As you would expect drug trafficking is an offense that is perceived as more serious than simple drug possession.  Accordingly, a charge for drug trafficking means that you are facing penalties that are more severe than the penalties for drug possession

A.        The Drug Trafficking Statutedrug trafficking

The crime of “Trafficking, aggravated trafficking in drugs” is defined in the Ohio Revised Code at ORC 2925.03, and the elements are as follows:

  • no person
  • shall knowingly
  • sell or offer to sell a controlled substance or a controlled substance analog; or
  • prepare for shipment, ship, transport, deliver, prepare for distribution, or distribute a controlled substance or a controlled substance analog, when the offender knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the controlled substance, or analog, is intended for sale or resale by the offender or another person.

The portions that are highlighted above are the main elements that are most important to keep in mind.  Going through them in order, you can see that the “state of mind” for trafficking – knowingly – is the same state of mind for drug possession.  Thus, as with drug possession, you must be aware that you are dealing with a controlled substance to be guilty of the crime, yet you cannot remain purposefully ignorant when the circumstances make clear that you are likely dealing with a controlled substance.

Unlike drug possession, however, the crime of drug trafficking involves “selling,” or “offering to sell” drugs, rather than possessing or using drugs.  That, of course, is the “trafficking” part of the drug trafficking statute. 

Moreover, the drug trafficking elements include activities such as preparing drugs for shipment and delivering drugs when you either know that the drugs are meant to be sold or it is reasonable to believe that the drugs will ultimately be sold.  Thus, the crime of drug trafficking does not merely cover the person who is actually doing the selling, or who is making offers to customers.  Rather, drug trafficking covers all those individuals who are involved in the activities associated with trafficking in drugs.

So, for example, if you happen to be helping someone manufacture drugs in a basement, or you are bagging drugs so that it can be sold, those activities are covered by the drug trafficking statute.

As with drug possession, the quantity of drugs involved will determine the kind of penalty you may be facing.  But overall, the penalties are more severe with drug trafficking because, as noted above, the crime is viewed as a more serious crime overall.

B.        A Word About “Possession with Intent to Distribute”

You may have heard about the concept of possession with intent to distribute drugs.  Under Ohio law, that crime is essentially treated the same as drug trafficking.  Thus, whether you are charged with “possession with intent,” or straight up “drug trafficking,” the elements discussed above are the same. 

Now, you may be wondering:  How could I be charged with “possession with intent” when the cops have no way of knowing what my intention is?  That is a good question. 

The way that police and prosecutors deal with the question of “knowing someone’s intent” is to go by the weight of the drugs.  It is true that the police cannot get into your head and see what your true intentions are, but if you are in possession of a larger amount of drugs – more than is typical for personal use – then the police and prosecutors will seek the “possession with intent” charge (aka: trafficking) rather than simple drug possession. 

C.        What Is Aggravated Trafficking?

There are certain circumstances that “aggravate” a drug charge.  For example, Ohio law provides that trafficking in certain types of drugs, or in amounts of drugs over the bulk amount will make a trafficking charge become an aggravated trafficking charge.  In that same vein, if a trafficking crime occurred in the vicinity of a school or in the vicinity of a juvenile, then the trafficking crime becomes an aggravated trafficking charge.  As you would expect, the penalties for an aggravated trafficking charge are more severe than drug trafficking. 

D.        A Lawyer is Vital with Drug Trafficking Charges

While any time you come in contact with law enforcement and you are a suspect, you should have a lawyer to help you.  That rule is particularly true with drug trafficking and possession with intent charges.  Those are among the most serious drug charges in Ohio law, and they could result in very long prison sentences. 

Therefore, you should never go it alone with regard to a drug trafficking charge.  The statutes are far too complicated, and police and prosecutors are far too experienced with those laws, for you to have any chance of fighting the charges without a criminal defense attorney at your side.

Are you or someone you know facing drug charges in Cincinnati, OH? 

If you are facing drug charges, you need to speak with an experienced drug crimes attorney as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams is recognized by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America, National Trial Lawyers Top 100, and is one of U.S. News' Best Law Firms.  Please contact us online or call our Cincinnati office directly at 513-929-9333 to schedule your free consultation. 


Alex Deardorff
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Criminal defense attorney Alex Deardorff is dedicated to serving her clients throughout the Cincinnati area