In a recent Ohio Supreme Court case, the Court was asked to address the following: “Must the state, in prosecuting cocaine offenses involving mixed substances under R.C. 2925.11(C)(4)(b) through (f), prove that the weight of the cocaine meets the statutory threshold, excluding the weight of any filler materials used in the mixture?”
The case, State v. Gonzales, involved law enforcement arranging a reverse transaction in which a confidential informant sold two imitation bricks of cocaine to Rafael Gonzales. One of the bricks contained a compartment holding a baggie of cocaine weighing 139.2 grams, of which three to 20 grams were the weight of the baggie itself. The other brick contained a tracking device.
Because Gonzales was alleged to have possessed more than 100 grams of cocaine, Gonzales was indicted for 1st degree felony cocaine possession. In addition, the allegation that Gonzales possessed more than 100 grams of cocaine supported a major drug offender specification.
At trial, the confidential informant and several officers testified cocaine is often mixed with other substances or filler material. No evidence was presented regarding the purity of the cocaine, i.e., whether, or how much, the cocaine was mixed with filler.
Gonzales was found guilty at trial and sentenced to a mandatory prison term of 11 years. Gonzales appealed the decision to the 6th District Court of Appeals, who remanded the case for resentencing because the prosecution is required to prove that the weight of cocaine possessed must meet the statutory threshold. However, this decision was in conflict with the 2nd District and, thus, was certified to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Ohio Supreme Court Holds That Prosecution Must Prove Weight of Cocaine Without Filler
Gonzales was convicted of possession of cocaine in violation of R.C. 2925.11, which provides that no person shall knowingly obtain, possess or use a controlled substance. If the drug is cocaine and the amount of the drug equals or exceeds one hundred grams of cocaine, possession of cocaine is a 1st degree felony.
The state argued that the 6th District Court of Appeals misinterpreted R.C. 2925.11(C)(4)(f) by requiring proof of the weight of the actual amount of cocaine, excluding any filler material. R.C. 2925.11(C)(4) provides that the “drug involved” can be “cocaine or a compound, mixture, preparation, or substance containing cocaine.” Thus, the state is not required to prove the weight of pure cocaine only.
However, the Court held that the statute was unambiguous. By its plain terms, the statute prohibits the possession of 100 grams or more of cocaine. Therefore, the Court affirmed the judgment of the 6th District Court of Appeals.
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