Ohio Fighting Synthetic Drugs Problem

Columbus synthetic drugs attorney

WBNS-TV reported on March 2 that Reynoldsburg police said they believe an international substance known as betel nut was illegally imported to Columbus from Nepal or India. Police said several high school students who immigrated from Nepal were caught with betel nut after they were seen acting dazed and disoriented.

“We believe there’s a euphoric effect but it also seems to affect their equilibrium,” Reynoldsburg Police Chief Jim O’Neill told WBNS. “There’s a general loss of balance and coordination that goes along with the use of this product.”

Health experts told WBNS that betel nut is not a controlled substance but said studies have linked the substance to tooth decay as well as cancer of the mouth and esophagus. WOIO-TV reported that police in the Columbus area are working with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Ohio Department of Agriculture to investigate the health risks of betel nuts in hopes of getting lawmakers in Ohio to take action to ban the substance.

While betel nuts appear to be a substance that teenagers in Ohio have begun experimenting with, so-called “synthetic drugs” have become a major issue in the Buckeye State. On Feburary 7, the Intelligencer reported that a report released by the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission found that Ohio has the largest amount of positive lab tests results for fentanyl in the nation.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that the state capital had the seventh-highest homicide rate in the United States last year despite ranking 14th in population. Sergeant Rich Weiner, a spokesman for the Columbus Division of Police, told the Dispatch that drugs contribute to most homicides in Columbus.

Lawyer for Synthetic Drug Crimes in Columbus, OH

Ohio has proposed or passed a number of bills to address the synthetic drug problem in the state. House Bill 64, passed in 2011, banned several types of synthetic drugs and made five synthetic cannabinoids commonly known as K2 or Spice Schedule I controlled substances. House Bill 334, passed in December 2012, banned all synthetic drugs that existed at the time.

Synthetic drugs have grown in popularity in recent years because many people see the products as legal alternatives to controlled substances that deliver similar euphoric effects. Synthetic drugs are often labeled with warnings like “Not for Human Consumption” and are sold in a variety of retail establishments, which can make it all the more shocking for individuals who are later accused of possessing a controlled substance.

While synthetic drugs are basically fake versions of controlled substances, alleged offenders involving synthetic drugs can carry penalties that are just as steep for those associated with traditional illegal drugs. If you were arrested in the greater Franklin County area for an alleged possession of a controlled substance offense involving a synthetic drug, it will be in your best interest to immediately contact Joslyn Law Firm. Brian Joslyn is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Columbus who can fight to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

Drugs Big Business for Ohio Dealers

wkyc

“People would be walking around shopping, and they wouldn’t know what was happening,” recalled Botbyl, of Norwalk, who has been clean for three years and is studying to be a pastor.  “You’d never meet the guy you talked to on the phone.”

The heroin was from Mexico, and all the runners generally spoke Spanish with very little English known to them.  The Mexican cartels, mostly from South America or Mexico, control a great majority of the illegal drugs in Ohio.

Read More about this article at WKYC.

Drug Court in Franklin County, OH

Many of our clients with drug crimes contact us to find out more about options to enter drug court programs in Franklin County, OH, including either the TIES program (also called “drug court”) in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas or the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Program (ADAP) in the Franklin County Municipal Court. These programs can be helpful for a person who truly needs and wants drug treatment.

If you have questions about your case, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Joslyn Law Firm to discuss your case. Our criminal defense lawyers represent clients for drug crimes throughout Columbus, Franklin County, and the surrounding counties in Ohio.


RULE 76 – THE TIES PROGRAM

Rule 76 for the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas governs the specialized docket for the TIES (Treatment is Essential to Success) program.

76.05 Eligibility Criteria for TIES Program Admission

To be eligible for the TIES program under Ohio R.C. 2901.01, the original charge or charges must be no more than a third degree felony. Also, a conviction must be for a third, fourth, or fifth degree felony or a first degree misdemeanor. Eligibility for the TIES program in domestic violence cases in Franklin County is determined on a case-by-case basis. A sexually-oriented or sexually-motivated offense is not eligible.

To be considered for the TIES program, the defendant must be evaluated for legal and social (clinical) factors including:

  • Legal factors in screening TIES program participants include:
    • Current charge
    • Criminal history, including adjustment to prior supervision
    • Circumstances of offense(s), including outstanding warrants, detainers, previous diversions, or other charges
  • Clinical factors in screening TIES program participants include:
    • Assessment of substance abuse history
    • Social/family history
    • Other health conditions
    • Motivation and willingness to participate (including signing of release of information)

To assist in determining whether an applicant should be eligible for the program, the TIES program in Franklin County, Ohio, has developed an outline of eligibility factors of admission.

76.06 Referring Criminal Defendants to the TIES Program

Identifying eligible cases for transfer

If a referring judge has a criminal defendant that he or she believes is involved with the criminal justice system as a result of drug and/or alcohol abuse, he or she may request that the defendant be evaluated for eligibility for the TIES program. The defendant should meet the basic eligibility requirements as set forth in Loc. R. 76.05 to be considered.

Discussion with counsel about referral for evaluation

If a judge desires to refer the defendant to be evaluated for eligibility for the TIES program, discussion with counsel should take place. The defense counsel may also approach the judge with the suggestion of referral.

Referral for evaluation

In referring a defendant to be evaluated for eligibility for the TIES program, a signed entry entitled “ENTRY REFERRING DEFENDANT TO TIES PROGRAM FOR EVALUATION FOR PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY AND ADMISSION” must be completed and counsel notified.

Defendant consents to evaluation

If the defendant wishes to be evaluated for eligibility, the defense attorney and defendant must complete the entry entitled “CONSENT AND WAIVER BY DEFENDANT FOR REFERRAL TO TIES PROGRAM TO BE EVALUATED FOR PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY AND ADMISSION.” This signed entry, along with the entry from the judge must then be forwarded to the TIES coordinator.

Defendant is evaluated by TIES coordinator

Upon receipt of the entries noted above, the TIES coordinator or his or her qualified designee shall personally meet with the defendant, whether incarcerated or on bond, to administer screening tools and evaluate motivation for admission to the TIES program.

TIES program staffing for eligibility

The TIES program team, consisting of but not limited to the TIES program judge, the TIES program coordinator, the TIES program probation officer, a treatment assessor and liaisons from treatment providers who have signed memoranda of understanding and confidentiality statements to participate as treatment providers for TIES program participants, shall jointly determine a potential TIES participant’s eligibility for the program.

TIES coordinator notifies of program eligibility

Based on the recommendation of the TIES program team, the TIES coordinator shall complete the entry entitled “NOTICE OF RESULTS OF TIES PROGRAM EVALUATION FOR PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY AND ADMISSION” and forward copies of this entry to the referring judge and counsel notifying them of the defendant’s eligibility for admission to the TIES program.

Transfer of defendant’s case(s) to the TIES program

The TIES coordinator shall prepare the entry entitled “ENTRY TRANSFERRING DEFENDANT’S CASE TO THE TIES PROGRAM,” submitting it to both the referring judge and the TIES program judge, for approval by the administrative judge, and the defendant will be formally transferred to the TIES program judge’s docket.

Taking the plea

When the case involves new charges, the referring judge may take the plea or may refer the case to the TIES program judge to take the plea, which shall be fourth or fifth degree nonviolent, non-sexually oriented felony (or felonies) or first degree misdemeanor(s). Because of the time needed to interview the defendant, the referring judge may need to continue the case on his or her docket until notified that the defendant is eligible for the program. In the event that the referring judge wishes for the TIES program judge to take the plea, it is suggested that the continuance be to the TIES program judge’s regular disposition day so that he or she is available to take the plea.

Sentencing

For cases involving new charges, each participant shall be subject to a pre-sentence investigation to aid the TIES program and its treatment providers in preparing a successful case management plan for the TIES participant.

The TIES program judge shall sentence the defendant to the TIES program as a condition of community control, originally setting the probationary period at three years, with the incentive of early termination of community control if the defendant successfully completes the TIES program.

The TIES program participant shall begin attending TIES program hearings as a condition of bond, and generally, TIES program participants will be placed on a period of house arrest for sixty days as a condition of bond.

Early release from the term of house arrest may be used as an incentive for continued TIES program compliance.

In the case of an existing probation case or a judicial release case, the TIES program judge shall re-sentence the TIES participant referred by the referring judge at a revocation hearing to the TIES program as a condition of community control, originally setting the probationary period at three years, with the incentive of early termination of community control if the defendant successfully completes the TIES program.

Substitution of similar case for transferred case

Upon the transfer of a referring judge’s case to the TIES program judge, the referring judge will receive a case of the same level felony from the TIES program judge’s docket for each unsentenced case transferred.

There is no corresponding transfer to a referring judge for a probation or judicial release case transferred. The transfer may not occur immediately, as the TIES program judge’s case transferred must be a new case, and there may be a need to wait until a similar case is indicted and can be transferred.

If there is a waiting list for TIES program

At some point there may be a waiting list for the TIES program. If a referring judge has a defendant to refer to the program, and the program is at capacity, the referring judge is encouraged to refer the defendant regardless to allow his or her name to be placed on a waiting list and to allow for effective program evaluation by comparing the TIES program participants’ performance on community control with those who would be eligible for the TIES program but are completing conventional community control.

This group of waiting list defendants becomes a “control group” for study purposes to help justify additional funding from outside sources to increase the capacity of the program.




76.07 Comprehensive Evaluation of TIES program Participants for Case Management

TIES program participants are to be evaluated for a number of conditions that regular probationers are not.

All TIES program participants are to be evaluated for drug, alcohol, and any mental health conditions, along with an evaluation to see if there is any neurological condition that affects learning or behavior. The results of these and other evaluations are to be taken into account when determining what conditions of supervision will be required and how the participant will be supervised.

76.08 TIES Program Handbook

The TIES program coordinator shall maintain a TIES program handbook, making it available to all court personnel, counsel and criminal defendants who may be eligible for the TIES program.

The Handbook shall set forth rules for the program, the policies and procedures for urine drug screens, and other methods for detecting the presence of drugs and/or alcohol in a participant’s physical body or system, requirements for TIES program phases, graduated sanctions, and program incentives.

The TIES program handbook shall be reviewed at least annually for necessary changes based on the needs of the court, the program, its participants and its treatment and other providers.

The TIES program shall provide a copy of its TIES program handbook to the Specialized Dockets Section of the Ohio Supreme Court upon review and revision of the handbook.


76.09 TIES Program Phases

Participants in the TIES program shall complete three phases, each consisting of a minimum of twelve weeks. Movement to the next phase shall depend upon the frequency of sanctions in the existing phase, as set forth in the TIES program Handbook.

A TIES program participant must maintain a period of sobriety of at least six months after completing the third phase to be eligible to graduate and have his or her community control terminated.


76.10 Successful Completion of TIES Program

It shall be the goal of the TIES program that its participants shall complete the following minimum requirements:

  • Restitution paid
  • Letters of apology completed (when ordered)
  • GED obtained, when capable
  • All court costs and fines in all cases paid
  • Valid driver’s license, depending on ability to obtain one
  • Employment
  • Community service completed (if applicable)
  • Court supervision fee paid
  • Six months sobriety following completion of the third phase of the program
  • Completion of post-program forms and interview

76.11 Unsuccessful Termination from the TIES Program

The TIES program handbook shall set forth in its statement of graduated sanctions reasons for termination from the TIES program.

Examples of reasons for termination from the TIES program include but are not limited to:

  • Absconding
  • Failure to participate
  • Failure to appear in court
  • New charges and/or convictions that did not arise from an incident preceding TIES program participation

The decision to terminate a participant from the TIES program shall be made by the TIES program team. If a TIES program participant is terminated from the program, the TIES program probation officer shall schedule the participant for a revocation hearing before the TIES program judge, at which time, the TIES participant shall be subject to revocation as any probationer would be who is subject to revocation from community control.

The TIES program judge shall determine the sentence for the TIES participant at a regular revocation hearing on the judge’s docket. Program termination makes a former TIES program participant ineligible for future TIES program participation.


76.12 Funding of the TIES Program

The TIES program in its pilot program stage was established with grant funding from the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. The TIES program shall be authorized to apply for additional grant funding to provide for the continued operation of the program. The TIES program judge shall consult with the administrative judge and the court’s executive director regarding funding sources to maintain this program of the court.


76.13 Reports to the Court En Banc

The TIES program judge shall provide to the court en banc (entire court) on a quarterly basis a TIES program census, including the names of current participants, listed by judge, including their case numbers, offenses, phases in the program, whether or not the prosecutor approved or disapproved of the referral, TIES program sanctions imposed, the current treatment provider and information on termination or final outcome.


76.14 Program Evaluation

The TIES program shall seek the assistance of the State of Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services and/or any other qualified program evaluator to design and implement both process and outcome evaluations of the TIES program, with factors to be evaluated that include but are not limited to:

  • Recidivism
  • Time in custody
  • Retention in program and/or treatment
  • Costs

Other

 program success may be defined in terms of a significant decrease in recidivism within a specific period of entering and/or completing the TIES program and the percentage of participants who complete the TIES program. Cost savings may also be a factor in conjunction with these success indicators.

76.15 Memoranda of Understanding with Treatment and Other Providers to the TIES Program

The TIES program shall develop a memorandum of understanding to be signed by TIES program treatment providers. The memorandum of understanding must include at least the following and shall be renewed annually by TIES program treatment providers:

  • Treatment provider must guarantee no wait for TIES program participants to enter treatment; in the case of outpatient treatment, treatment must be provided within several days of referral, as set forth in the memorandum of understanding; in the case of inpatient treatment, a bed must be provided within approximately two weeks of referral, as set forth in the memorandum of understanding.
  • Treatment and other providers shall be selected, taking into account Medicaid regulations, geographic location, service to diverse racial and cultural clientele, and options for drug treatment of special populations such as dual diagnosis, pregnant women, mentally disabled, or HIV positive.
  • Treatment and other providers shall coordinate with and account for TIES program sanctions, including but not limited to CBCF (community based correctional facility), house arrest, and work release.
  • When a TIES participant can afford to pay for some of cost of treatment, participant may pay according to a scale developed by treatment provider and approved by the court.
  • When a TIES participant has private health insurance that provides and pays for the referred substance abuse and/or mental health benefits, the participant (and his or her insurance) shall be responsible for paying for treatment.

Additional Resources about Drug Court in Columbus, Ohio

Drug Court in Franklin County, Ohio — Visit the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas website for the Judiciary Division to learn more about specialized dockets, including drug court (TIES program). According to the website, drug court includes three twelve-week phases that each become less intensive. A final six-month period of more traditional probation follows after the third phase is completed. Many people complete the program in less than 18 months. After completion, the defendant is eligible for termination of probation.

TIES Program Coordinator
Marquita Clay
Common Pleas Courthouse
345 S. High Street, Courtroom 4A
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 525-7645

Franklin County’s specialized courts give offenders a chance at new lives  — Read a letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch newspaper written by the Honorable Scott Vanderkarr, judge of the Franklin County Municipal Court. The letter, published Saturday, August 23, 2014, explains the importance of specialized dockets and the need for these innovative programs in Franklin County, Ohio. The letter also explains programs in the Franklin County Municipal Court including the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Program (ADAP), the Military and Veteran Service (MAVS), the Mental Health Program, and Changing Actions to Change Habits (CATCH).


Find a Drug Crimes Attorney in Columbus, OH

If you are charged with a drug crime in Columbus, OH, then call our drug crimes defense attorneys to discuss your case. Many clients call us because they have violated a condition of drug court and are facing additional sanctions. We represent clients charged with possession of marijuana or controlled substances to more serious offenses such as the sale, distribution, manufacture, or trafficking of drugs. Call us today to discuss the best defense to your felony or misdemeanor drug charges.

Fighting Federal Drug Charges in Ohio

The United States government has been adamant about cracking down on drug-related crimes since the Controlled Substance Act passed in 1970, and agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration continue to make arrests for offenses throughout the country.

In Ohio, the DEA and other agencies often conduct “drug sweeps,” which allow the law enforcement agencies to make several arrests for various drug offenses. These “sweeps” typically are done multiple times a year using controlled buys, phone interceptions and informants.

During these operations, agencies are searching for those violating several drug laws, including possession of a controlled substance. However, these sweeps most often are used to arrest those accused of trafficking or selling a substance. The offenses would be considered federal crimes, which often are much more severe.

According to federal law, trafficking is the selling, manufacturing, delivery or cultivation of controlled substances, or possessing those substances with the intent to do so. It can range from international cartels with thousands of people involved to small neighborhood drug rings.

Under 21 U.S.C § 846, anyone involved in drug trafficking also could be charged with conspiracy. For instance, a person accused of transporting money for the operation, transporting the actual substances or assisting in manufacturing an illegal drug could be charged with conspiracy.

Federal Drug Schedules

Controlled substances are divided into five schedules on the federal level. According to 21 U.S.C § 811, the U.S. Attorney General has the authority to place any substance on the list of drugs found in the Controlled Substance Act.

The schedules are determined based on the possibilities for abuse and addiction, as well as its medical use. The schedule of a controlled substance often plays a large part in determining the penalty for the offense.

Schedule I substances generally have a high potential for abuse and no medical use, such as heroin, ecstasy, acid and marijuana. Schedule II substances still have a high potential for abuse, but some accepted medical use. This could include cocaine, oxycodone and methamphetamine.

Schedule III substances have less potential for abuse and some accepted medical use. This could include painkillers with less than 90 milligrams of codeine, anabolic steroids and ketamine. Schedule IV substances have a low potential for addiction and accepted medical use, such as Xanax and Ambien.

Schedule V substances under federal law have the lowest potential for abuse, limited potential for addiction and a currently accepted medical use. These typically are available as over-the-counter medications and typically are not involved in federal charges. This could include Robitussin AC, Lomotil and Lyrica.

Federal Drug Charges in Ohio

These federal drug charges are some of the harshest in the nation, and they can carry mandatory minimum sentences. This means if a person is convicted of a charge and the U.S. Attorney can prove certain circumstances, the assigned penalty is the best punishment the defendant is eligible to receive.

For federal trafficking charges, the sentence typically depends on the type of drug involved in the offense, the amount of the drug possessed, whether anyone was seriously injured or killed and the number of prior offenses.

Certain trafficking offenses can carry a mandatory minimum of life in prison, including if the person accused of the offense is convicted of being a principal, organizer or leader of a continuing criminal enterprise. This sometimes is referred to as a “kingpin.”

When mandatory minimums are assigned to a charge, the judge typically does not have discretion in lowering the sentence, no matter the mitigating circumstances may exist. However, there are some ways in which an experienced federal drug crime lawyer can help you avoid the most severe penalties.

Finding the Best Columbus Federal Drug Crime Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested for a federal drug offense in Columbus or the surrounding areas, contact Columbus federal drug crime attorney Brian Joslyn of Joslyn Law Firm. Brian Joslyn has years of experience advocating on behalf of clients in a multitude of drug cases, and he knows what it takes to have charges reduced or dismissed.

Call 614-444-1900 to schedule a free consultation today. Brian Joslyn has offices in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, the same locations as the U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio court locations. He can work one-on-one with you to ensure you understand the charges and how to build a strong defense in a federal drug crime case.

Annual Permits for Hotels and Motels Proposed to Deter Prostitution and Solicitation Crimes in Columbus

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Columbus officials are working to implement a new plan that would create stronger regulations on hotels and motels in the city in an attempt to curb solicitation and prostitution crimes occurring at the businesses, according to a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch.

The Columbus City Council plans to hold a hearing on the proposed law on July 30, 2015, after more than one year of planning and drafting. According to the article, the law would require annual permits for hotel and motel operators. If the business has a high crime rate, the permit to operate could be denied.

Officials who drafted the law studied a similar one that was adopted in Chula Vista, California, in 2006. The city, located near San Diego, can deny annual hotel and motel permits if officials decide the businesses had too many arrests related to drugs and prostitution. This regulation would be the first of its kind in Ohio.

Several Columbus area hotel and motel businesses have been involved in controversial crime stories in recent years. Three motels near the Interstate 71 and Route 161 interchange that were widely known as a site for drug and prostitution crimes have been closed by court order.

Law enforcement officers with the Columbus Ohio Division of Police typically use these locations for undercover sting operations. An undercover office may pose as a prostitute near the motel and another officer would arrest those who solicit him or her for sexual acts.

In many of these cases, an entrapment defense comes into play because the undercover police officers posing as prostitutes tend to use aggressive techniques to pursue the unsuspecting man to engage in conduct that could be considered soliciting a prostitute.

Ohio law states soliciting a prostitute is a third-degree misdemeanor for a first offense. This could be punishable by up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500 or both. In these cases, the person does not have to be an actual prostitute for it to qualify as an offense.

For instance, if a person solicits an undercover police officer to engage in sexual activity in exchange for compensation, he or she still could face solicitation charges. Additionally, the compensation does not have to be money. It could be any type of good, service or object, including narcotics.

Ohio law also outlines loitering in an attempt to solicit a prostitute a criminal offense. According to state law, a person who is attempting to solicit another to engage in sexual activity for hire while in or near a public place cannot do any of the following:

  • Beckon to, stop or attempt to stop another person;
  • Engage or attempt to engage another in conversation;
  • Stop or attempt to stop a vehicle operator; or
  • Interfere with the passage of another.

A public place, according to the law, could mean a street, road, highway, bikeway, walkway, bridge, alley, plaza, park, driveway and a parking lot. Loitering near a hotel or motel with the intent to solicit a person for sexual activity could result in an arrest.

Although being accused of a solicitation or prostitution crime could feel like the end of the world, there are options for building a strong defense. Weakening the prosecution’s case before it even goes to trial could help to ensure your life remains on track. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.

Contact Columbus solicitation attorney Brian Joslyn of Joslyn Law Firm. Brian Joslyn has years of experience fighting for the rights of those accused of solicitation. He understands the sensitivity of your charges, and he will work with you discretely to solve your issues. Your future and reputation are important, and Brian can help you protect both. Call (614) 444-1900 today to schedule a free, confidential consultation with an experienced Columbus solicitation defense attorney.

Pro-Marijuana Committee Collecting Signatures to Change Expungement Law

A pro-marijuana organization in Ohio plans to begin collecting signatures for a proposed law that would allow certain cannabis crimes to be expunged once the controlled substance becomes legal in The Buckeye State.

ResponsibleOhio, a political action committee trying to legalize medical and recreational marijuana in Ohio, has drafted what is referred to as the Fresh Start Act. This would allow those convicted of certain marijuana offenses to have those records expunged or destroyed, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

The Ohio Ballot Board voted 3-2 Wednesday to give ResponsibleOhio permission to begin collecting the necessary 91,677 signatures of Ohio voters to move forward in the statute process. If approved, the expungement language would be separate from its original proposal to legalize marijuana.

The initial amendment would create the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission to regulate the acquisition, growth, cultivation, extraction, production, processing, manufacture, testing, distribution, retail sales, licensing and taxation of the substance and related products.

It also would legalize the use of medical marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions if a medical marijuana certification has been provided by the patient’s treating physician. Other states have included conditions such as cancer, AIDS and glaucoma.

Additionally, it would allow marijuana and marijuana-infused products for personal use in amounts of one ounce or less by people 21 years of age or older. It also would make it legal for those 21 years old or older to purchase, possess, transport, use and share one ounce or less with another person 21 years old or older.

Under the Fresh Start Act, those who have been convicted of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana could fight to have the record of the offense sealed. Currently, according to Ohio Revised Code § 2925.11, possession of less than 100 grams is a minor misdemeanor possession offense.

This minor misdemeanor currently is punishable by a fine up to $150. A first offense likely would not result in a jail sentence. Although it is a misdemeanor, a conviction could have serious consequences on a person’s future, and expunging the record could be beneficial.

Some argue the Fresh Start Act is not needed because minor possession offenses already can be sealed. In some cases, however, record sealing does not protect the person’s past enough. The information still can be found through background checks and internet searches. Expungement would be more thorough.

According to Ohio Rev. Code § 2953.32, a person currently may be eligible to seal his or her criminal record if he or she is a first time offender or a misdemeanor offender who has completed all of his or her sentencing requirements. A misdemeanor record would have to be sealed one year after completing the requirements.

Once the signatures have been verified, the Ohio General Assembly has four months to act on the law, according to the Columbus Dispatch. If the law is changed, rejected or not acted on, the committee would need to collect another 91,677 signatures to put the law before voters on the statewide ballot.

Proposed Bills Aim to Change Heroin Laws and Decrease Overdoses in Ohio

drug-varieties

Lawmakers in Ohio are proposing legislation this session aimed at curbing the use of heroin and the abuse of some medically prescribed drugs with the goal of reducing the number of drug overdoses in the state.

One bill directly related to overdoses is the Good Samaritan Bill. The bill, according to Cincinnati.com, would prevent law enforcement from incriminating a person for drug possession if he or she calls emergency services to report an overdose.

A similar bill failed to pass in the previous Ohio General Assembly session because some lawmakers feared it would enable drug use, according to the article. However, others have argued it is needed because drug users sometimes fail to call for help if a companion overdoses.

The bill, however, would have some restrictions. For example, so as to not assist those who could potentially be dealing or selling drugs, the law would not protect those who have more than one gram of heroine, according to the article.

Also, if a person who called for medical help is on probation at the time for a prior offense, he or she would not necessarily be sentenced to jail. A treatment option would be considered as an alternate to incarceration.

Another bill making its way through the legislature is looking to decrease the minimum amount of heroin involved in a trafficking in heroin or possession of heroin violation that could make the offense a felony of the first degree, which is necessary to classify an offender as a major drug offender.

According to Cincinnati.com, House Bill 171 is looking to reduce by 60 percent the amount of heroin that could lead to an 11-year incarceration period.  Under current law, a person who possesses between 50 and 2,500 doses of heroin will be charged with a first-degree felony. This could mean between three and 11 years in prison.

However, the proposed bill would decrease the upper limit to 1,000 doses or 100 grams, which would be similar to penalties for cocaine offenses. Some supporters of the law argue having fewer people incarcerated means more money could be spent on treatment services.

House Bill 4, which also has been proposed in an effort to decrease drug overdoses, would modify existing laws governing the authority to dispense or furnish naloxone, which is used for heroin or other opioid overdoses.

Under House Bill 4, prescribers do not have to be present, which would allow the drug to be more widely distributed to people and those close to drug users who are at risk of an overdose, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

A naloxone bill that the legislature passed last session increased access to the drug. Now, some programs throughout the state distribute the substance. However, this bill would make it more accessible.

Additionally, another bill could require insurance companies to pay for special formulas of pain pills that cannot be crushed, even if they are more expensive than a generic brand. This could be a way to help reduce the abuse of pain medication, some supports say.

Even though changes have been proposed in the legislature, current laws have harsh punishments for the possession and distribution of heroin. If you are charged with either offense, you could face series penalties. Contact Columbus heroin defense lawyer Brian Joslyn at (614) 444-1900 to learn more about how to fight heroin charges.

Proposed Marijuana Legalization Could Create Millions in Tax Revenue, Says Supporters

A constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana could lead to more than $550 million in annual tax revenue, according to some of the amendment’s supporters.

ResponsibleOhio, a committee trying to legalize marijuana for personal and medicinal use in Ohio, released initial tax revenue projections for its legalization proposal, saying the plan could generate $554 million each year, according to Cleveland.com.

Under the proposal, marijuana would be taxed 15 percent at production and manufacturing facilities and 5 percent at retail locations. Tax revenues would be used toward local governments, addiction services and marijuana research.

According to Cleveland.com, county and local governments would receive $476 million of the estimated $554 million annual tax revenue. The remaining $78 million would be used in addiction prevention services, care for medical patients, marijuana law enforcement and research.

ResponsibleOhio estimates more than 269 tons of recreational and medical marijuana would be used in Ohio each year beginning in 2020, the year it is predicting the new market will stabilize. The amendment would legalize purchase, possession and use of up to 1 ounce for adults over age 21 and medical marijuana patients.

Although states throughout the country are reforming their marijuana laws, the substance still is illegal in Ohio and through federal law. This means a person currently in possession of the substance in almost any form, no matter the amount, could face marijuana charges.

If a person is charged with possession of marijuana for the first time, according to Ohio Revised Code §2925.11, the penalties would be determined by the amount of marijuana allegedly in his or her possession. If the person has a clean criminal record, there may be a chance to have his or her record sealed.

If a person is accused of possessing less than 200 grams of marijuana, he or she could face misdemeanor possession charges. Although this offense may seem minor, it can carry up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. This also could mean a criminal record, which could affect a person’s ability to secure a job.

Consequences for felony possession of marijuana charges in Ohio are much more severe and can have serious consequences. In Ohio, possession of more than 200 grams of marijuana is a felony. The minimum charge for felonious possession of marijuana can result in a 12-month jail sentence.

The more marijuana a person is accused of possessing, the more severe the charge. For instance, if a person is accused of having more than 20,000 grams of marijuana, he or she could face second-degree felony charges, resulting in a mandatory eight-year prison sentence and $15,000 in fines.

In most instances, the charges and corresponding penalties for marijuana crimes are determined by the amount of marijuana involved in the alleged offense. Other serious marijuana charges in Ohio could include:

  • Cultivation/manufacture
  • Possession with intent to sell
  • Trafficking in marijuana

It is important to know the current laws in your state and the states around you. Although some areas of the country, such as Colorado, have made recreational and medical marijuana legal, it still is a criminal offense in most parts of the country. Any charge of possession, trafficking or cultivating could mean severe criminal penalties.

If you have been charged with a marijuana offense in Ohio, you should consult a Columbus marijuana defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense in your case and fight the accusations against you.

Heroin and Other Drugs on the Rise in Central Ohio, Report Says

Ohio is one of several states that has a problem with substance abuse, and according to a recently released report, some commonly used illegal drugs are becoming more readily available in Central Ohio.

A February report from the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network released earlier this month says crack cocaine, black-tar heroin and opioid painkillers are more prevalent on the streets. The use of “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana, however, has decreased because of new state laws, the report says.

The drug-monitoring network, which is part of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, issues reports every six months covering drug-use trends in eight regions of the Buckeye State, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The Columbus region includes eight counties from Crawford south to Pickaway.

The reports are based on interviews with both “active and recovering drug users,” treatment professionals and law enforcement agencies, according to the Dispatch. Statistics from the local coroner’s offices, crime-lab data and newspaper reports also are used to compile the information.

The availability of powder cocaine has declined because of users shifting to pain pills and heroin, according to the report, which covered from January to June of last year. Prescription opioids such as Oxycontin and Vicodin still are widely available.

Black-tar heroin is the most easily accessible form of the drug in central Ohio, according to the report. In some instances, the substance can sell for $10 for a single use. Ironically, Suboxone, a medication prescribed to help heroin addicts overcome the addiction, now has become a street drug and also is on the rise.

These controlled substances could lead to serious criminal charges, including possession of a controlled substance, possession with the intent to sell and drug trafficking. Most often, the severity of the charge is determined by where the offense occurred, the schedule of the drug involved in the alleged offense and the amount of the drug in question.

Ohio Revised Code Section 3719.41 classifies controlled substances into schedules, ranging from Schedule I to Schedule V. The schedules range from very addicting with more severe penalties in Schedule I to the least addictive with less severe penalties for offenses in Schedule V.

For example, heroin is considered a Schedule I drug. Possession of less than one gram of heroin is charged as a fifth-degree felony, punishable by six to 12 months in prison. However, as the amount of the drug increases so do the penalties.

Possible penalties for possession of heroin charges in Ohio could be:

  • One to five grams — Fourth-degree felony
  • Five to 10 grams — Third-degree felony
  • 10 to 50 grams — Second-degree felony
  • 50 to 250 grams — First-degree felony
  • More than 250 grams — First-degree felony with mandatory minimum prison term

If a person is charged with possession of a substance that is a Schedule III, IV or V drug, the alleged offender could face a misdemeanor of the first degree or a felony of the fifth, fourth, second or first degree. Again, there are several factors that affect the charges.

Additionally, the more of a controlled substance a person has in his or her possession, the more likely he or she will be charged with drug trafficking or possession with the intent to sell. These often have more severe penalties than possession charges. Penalties for possession with intent to sell heroin can be increased if the substance was sold within 1,000 feet of a school or to a minor.

Although the penalties can change, generally Ohio punishments can include:

  • First-degree felony — Three to 10 years in prison, fines up to $20,000 or both
  • Second-degree felony — Two to 8 years in prison, fines up to $15,000 or both
  • Third-degree felony — One to five years in prison, fines up to $5,000 or both
  • Fourth-degree felony — Six to 18 months in prison, fines up to $5,000 or both
  • Fifth-degree felony — Six to 12 months in prison, fines up to $2,500 or both
  • First-degree misdemeanor — Up to 180 days in jail, fines up to $1,000 or both

If you are facing drug charges, it is important to know your options. If you are a first-time, non-violent offender, you may be eligible for a diversion program. No matter the situation, a Columbus drug defense attorney can help you fight the charges. Your future is important and a drug conviction could be a heavy burden.