III, IV, and V controlled substances, have accepted medical uses. Possessing a controlled substance without a valid prescription, however, can lead to misdemeanor or felony possession charges.

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Possession and Aggravated Possession of Controlled Substances in Ohio

Ohio law differentiates possession and aggravated possession of controlled substances based on the type of drug you possessed.

Schedule I and II Controlled Substances

Possession of most Schedule I or II controlled substances is aggravated possession of drugs under Ohio drug laws. However, possession of some Schedule I and II drugs will not result in aggravated possession charges.

Marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and LSD

Schedule I and II drugs that are excepted from aggravated possession charges include marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and LSD. Each drug carries its own penalties.

Marijuana

Possession of marijuana in Ohio is penalized as follows:

  • Less than 100 grams is a minor misdemeanor;
  • Greater than or equal to 100 grams but less than 200 grams is a fourth degree misdemeanor;
  • Greater than or equal to 200 grams but less than 1,000 grams is a fifth degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 1,000 grams but less than 20,000 grams is a third degree felony; and
  • Greater than or equal to 20,000 grams is a second degree felony.

If you’re charged with marijuana possession in Ohio, contact a criminal defense lawyer today.

Heroin

Possession of heroin in Ohio is penalized as follows:

  • Less than 10 unit doses or less than one gram is a fifth degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 10 unit doses but less than 50 unit doses or greater than or equal to one gram but less than five grams is a fourth degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 50 unit doses but less than 100 unit doses or greater than or equal to five grams but less than 10 grams is a third degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 100 unit doses but less than 500 unit doses or greater than or equal to 10 grams but less than 50 grams is a second degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 500 unit doses but less than 1,000 unit doses or greater than or equal to 50 grams but less than 100 grams is a first degree felony; and
  • Greater than or equal to 1,000 unit doses or greater than or equal to 100 grams is a first degree felony plus major drug offender status.

If you’re charged with heroin possession in Ohio, contact a criminal defense lawyer today.

Cocaine

Possession of both powder and crack cocaine in Ohio is penalized as follows:

  • Less than five grams is a fifth degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to five grams but less than 10 grams is a fourth degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 10 grams but less than 20 grams is a third degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 20 grams but less than 27 grams is a second degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 27 grams but less than 100 grams is a first degree felony; and
  • Greater than or equal to 100 grams is a first degree felony plus major drug offender status.

If you’re charged with cocaine possession in Ohio, contact a criminal defense lawyer today.

LSD

  • Less than 10 unit doses or less than one gram is a fifth degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 10 unit doses but less than 50 unit doses or greater than or equal to one gram but less than five grams is a fourth degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 50 unit doses but less than 250 unit doses or greater than or equal to five grams but less than 25 grams is a third degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 250 unit doses but less than 1,000 unit doses or greater than or equal to 25 grams but less than 100 grams is a second degree felony;
  • Greater than or equal to 1,000 unit doses but less than 5,000 unit doses or greater than or equal to 100 grams but less than 500 grams is a first degree felony; and
  • Greater than or equal to 5,000 unit doses or greater than or equal to 500 grams is a first degree felony plus major drug offender status.

If you’re charged with LSD possession in Ohio, contact a criminal defense lawyer today.

All other schedule I and II controlled substances

If you possess any other Schedule I or II controlled substance you will be charged with aggravated drug possession. Aggravated possession of drugs is a felony but can vary in degree based on the amount in possession:

  • Less than the bulk amount is a fifth-degree felony.
  • Bulk amount or more, but less than five times the bulk amount, is a third-degree felony.
  • Five times the bulk amount or more, but less than 50 times the bulk amount, is a second-degree felony.
  • 50 times the bulk amount or more, but less than 100 times the bulk amount, is a first-degree felony.
  • 100 times the bulk amount or more is a first-degree felony.

If you’re charged with aggravated possession of drugs in Ohio, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer today.

Schedule III, IV, and V Controlled Substances

A person in possession of a Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance may be charged with possession of drugs under Ohio drug possession laws.

Possession of drugs can result in a first-degree misdemeanor charge or a felony of the fifth, fourth, second, or first degree depending on how much of the substance was in the defendant’s possession.

  • Less than the bulk amount is a first-degree misdemeanor.
  • Bulk amount or more, but less than five times the bulk amount, is a fourth-degree felony.
  • Five times the bulk amount or more, but less than 50 times the bulk amount, is a third-degree felony.
  • Fifty times the bulk amount or more is a second-degree felony.

Regardless of the schedule of the controlled substance, the offense (as determined by the bulk amount or weight) ordinarily carries the same penalty.

What Happens If I’m Convicted of a Drug Offense?

If you’re convicted of a drug offense in Ohio, you face a number of consequences. The harshest penalties you face are jail time and fines. Your driver license may even be suspended or revoked if you are convicted of a drug offense.

If you hold a professional license such as a law license, medical license, or nursing license, you could lose it either temporarily or permanently.

Additionally, you will have a permanent criminal record as a drug offender. Having a criminal record with a drug charge can make it harder to get a job, find housing, and get into higher education programs.

Sentences for Violating Ohio Drug Possession Laws

Ohio law supplies suggested sentencing, but the penalties can vary depending on the particular facts and circumstances of each case:

  • A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and 180 days in jail.
  • A fifth-degree felony carries a maximum fine of $2,500 and between six and 12 months in prison.
  • A fourth-degree felony may result in a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison sentence between six and 18 months.
  • A third-degree felony is punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and between one to five years in prison.
  • A second-degree felony may result in a fine of up to $15,000 and a prison sentence of between two and eight years.
  • A first-degree felony may involve a maximum $20,000 fine and between three and 11 years in prison.
  • If the quantity is extremely large, a person may be labeled as a major drug offender (MDO) and the penalty would include a mandatory minimum sentence of 11 years.

The sentences listed here are the penalties suggested by Ohio law. Sentences imposed in a possession case may deviate from these guidelines. Because criminal sentencing depends on the circumstances, speak with an experienced attorney about the specifics of your case.

Possible Defenses

The defenses you might have against a drug possession charge depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The facts of your case, 
  • Evidence the prosecution has against you, and
  • The manner in which the police conducted their investigation.

Your criminal defense lawyer could argue that some or all evidence should be excluded because the search or seizure was unconstitutional under the 4th Amendment. If you did not receive proper Miranda warnings when you were taken into custody, your lawyer could also argue that any incriminating statements you made to police and resulting evidence should be excluded under the 5th Amendment.

You should talk to an Ohio criminal defense lawyer today to find out what defenses might apply to your case.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I Able to Go to Rehab Instead of Jail?

Depending on the facts of your case, you might be able to go to rehab instead of jail. When your punishment for a criminal offense is not jail time, you receive what is called an alternative sentence. One type of alternative sentence is attending and completing a substance abuse treatment program at a treatment center.

Working with a criminal defense lawyer can increase your chances of receiving an alternative sentence instead of jail time.

What Are the Penalties If I’m Caught Drug Trafficking?

If you are caught trafficking drugs in Ohio, the penalties vary depending on the type of drug and the amount of the drug you’re caught with.

Schedule I and II drugs

If you’re arrested for trafficking less than the bulk amount of a Schedule I or II drug, you’ll be charged with a fourth-degree felony. If the quantity of the drug equals or exceeds the bulk amount but is less than five times the bulk amount, the charge is a third-degree felony.

If the amount of the drug equals or exceeds five times the bulk amount but is less than 50 times the bulk amount, you’ll be charged with a second-degree felony.

Finally, if the quantity of the drug equals or exceeds 50 times the bulk amount, the resulting charge is a first-degree felony.

Schedule III, IV, and V drugs

If you’re arrested for trafficking less than the bulk amount of a Schedule III, IV or V drug, you’ll be charged with a fifth-degree felony. If the quantity of the drug equals or exceeds the bulk amount but is less than five times the bulk amount, the charge is a fourth-degree felony.

If the amount of the drug equals or exceeds five times the bulk amount but is less than 50 times the bulk amount, you’ll be charged with a third-degree felony.

Finally, if the quantity of the drug equals or exceeds 50 times the bulk amount, the resulting charge is a second-degree felony.

Trafficking near schools or juveniles

It’s also important to know that if you’re caught trafficking Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V drugs near a school, the charge is one degree higher. For example, if the original charge would be a second-degree felony, the charge becomes a first-degree felony.

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer If I’m Charged with Possessing Drugs in Ohio?

If you’re charged with possessing drugs in Ohio, you are not required to have a criminal defense lawyer. You have the constitutional right to represent yourself throughout the criminal justice process.

However, hiring a criminal defense attorney gives you a better shot at getting your charges reduced or dropped. Working with a lawyer also minimizes the chances that you’ll make a mistake in the criminal justice system. Although lawyers are not cheap, the negative consequences of not using an attorney outweigh the costs of an attorney.

Contact an Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested or are under investigation for possession of a controlled substance, turn to the defense team at Gounaris Abboud, LPA. With over 50 years of combined experience, we have the qualifications to take on even the most challenging drug offense case. We have a strong track record of providing positive results for our clients.

If you are interested in discussing your case, schedule a free initial consultation today.

Contact us online or call our office at 937-222-1515 to speak with a member of our team.

Author Photo

Nicholas Gounaris

Mr. Gounaris is able to understand legal issues from many different vantage points and that experience has proved invaluable in assisting his clients. Mr. Gounaris regularly represents clients in Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Preble, and Warren Counties as well as in the Federal Courts located in the Southern District of Ohio and throughout the United States. He provides clients of the firm with competent legal representation and focuses his law practice in the areas of DUI DefenseCriminal Defense, Family Law Issues, Federal Criminal Law and Personal Injury cases.

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