Drug Offenses in Drug-Free School Zones

September 23rd, 2014 by Attorney Dan Carman

In the interest of giving American children a safe place to learn, schools have become battlegrounds upon which the war on drugs is fought. Since 1970, there have been federal laws on the books increasing penalties for people who commit certain drug offenses within a specific proximity to a school. The laws that create these protected places — known as “drug-free school zones” — vary by jurisdiction and are now found in all 50 states.

Drug-related crimes are the most frequently charged offenses nationwide. In 2012 alone, drug abuse violations resulted in law enforcement making over 1.5 million arrests. All states regulate and control the sale of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for sale. In Kentucky, all mind-altering drugs are categorized according to Schedules I through V, and it is a drug’s classification that determines the severity of the offense and the corresponding punishment. Penalties can be harsh, and there are mandatory minimum fines and jail terms if you are convicted.

The drugs in Schedule I are those that are deemed by authorities to have no medical use and a high potential for abuse, such as marijuana (though various states have undergone stages of legalization), heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. Schedule II drugs have some medical use, but also have a high potential for abuse and include cocaine, methamphetamine, and methadone. The drugs in Schedules III, IV, and V all have medical uses, with each schedule having a lower potential for abuse than the schedule before it. Schedule III drugs include hydrocodone, anabolic steroids, and codeine. Schedule IV includes tranquilizers and sedatives, while Schedule V includes drugs like cough medicines with codeine.

The offense of “trafficking” occurs when one makes, sells, gives away, or possesses CDS with the intent to do one of those things. In Kentucky, trafficking within 1,000 feet of school property is a Class D felony, unless a higher penalty for the type of CDS or the amount involved applies, in which case, the greater penalty applies. Thus, being caught with drugs in a safe zone can mean the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony charge. Advocates for reform argue that drug-free zone laws are ineffective and unfairly penalize certain races and socioeconomic groups on the basis of where they live (protected zones bunched together in urban areas). Some states have begun modifying their laws to address overly broad provisions that do not promote public safety as was intended. It is important to examine a case charged as such very closely, because police commonly charge this offense without due regard to whether the site of the offense is actually within 1000 feet of a building used for primarily for classroom instruction.

Drug charges can seem minor at first, but can quickly transform into significant legal problems with long-lasting consequences. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime involving drugs, it is important to contact experienced criminal defense attorney Dan Carman by calling 859-685-1055 or by filling out this form. From arrest to appeal, he has the necessary expertise to effectively maneuver your case through the criminal process.