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Drug Crimes FAQ

Criminal Law / Drug Cases / Drug Cases FAQ

DRUG TRAFFICKING

Individuals charged with drug trafficking in Ohio face severe penalties if they are convicted. The penalties may include fines, forfeiture of property, prison sentences, and license suspensions.

Q: What, exactly, is drug trafficking?

A: Drug trafficking is knowingly selling or offering to sell a controlled substance. A person also commits the offense of drug trafficking by shipping, transporting, delivering, or preparing a controlled substance for shipment/transportation/delivery when the person has reason to believe the recipient intends to sell the controlled substance.

Q: What if the seller does not receive money for the drug?

A: The seller can still be convicted of drug trafficking even if no money changes hands. The definition of “sale” within drug trafficking laws; includes barter, exchange, transfer, and gift.

Q: What is a controlled substance?

A: A controlled substance is a drug, compound, mixture or substance included in schedule I, II. III, IV, or V of the Ohio Revised Code and the United States Attorney General’s Office.

Q: What if the drug involved is a prescription medication?

A: Many prescription medications are included in the schedules of controlled substances. Therefore, if a person knowingly sells or offers to sell a prescription medication that is in one of those schedules, that person may be convicted of drug trafficking.

Q: What are the potential prison sentences for a person convicted of drug trafficking?

A: The potential sentences for drug trafficking depend on the type of drug and the amount of the drug. For example, trafficking a small amount of marijuana is a fifth degree felony, punishable by six months to 12 months in prison, whereas trafficking 25 grams or more of crack cocaine is a first degree felony punishable by three to ten years in prison. In some instances, a prison sentence is mandatory.

Q: What are the potential financial sanctions for drug trafficking?

A: The court may impose a fine, and the amount of the fine depends on the level of the offense. For example, a fifth degree felony carries a fine of up to $2,500, and a first degree felony carries a fine of up to $20,000. The court may also order the defendant to pay court costs, costs associated with any jail time, and costs associated with the investigation into the trafficking offense.

Q: Can a court order forfeiture of property associated with drug trafficking?

A: Yes. In addition to fines and court costs, the court may order the convicted trafficker to forfeit the proceeds from the drug trafficking. The court may also order the forfeiture of property used in committing the drug trafficking offense.

Q: Is there really a mandatory driver’s license suspension imposed for drug trafficking?

A: Yes. If a person is convicted of drug trafficking, the court must suspend that person’s driver’s license for at least six months and up to five years.

Q: Can a professional license be affected?

A: Yes. If someone is convicted of drug trafficking, the court must transmit a certified copy of the conviction to the licensing board or agency that has the authority to suspend or revoke the professional license (such as a license to practice medicine or law).

DRUG DATABASE

Q: What is the Drug Database?

A: In response to a law passed in May 2005 allowing the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy to create a drug database, the Board created a database of patients’ prescription drugs to monitor the misuse of controlled substances and other dangerous drugs.

Q: What information about me is included in the Drug Database?

A: Weekly, each pharmacy must send records of all prescriptions filled in Ohio for all patients receiving any controlled substance (e.g., Tylenol with Codeine, Vicodin, Percocet, Adderall, and Ritalin) and even some non-controlled substances (e.g., Soma and Ultram) to the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. Your local pharmacy must send to the Board a record of each of your prescriptions for any of these types of drugs. Each record must contain your name, address, telephone number, date of birth and the following:

  • date your doctor or dentist wrote your prescription
  • date your pharmacy filled your prescription
  • report of whether your prescription was new or a refill
  • name, strength, and national code of the drug
  • quantity of the drug
  • number of days’ supply of the drug
  • serial or prescription number assigned to your prescription
  • method of payment for the prescription, whether through insurance or with cash.

Q: Who can see my private prescription information?

A: The Ohio Board of Pharmacy can release any database information it chooses, but only to:

  1. designated representative of a government entity responsible for licensing, regulating or disciplining licensed health care professionals authorized to prescribe drugs (e.g., the Board of Medicine or the Board of Dentistry)
  2. any local, state or federal officer whose duties include drug-related law enforcement
  3. a grand jury, if such records are subpoenaed
  4. any pharmacist or prescriber who signs a form saying access to the information is needed for a patient’s medical or pharmaceutical treatment
  5. an individual seeking his/her own database information

Q: Can I find out who has asked to see my private prescription information?

A: There is no specific provision in the law allowing you to learn who asked and what information was provided

Q: How can I see my own private prescription information?

A: You must:

  1. complete a notarized request form and submit it in person or by mail
  2. appear in person at the Board of Pharmacy office in Columbus during normal business hours and show proof of identity with a current government-issued form of identification that contains a picture (a current state-issued identification card, a current state-issued driver’s license, or a valid passport)
  3. the cost of printing the document based upon the Board’s current per-page rate

Q: How can the other authorized, non-individual requestors get this information?

A: They must submit a form to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy in person, by mail, by a verified facsimile transmission, or by any other board-approved means. They are not required to appear in person at the Board of Pharmacy office during normal business hours, or show proof of identity with a current government issued form of identification or a valid passport, or pay the cost of printing and providing the information.

Q: Can I refuse to allow my prescription information to be included in the Board’s database?

A: No. The law does not require your notification or consent for your prescription information to be provided to the Board. Therefore, you cannot prevent the Board from reviewing your prescription information or from reporting to law enforcement authorities if they determine there may have been a violation.

Q: What can the Board do with my private prescription information?

A: The Board is required to review the information in the drug database to determine whether a violation of law may have occurred. If it determines that a violation may have occurred, the Board must notify the appropriate law enforcement agency or a government entity responsible for licensing, regulating or disciplining licensed health care professionals authorized to prescribe drugs. Further, the Board must supply information required by the agency or entity for an investigation of all those involved in the possible violation, including the prescriber and the person for whom the prescription was written. The law does not define standards for the Board to use when determining whether a possible violation may have occurred.

Q: How long will the Board maintain this information?

A: The Board must maintain the information for two years and then destroy it unless law enforcement submits a written request for retention of specific information beyond the two-year period.

DRUG COURT

Q: How does a drug court work?

A: A “drug court” is a specialized docket usually administered through a traditional court to manage cases involving certain types of drug-related crime. Those who are arrested for possession of drugs, and who otherwise meet the criteria, are screened for eligibility and enter the drug court program within a short time after arrest. If appropriate, they begin treatment within two weeks of arrest. While they live in the community, they must comply with intensive probation requirements. They meet frequently with case managers, must prove sobriety through urine testing, and must comply with all requirements set by the managers.

During the program, offenders complete an individualized case management plan and remain drug-free. They may obtain GEDs and/or employment, work with Children’s Services to be reunited with any children, perform volunteer work, attend AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings, and do whatever is necessary to re-enter society as a sober, responsible person. While it would be legal to do so, program participants are not permitted to drink alcohol.

One of the hallmarks of a drug court is that offenders must appear in court on a regular basis to answer for themselves and take responsibility for a lack of compliance. If they fail to comply with the program (for example, by missing a meeting or testing positive for drugs), a series of graduated sanctions begins. For example, for the first sanction, they may sit in court for one day. Two days of community service are required for the second sanction, three days of jail time are required for the third sanction, and so on. As long as the offender is willing to try, he or she will not be removed from the program. Only those who leave the program voluntarily are considered failures. Some have asked to be sentenced to a jail or prison term in lieu of the program because they feel it is too difficult and the required changes too great.

Q: What are the main reasons for using a drug court instead of simply sending users to jail?

A: Jail and prison are costly punishments. Taxpayers spend upwards of $120 per day to incarcerate offenders. Punishing non-violent offenders in other ways helps to reduce taxpayers’ spending for prison beds, and ensures that there is space in existing prisons for violent offenders.

Because incarceration alone has been shown to have little effect on drug addicts, other forms of punishment may be more beneficial. Without drug treatment, more than 70 percent of drug addicts will commit new crimes. Addicts who complete a drug court program are much less likely to commit new crimes. In fact, in most drug courts, the recidivism rate for drug court graduates is less than 10 percent

Q: Are there rewards for offenders who successfully complete a drug court program?

A: Yes. Participants appear in court to receive commendations for sobriety or other achievements. Also, the amount of their fines may be reduced. At the end of the program, there is a formal graduation ceremony acknowledging their successful completion of the program, at which time their respective cases are dismissed.

Q: Isn’t a drug court expensive?

A: A drug court is less expensive than traditional approaches in both the short and long term. There are immediate savings to the taxpayer in reduced police overtime for court appearances, lawyers’ fees for defendants who are unable to pay for their own attorneys, and in jail beds (which can be reserved for other offenders). In addition, prosecutors are able to devote more time to other cases, which frees the court dockets.

More importantly, long-term savings are realized through the rehabilitation of the offenders. Seventy-five percent of those who enter a drug court program graduate with sober lifestyles and are able to take care of themselves and their families. They are employed, paying taxes and participating in the community, and are caring for their children rather than neglecting them or leaving them to the care of the state. An offender who successfully completes a drug court program is not likely to be a repeat offender. Furthermore, the offender’s children also are much less likely to become offenders, thereby ending the cycle of crime for many people.

Over the last 20 years, state and federal studies of drug courts have consistently shown that drug courts are the most cost-effective way to reduce drug-related crime. For example, a California study revealed that recidivism there dropped from 41 percent to 17 percent for drug court graduates.