One of the fairly common calls we receive as New York criminal lawyers and New York criminal defense attorneys revolves around misdemeanor marijuana (“marihuana” in the New York Penal Law) arrests. The questions run the gamut. I received a New York City Desk Appearance TIcket for PL 221.10, have I been arrested? I received a Desk Appearance Ticket in NYC for marijuana possession, but the police recovered the marijuana from the ground (or it was in another person’s hand), how can they charge me with it? Why am I being charged with Criminal Possession of Marihuana when the police only got it from my pocket? It wasn’t like it was in my hand or I was smoking it! Why did the police search my car? They claim the marijuana was in the cup holder, but it was in the glove compartment they searched illegally! I could continue, but I believe you understand my point. Although only marijuana and not cocaine, molly, a firearm or something more serious, arrests for PL 221.10 – whether by Desk Appearance Ticket or full on processing – is traumatic.
Whatever your questions may be, the conversation as New York criminal lawyer and potential client routinely turns to what, if anything, a criminal defense attorney can do for the accused pot smoker (or possessor). First, I generally explain to my potential clients that despite their fears, barring some extraordinary circumstances, jail is not on the table (technically it is possible). Second, despite the fear other attorneys may try to instill in potential clients to convince these clients to hire them, the reality is that as a first time offender who did not resist arrest or obstruct the officers, things may not be so bleak (of course, “bleak” is a relative term).
A person arrested the first time for Criminal Possession of Marijuana, pursuant to New York Penal Law 221.10 in New York City – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens (elsewhere as well), should be able to get a Marijuana Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (MACD). Not a plea of guilty, your case will be dismissed and sealed in a time not to exceed one year. Therefore, the case will technically be pending for up to one year, but if you stay out of trouble it will be dismissed and sealed (in theory, if you get re-arrested the District Attorney’s Office can restore the case). Is this a guarantee that you will receive such a disposition? No, but this disposition is viable and often customary for a first time offender.
Now that we have addressed some of the basics, the question still remains as posed in the title of this blog entry. What can a New York criminal lawyer or marijuana defense attorney do for you and why should you hire one? While no guarantees can be made (past results do not guarantee future outcomes), two of Saland Law PC’s more recent clients arrested and given PL 221.10 Desk Appearance Tickets in New York City had their cases both dismissed and sealed not in one year from their court appearance, but the next day. We recently had another client’s MACD sealed in approximately 30 days. While the range varies, a skilled attorney may be able to convince the court to significantly shrink the time your case is publicly visible, more likely to appear on a background check and technically still an open criminal case. That sense of closure and relief is arguably priceless.
Beyond the courtroom, marijuana, unlike crack-cocaine and other harder drugs, is a substance not just used in the streets, but in the “suites.” The suites and streets paradigm, a phrase coined by my former boss and legendary prosecutor, Robert Morgenthau, simply means that crime occurs and is prosecuted involving those of less means on the street and professionals in their suites. Corroborating that fact, the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Saland Law PC have represented teachers, lawyers, doctors and finance professionals in their arrests for puffing a joint in public or possessing marijuana. To these people, it may be the Department of Education, the MTA, FINRA, ethical oversight committees in terms of licensing with the legal bar or other professional / accrediting agency, that is equally or more concerning than the court procedure itself. Will you be suspended? What does your contract or license dictate that you report? How will you respond to a supervisor? What proof can you supply them that your case may be dismissed? Will it make a difference in your termination, suspension or other consequences if your case is sealed and dismissed early? Should you consider advancing your case to get it moving faster instead of waiting six weeks?
Make no mistake. An arrest in New York City for misdemeanor marijuana possession is no where near the gravity of a harder drug case or weapon offense, but there may be collateral consequences to your arrest and one year period of “probation” should you receive an MACD. Will you need assistance in the future addressing this charge? These are questions only you can answer, but to answer them competently you will need the guidance of counsel.
To read about New York Desk Appearance Tickets, marijuana or drug crimes and other relevant factors a first time offender must contend with, review this blog, New-York-Lawyers.org, NYDeskAppearanceTicket.Com and follow the links found throughout this entry.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal law firm founded by two criminal attorneys who served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Saland Law PC represents clients in drug and marijuana arrests, as well as many of their collateral consequences, in New York City and beyond.