What's the Difference Between State and Federal Drug Trafficking Penalties? Pt. 1

State and federal governments establish their own statutes concerning prohibited behavior. In some instances, the laws overlap, meaning they address similar types of conduct. Take, for example, drug trafficking. The offense involves the production, sale, and/or distribution of controlled substances.

However, although the statutes cover similar acts, they are not exactly the same. Continuing with drug trafficking, the wording used to define the crime differs slightly. Also, the penalties that can be imposed upon a conviction are distinct between state and federal laws.

In this blog, we'll take a closer look at Ohio's drug trafficking statute (O.R.C. 2925.03) as it compares to the federal government's (21 U.S.C. § 841).

What Is Drug Trafficking?

Generally, drug trafficking refers to the manufacturing, transporting, and selling of controlled substances. Essentially, any conduct involving a drug or drugs (typically in large quantities) is considered trafficking.

Speaking more specifically about the offense as defined by Ohio law, drug trafficking occurs when someone sells or offers to sell a controlled substance or controlled substance analog. It's also committed when someone distributes or delivers drugs.

Federal law provides that a person commits drug trafficking when they create, manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled or counterfeit substance.

Trafficking in Schedule I or II Drugs

Both federal and state law outline the penalties imposed when drug trafficking involves Schedule I or II drugs. However, specific substances are exempt from these sections (but are covered elsewhere).

In Ohio, the penalties levied for trafficking in Schedule I or II substances do not apply to marijuana, cocaine, LSD, heroin, fentanyl, and hashish. Similarly, the federal statute has specific sections for drug trafficking involving heroin, cocaine, PCP, LSD, marijuana, and methamphetamine.

The state penalties for trafficking in Schedule I or II controlled substances are as follows:

Less than the bulk amount:

  • Up to 18 months of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $5,000 in fines

Quantity equals or exceeds but is less than 5 times the bulk amount:

  • Up to 36 months of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Quantity equals or exceeds 5 times but is less than 50 times the bulk amount:

  • Up to 12 years of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $15,000 in fines

Quantity equals or exceeds 50 times the bulk amount:

  • Up to 16.5 years of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $20,000 in fines
  • Designation as a major drug offender (if the quantity equals or exceeds 100 times the bulk amount)

Under federal law, a court can impose the following upon a conviction:

  • Up to 20 years of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $1,000,000 in fines

Trafficking in Schedule III, IV, or V Drugs

Ohio law groups Schedule III, IV, and V controlled substances together for the purposes of defining penalties. The federal statute does not; these schedules each have their own subsections. But, in the interest of comparing the state and federal laws, we'll include these schedules under one section.

The penalties for trafficking Schedule III, IV, or V drugs in Ohio include:

Less than the bulk amount:

  • Up to 12 months of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $2,500 in fines

Quantity exceeds but is less than 5 times the bulk amount:

  • Up to 18 months of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Quantity equals or exceeds 5 times but is less than 50 times the bulk amount:

  • Up to 36 months of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Quantity equals or exceeds 50 times the bulk amount:

  • Up to 12 years of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $15,000 in fines

The federal penalties include the following:

Schedule III controlled substance:

  • Up to 10 years of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $500,000 in fines

Schedule IV controlled substance:

  • Up to 5 years of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $250,000 in fines

Schedule V controlled substance:

  • Up to 1 year of imprisonment and/or
  • Up to $100,000 in fines

Our next blog will explore the differences in state and federal penalties for marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and heroin trafficking offenses.

If you're facing state or federal drug crime charges in Cleveland, contact Patituce & Associates at (440) 709-8088 today!