It's for the children. Under Ohio law, if you commit a drug trafficking offense within 1,000 feet of a school, it elevates the offense level by one degree. A felony three, which would be punishable by a maximum three years in prison, becomes a felony two, with up to eight years in prison and a presumption that the judge should send you there. And keep in mind that "trafficking" doesn't necessarily mean "selling." For a while, the Cleveland police were charging anybody who possessed more than three dime bags of marijuana with trafficking under the "prepare for distribution and sale" subsection.
It's for the children, of course. School is hard enough; we don't want our tykes saddled with a lifetime of addiction because somebody slung dope at them during recess.
I'd guess that probably at least a quarter of the drug trafficking cases I've handled included school specs.
Know how many cases I've handled that involved people selling drugs to children? The next one will be the first.
The school spec doesn't require you to have sold drugs to minors. It doesn't require that the school be in session: you get the spec if the offense is committed at one in the morning, or the middle of July.
It's not as bad as it is in some other states. In Tennessee, for example, the "school spec" involves a minimum mandatory sentence, and applies not only to schools, but to day cares and parks where kids might congregate. The result is that 38% of Memphis is a "school zone." It got so ridiculous that when Glenn Funk ran for Nashville District Attorney in 2014, part of his platform was not prosecuting school zone violations unless the case actually involved children. And he won.
School specs bear no rational relationship to preventing sales of drugs to children. In fact, if you do sell drugs to a minor, you get hit with the juvenile spec, which elevates the degree of the offense in the same fashion. (The good news is that you can't get hit for both.) The juvenile spec is sort of whack, too. It applies not only if you sell drugs to a juvenile, but
if the offender commits the offense within one hundred feet of a juvenile or within the view of a juvenile, regardless of whether the offender knows the age of the juvenile, whether the offender knows the offense is being committed within one hundred feet of or within view of the juvenile, or whether the juvenile actually views the commission of the offense.
Got that? If you're sitting in your living room packaging some baggies of smack and there's a kid living in the house next door, you could get hit with a juvenile spec.
As I said, there's no real rational relationship between the school or juvenile spec and what it was intended to accomplish. It'd be interesting to raise that as a constitutional challenge to the specs, although I'm under no illusion that the Ohio Supreme Court, as presently constituted, would agree with that proposition. But it got me thinking, and that's always dangerous. For me, at least.
Freedumb. Ever have a case with a "sovereign citizen" as a client? That's a movement which asserts that the government is illegal, and hence citizens can violate the law with impunity. Most of the time, it's just goofy: sovereign citizens claim that they don't have to register their cars or procure driver's licenses. Other times it can get ugly; in 2010, a sovereign citizen and his son ambushed and killed two Arkansas police officers.
I've had a few cases involving sovereign citizens, my favorite being one I handled several years ago. What began as a controlled buy of sixty bucks worth of marijuana -- oh, the humanity! -- turned into a 16 ½ year prison sentence. All fourth and fifth degree felonies, but the judge went kinda crazy with the gun specs. He was pissed off at the defendant, who filed no fewer than 73 pro se motions and represented himself at trial. One of his defenses was that the indictment spelled his name in all caps, and he didn't spell it that way, so it couldn't be him.
Anyway, the judge appointed me to handle the appeal, and I got it reversed because there was no valid attorney waiver. The guy wanted me to represent him on the remand, and I agreed, specifying in my contract that his filing of a pro se motion was grounds for me to withdraw. He was a good boy, and I got everything thrown out in a suppression hearing, thereby singlehandedly restoring his faith in the American system of government, at least the part that paid me to handle his appeal.
Well, here's something I learned today. The lower house of the New Hampshire legislature has no fewer than 400 members. This results in a diversity so broad that it includes Richard Marples, a sovereign citizen, who's been fighting to abolish vehicle registration in the state since his 2016 arrest for driving without a license. He's introduced a bill which, as best I can understand, would allow New Hampshire citizens to file a document with the state government declaring themselves "free born American sovereigns," and imposing a $10,000 fine on any public official who "compels" performance on anyone who's done so.
Maybe I'll get to represent him and set him straight.