First Arrest for Drug Possession in New York: Potential Scenarios & Collateral Consequences for NY PL 220.03 Arrests & Desk Appearance Tickets

While no two cases are the same, the New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC have extensive experience representing those accused of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree (New York Penal Law 220.03). In fact, the founding partners at Saland Law PC have experience on both sides of the law. Prior to starting the firm, both of our founding New York criminal defense lawyers served as Assistant District Attorney’s in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office where they prosecuted individuals for misdemeanor and felony drug possession and sale.

Whether you are arrested for possessing cocaine, heroin, crack, oxycodone or a “designer drug,” often times the police will issue a New York Desk Appearance Ticket to first time offenders charging them with NY PL 220.03. An “A” misdemeanor, this offense is punishable by up to one year in jail. In the event you are arrested and given a Desk Appearance Ticket in Manhattan for possessing a controlled substance, you will be required to appear at either 100 Centre Street or Midtown Community Court at 314 West 54th Street. Regardless, the charges are the same as if you had been arrested and held overnight to see a judge. Do not be under the impression that a Desk Appearance Ticket for possessing a controlled substance (NY PL 220.03) is not a serious matter. If you do not appear in court as required, a bench warrant will likely be issued for your arrest.

Potential Offers for First Time Offenders in Manhattan Criminal Court

As noted above, no two cases are the same. Having said that, prosecutors in Manhattan (New York County) often have general guidelines that they follow in first time arrests for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree (New York Penal Law 220.03). Assuming you in fact are a first time offender, you are not charged with Resisting Arrest, Obstruction of Governmental Administration, Tampering with Evidence for trying to destroy the drugs or any other offense, the likely offer will be a Disorderly Conduct pursuant to New York Penal Law 240.20. It is important to note, however, that Desk Appearance Tickets charge only one offense, but prosecutors can charge additional crimes when you are arraigned on a criminal complaint in court. Moreover, there may be other factors that come into play before a offer may be made, including, but not limited to, the potential weight of the drugs, whereby more investigation may needed. Not a crime, a plea to Disorderly Conduct will not give you a criminal record.

Although the above scenario for a first time offender charged with NY PL 220.03 sounds relatively good and would not give that person a criminal record, there are more profound ramifications beyond the criminal realm. Disorderly Conduct pleas are ultimately sealed. This means there should be no public record that someone could dig up on you by going to court. However, as a practical matter, a significant amount of these violations are not sealed or sealed improperly. As I have mentioned in the past, there has been at least one high profile lawsuit (there may be many more) involving New York State. The basis of that lawsuit was that a Disorderly Conduct and underlying arrest was revealed after an individual applied for and was denied a job at a department store.

In my own personal experience as a New York criminal defense attorney, I have received countless emails and phone calls from people who are concerned or distraught that an employer’s background check revealed their Disorderly Conduct from years ago as well as their underlying misdemeanor arrest of Petit Larceny for shoplifting, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument for having a fake ID or Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance for possessing drugs for personal use. Obviously, even though it is not a criminal disposition, accepting a Disorderly Conduct could be devastating to a college student with an open future or any individual who might be subject to a background check for employment or promotions such as a teacher, financial analyst or any other professional.

Beyond the reality that this Disorderly Conduct may be found out by those who are subject to background checks and certifications or professional licenses, those individuals who are not citizens also may have issues. Although a violation is not a “crime of moral terpitude,” an immigration attorney can be consulted to discuss what ramifications a Disorderly Conduct may have on your current or future status in the United States.

If Not a Disorderly Conduct, Then What?

I generally advise my clients that in lieu of just accepting the prosecution’s offer of a Disorderly Conduct, we should fight the case in an attempt to obtain an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD). I say “generally,” because no two cases are alike and each set of facts and evidence requires a unique analysis with the criminal defense attorney that you hire and consult with.

Assuming an ACD is attainable, the benefits far outweigh the benefits of a Disorderly Conduct with one major exception. The most significant benefit of an ACD over a Disorderly Conduct is that not only will the case be sealed, but it will be dismissed as well. Six months after the initial adjournment, the case, as a matter of law, will be dismissed. Only in limited circumstances will evidence or the fact of the arrest appear (discuss with your criminal defense attorney when the underlying arrest may be revealed). The problem for some people is the six month waiting period. A disorderly conduct is resolved upon the plea (and whatever conditions the court requires). A Word (or Words) of Warning

As I keep on noting, and will continue to do so, no two cases are alike. While there are general guidelines that are often followed by prosecutors, there is no guarantee an offer will be made to you even if this is your first offense. Whether you are arrested and processed through the system or issued a Desk Appearance Ticket, consult with your counsel, identify a defense that will either challenge the evidence or mitigate your conduct and implement that defense to protect your future.

Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, Saland Law PC is a New York law firm focused on defending clients against criminal allegations. The New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent the accused throughout the New York City region.

Extensive information on Desk Appearance Tickets as well as New York Drug Crimes can be found through the associated links or on the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog (NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com) where legal analysis of criminal statutes, case decisions and newsworthy cases can be found.

NOTE: Since the drafting of this blog entry in 2011, guidelines in Manhattan have apparently changed. Depending on the quantity of the drugs recovered and other factors above, prosecutors may offer (move for) an ACD. It is important to recognize these guidelines do change and may change again. Further, what may be an ACD in one county may be another offer in a different county.

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