As counterintuitive as it may sound, you can wind up behind bars if the police catch you with a substance that looks like an illegal drug – even if the substance you actually possessed was completely legal or innocuous. Under some circumstances, the possession of fake or counterfeit drugs is a criminal offense involving the possibility of jail time, community service, and fines.
You may be able to avoid these penalties if you act fast and hire a skilled and experienced Cincinnati counterfeit drugs lawyer to give your case a thorough and aggressive defense. Do not accept the prosecutor’s plea deal before speaking with your lawyer, as there may be several ways for you to win your case. To learn more about your options, contact Luftman, Heck & Associates online or call today at (513) 338-1890 for a free and confidential consultation.
What Are Counterfeit and Fake Drugs?
According to section 2925 of the Ohio Code, the definition of a counterfeit drug may include any of the following:
- Any drug displaying a brand or trademark to which you don’t hold the rights
- Any substance that you represent to be an illegal substance produced by someone other than the actual producer
- Any substance that you represent as being a controlled substance, but is actually a different substance (or not a controlled substance)
- Any substance that is not a drug that a reasonable person would believe is a controlled substance because it appears to be controlled substance, or is sold in the same manner or at the same price as a controlled substance
Thus, an illegal counterfeit drug may include many otherwise legal substances such as baking powder, salt, talcum, plant matter, or over-the-counter medicine. What makes the substance illegal is the way it is presented or packaged. If there is evidence that you tried to make others believe the substance was a drug, you may face criminal charges.
Penalties for Possessing or Trafficking Counterfeit Drugs
According to Ohio Code section 2925.37, the possession of a counterfeit controlled substance is a first-degree misdemeanor – the most serious category of misdemeanors. Upon conviction, you may face a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
On the other hand, if there is evidence that you manufactured, sold, or offered to sell any amount of counterfeit substance, you will be charged with a felony of the fifth degree, punishable by six to 12 months in prison and possible fines of up to $2,500.
Regardless of whether you’re charged with the possession or trafficking of a counterfeit substance, the penalties will increase significantly if a minor was involved. Additionally, your conviction will result in more than just fines and jail time. You may also have to face:
- Significant litigation costs
- Probation conditions such as community service
- Revoked driving privileges
- Trouble finding a job or applying to colleges because of your criminal record
- Exclusion from many professions requiring a license
- Revoked gun rights and limited voting rights
- For non-citizens, possible immigration consequences
- Ineligibility to receive financial aid for college
These consequences can turn your life upside down. For this reason, you should make every effort to retain good legal representation early in your case to maximize your chances of avoiding a conviction.
Defenses for Counterfeit Drug Charges
Chances are, a prosecutor has already tried to get you to plead guilty. They may have told you that your case doesn’t stand a chance. However, there may be several possible defenses to your charges. Even if accepting a plea agreement is your best option, an experienced Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a better arrangement for you that involves the guarantee of a more lenient sentence.
Your lawyer may consider whether the following defenses might apply to your case:
- Challenging the prosecutor’s evidence – By filing a motion to suppress, your lawyer can have the judge throw out any evidence that was obtained illegally. For example, if the police found the alleged counterfeit drugs after an unlawful traffic stop or a warrantless and unreasonable search of your home, that evidence cannot be used to prove your guilt in a criminal proceeding. With crucial evidence removed from the case, it may be possible for your lawyer to request the dismissal of the charges before your trial starts.
- Rebutting the prosecution’s case – To obtain your conviction, the prosecutor must prove every element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In the context of a counterfeit drugs case, this means proving that you knowingly possessed the counterfeit drug, or that you possessed it with the intent to sell or transfer it. If your lawyer can show that there is a reasonable possibility that you didn’t know that you possessed the counterfeit substance, or that you had no intention to deal it, you may avoid a conviction.
Every case is different, so you’ll need to consult with a competent legal professional to determine which defense strategy might apply to you. Maybe the police illegally collected evidence against you, or maybe the prosecutor’s evidence doesn’t conclusively show that you knowingly possessed the counterfeit drug.
The Cincinnati counterfeit drug lawyers of Luftman, Heck & Associates will be able to tell you where the potential weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case lie. To find out more, call attorney Brad Groene (513) 338-1890 today for a free and confidential case consultation.