Former Prosecutor Turned Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Fighting on Your Side in Cincinnati

If you or a loved one has been accused of a drug offense, you should contact a drug crimes attorney in Cincinnati with criminal defense experience immediately. Our team at The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams, LLC is prepared to advocate for you with advanced skills.

The federal government splits controlled substances into five separate categories known as “schedules,” in descending order of illegality and considered harm. 

What Kinds of Drugs Are Illegal?

handcuffs and drug crimes

Any discussion about criminal drug cases must begin with an understanding of what is meant by a “criminal drug.”  As you know, not all drugs are illegal.  No one is going to stop and search you or put you in handcuffs for carrying aspirin in your purse.  Caffeine is also a drug, but we don’t see cops regularly coming into the local Starbucks to bring you to the precinct for illegal possession of a latte.    


To determine what types of drugs are illegal, you must look to the criminal statutes on the books.  Those criminal statutes are the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) and the United States Code (USC).  In those statutes, drugs are often referred to as “controlled substances.”  Specifically, ORC section 3719.01(C) defines controlled substances as:


A drug, compound, mixture, preparation, or substance included in Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V. 


As you can see, Ohio law, like most state drug laws, classifies controlled substances into one of five categories known as “schedules.”  Notably, those five schedules, I through V, refer to the system used by the federal government in the Controlled Substances Act that classifies all illegal controlled substances.


As most of us know, common street drugs like cocaine, heroin, and L.S.D. are illegal.  Cocaine, for example, is considered a Schedule II substance.  Yet, did you know that many prescription drugs are also scheduled drugs that are considered “controlled substances?”  It’s true.  So, you could be guilty of possession of illegal drugs if you possess a prescription drug, and you did not have a valid prescription for that drug.  


Examples of illegal prescription drugs that you may hear about a lot in the news include oxycodone, hydrocodone, and Percocet.  You may not think it is a big deal to give an Adderall pill to a friend.  But, if you are caught doing it, then it could become a very big deal.  In the simplest form, you should not be possessing, using, or obtaining any street drugs or prescription drugs if you do not have a prescription for that drug.  Moreover, even if you do have a prescription, you should only be obtaining that drug from a licensed pharmacist.

The key takeaway here is that you should be aware that illegal drugs do not only include cocaine and heroin.  It is also illegal to possess prescription drugs if you do not have a valid prescription for the drug, or if you did not obtain the prescription drug from a licensed pharmacist.

What Are the 5 Federal Drug Schedules?drug trafficking

Schedule I drugs are considered highly dangerous with an advanced potential for abuse and no known accepted medical benefits. Schedule V has some medical benefits and a lower potential for abuse by comparison.

Examples of federally controlled substances in each of the categories are as follows:

  1. Schedule I — Heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, peyote, marijuana, methaqualone
  2. Schedule II — Vicodin, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone, Ritalin, Adderall, oxycodone / OxyContin, and Demerol
  3. Schedule III — Ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone
  4. Schedule IV — Xanax, Talwin, Ambien, Tramadol, Darvon, and Valium
  5. Schedule V — Cough medicines containing less than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters, Lyrica, Motofen, and Lomotil

A drug crime conviction could leave you facing several penalties, which could have an impact on your future prospects. You may have difficulty finding secure employment. If you are currently a student, your loans could make you ineligible to continue receiving financial aid, such as loans and grants. Being caught driving under the influence of drugs can also result in license suspension.

call the manIf I Am Arrested, What Happens Next? What Are The Police Going to Say or Do To Me?



When you are arrested, you are legally in custody.  Anytime you are in custody, the police must read you your Miranda warnings (which we discuss in more detail in the next section).  Often the police will read you those Miranda warnings as soon as, or shortly after, you are arrested. 




The police will then usually place you in the back of a police cruiser while they are executing any searches or administrative duties that they need to do.  You will then be transported to the jail or the police station.  




There may be some informal questioning going on while you are in the cruiser.  Once you get to the jail or the police station, the police may question you formally.  They will probably ask you questions like, “where did you get the drugs?” “who do you get your supply from?” “how long have you been using?” etc.  Remember, you have a right to remain silent, exercise that right.  Do not answer their questions. Simply and clearly state, “I would like to speak to an attorney.”  




After the questioning, the police may either book you into the jail to await an arraignment (bond) hearing in front of a judge, or they may cite you to court.  The biggest factor on whether you are cited to court or booked into jail is the level of the offense with which you are charged.  The more serious the charge, the more likely you are to be booked into jail.


Once you are in the jail, the police may return later to question you again.  Once again, do not speak to the police without a lawyer present.  


Post Arraignment


Once your arraignment hearing is over, a bond will be set, which can be posted to secure your release.  If you are released it is important that you return to court and keep in touch with your attorney.  Failure to appear in court will result in the bond being forfeited.  That means someone is going to lose the money that they posted for you to get out of jail. Also, failure to appear in court will result in a bench warrant being issued for your arrest. 

Sentencing Basics in Drug Cases

Upon conviction, from either a plea or trial verdict, the next phase is sentencing.  Depending upon whether you are in state court or federal court, the sentencing rules and guidelines will vary.  In this section, we will give you a brief overview of what to expect depending upon which court is handing down the sentence.  Keep in mind that there are volumes and volumes written about all aspects of criminal sentencing, which this small section will be unable to cover entirely.  That said, this discussion should give you enough so you can have an effective conversation with your attorney about the sentencing phase of a trial.


Ohio State Court Sentencing


With regard to Ohio’s principles in sentencing, Ohio law provides as follows:

  • Sentencing courts must always consider the need for incarceration, deterrence, rehabilitation of the offender, and restitution to the victim and/or the public.

  • Sentences should be commensurate with, and not demeaning to, the seriousness of the offender’s conduct and its impact on the victim, and consistent with sentences for similar crimes by similar offenders.

  • Courts shall not sentence based on the offender’s race, ethnicity, gender, or religion.  


Federal Sentencing in Drug Cases


With regard to drug trafficking in particular, the penalties for a conviction of federal drug trafficking vary depending upon the type of drug and the quantity of drugs involved in the case.  For example, a person would be facing a three- to 10-year sentence and fines of over $100,000 for marijuana trafficking.  Yet, that same person could be facing a possible 25-year prison sentence and fines up to $500,000 for heroin trafficking.  In addition, sentencing enhancements, such as distributing narcotics in a school zone, will add to the potential penalty.  


By way of some recent statistics, 95.7% of those convicted of a federal drug trafficking offense were sentenced to a term in prison.  The average sentence for drug trafficking offenders was around five years in prison.  Interestingly, almost half of all those convicted of federal drug trafficking had little or no prior criminal history.


It should also be noted that a drug trafficking conviction may have other collateral consequences.  Law enforcement has the ability to seize assets of those involved in drug offenses, which could include seizure and eventual forfeiture of assets like cars, bank accounts, or real estate.  Immigration consequences may also result from a federal drug trafficking conviction.


Similar to the Ohio sentencing guidelines, federal judges must also take into consideration the United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which are promulgated by the United States Sentencing Commission.


As with the Ohio guidelines, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines provide a uniform policy for sentencing defendants convicted in federal court.  The U.S. Guidelines help determine sentences based primarily on two factors:

  1. The conduct associated with the offense, which is described as the “offense level,” and
  2. The defendant’s criminal history.  

The U.S. Guidelines essentially place those two factors on a table, and the intersection of each category will result in the appropriate sentencing range.  


For example, if a defendant is convicted of an offense that has an offense level of 22, and the defendant’s criminal history is in Category I (little or no criminal history), then the intersection of those two factors will show a recommended sentence of 41 to 51 months (or about 3.5 to 4.25 years) in prison.  Yet, if another defendant commits the same crime in the same manner but has a criminal history in Category VI (an extensive criminal history), then the U.S. guidelines recommend a sentence of 84 to 105 months (or about 7 to 8.75 years) in prison.


The U.S. Guidelines also allow the judge, after finding the recommended sentence based on the above two factors, to make adjustments to that recommended sentence.  Those adjustments are called “upward and downward departures.”  For example, if a defendant provides substantial assistance to the police then he or she may be eligible for a “downward departure” from the recommended sentence.  By contrast, if a weapon was used during the crime, then that could result in an “upward departure” from the recommended sentence.


Finally, it is important to remember that the U.S. Guidelines are not mandatory.  The judge does not necessarily need to abide by the Guidelines.  Yet, the Guidelines serve as a basis upon which both the defense and the prosecution argue for a particular sentence, and the sentencing guidelines are highly persuasive.


Drug Crimes Attorney Tad Brittingham

Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Alex Deardorff

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. 


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