New York drug crimes and the former “Rockefeller Drug Laws” were, and currently are, some of the strongest criminal laws on the books. In fact, New York drug attorneys and New York criminal lawyers often face down sentences where clients may be looking at mandatory imprisonment. For example, if you possess certain weights of drugs or you sell even an insignificant and personal use amount of cocaine (one might rightly argue there is no such thing as insignificant), you will face a presumptive minimum of one year and a maximum of nine years in state prison. While a first time offender convicted for Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 220.39) or Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 220.16) faces significant incarceration, even lesser offenses can carry similar punishment.
Regardless of the crime and sentence one may face for a New York drug crime arrest, those accused of these crimes may be pawns in a bigger scheme or otherwise good people who have been caught up in a terrible situation. Not only is it incumbent upon your criminal lawyer to advocate as strongly as possible, but it is equally important for him or her to ascertain whether the best defense to your New York City or suburban drug arrest is to challenge the legality of searches, probable cause and other evidence or to mitigate the conduct for which you are accused.
While the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan Assistant District Attorneys at Crotty Saland PC have defended clients with legal and mitigation defenses (our attorneys recently secured a dismissal of felony charges after our client, a prospective medical student, testified in a narcotics Grand Jury), the following example is how the mitigation type of defense was a better approach than confronting the case from a evidentiary or procedural perspective.
An undercover New York City police officer arrested our client after he was observed at a concert in possession of what the officer believed to be various pills or tabs. After approaching our client, the officer believed, based on the number of these items, that our client was going to sell the narcotic. Too much to address here, the officer, with probable cause, arrested our client. Ultimately, prosecutors determined that the substance in our client’s possession was, as the officer claimed, ketamine (“Special K” or “K”). Because law enforcement believed our client was going to sell the “Special K,” (our client was allegedly observed giving some to a friend) prosecutors charged our client with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree (New York Penal Law 220.06). Further, because the weight of the controlled substance made our client’s possession an automatic felony, our client was charged with a second count of this crime. Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance is a “D” felony and is punishable by between one and two and one half years in prison. Equally concerning, any felony conviction would have destroyed our client’s promising future.
In arguably a “hybrid” type legal and mitigation defense, Crotty Saland PC argued that despite the amount of ketamine allegedly possessed by our client and the allegation that our client gave the controlled substance to another person, this possession was akin to personal use as opposed to possession for the purpose of making a “real sale.” Further, although our client allegedly possessed “felony weight,” we demonstrated that our client suffered from the pitfalls of drug abuse. Therefore, this New York drug arrest should be properly prosecuted not as a felony NY PL 220.06, but as a misdemeanor Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree (New York Penal Law 220.03).
After significant wrangling, prosecutors ultimately agreed to permit our client to plead to a misdemeanor crime. Upon completing treatment, maintaining a law abiding life and complying with court updates, prosecutors allowed our client to withdraw that plea and enter a plea to a non criminal Disorderly Conduct (New York Penal Law 240.20). As a result, our client not only avoided state prison and a felony criminal or misdemeanor record, but our client “walked” away from this allegation without the taint of any criminal wrongdoing.
Remember, the best defense to a New York drug arrest or any crime is not always clear. Fighting a case head on may be the best approach in one case while mitigating conduct may be the best defense in another matter. Whatever your defense may be (remember that prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes), recognizing the top defense as early as possible and implementing your best defense may mean the difference between serving time in prison and avoiding the lifelong consequences of your alleged transgression.
To learn about New York drug crimes and controlled substance laws, follow the links above or below. Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing clients in New York City and the region.