If you are accused of, or arrested for a drug crime in New York City or on Long Island, you should take it very seriously and consult a drug crime defense attorney. At Barket Marion Epstein & Kearon, LLP, we are committed to providing you with a vigorous drug crime defense. Our attorneys are former prosecutors, legal aid attorneys, and criminal court judges and we are keenly aware of the possible penalties you face, including incarceration, costly fines, and of a whole range of potential future consequences regarding college admission or employment. It is important that you consult with one of our lawyers as soon as you are accused of committing a drug crime. Having a skilled, experienced attorney at your side from the beginning can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
What constitutes an illegal drug?
Some drugs are patently illegal, such as methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin. Others are illegal when they are not being used with a prescription for the medical problem they were designed to address. These latter drugs include amphetamines used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), anti-anxiety medications like Xanax, antidepressants, opioid painkillers, and medical marijuana. While medically invaluable, such drugs present a clear and present danger both to individuals and to society when they are misused. All of the drugs mentioned are “controlled substances,” meaning that the government regulates their use and distribution.
Exceptions for Medical Marijuana
In New York State, patients with certain conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, HIV, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions resulting in chronic pain are legally permitted to use medical marijuana. There are, however, restrictions regarding its use:
- Medical marijuana may not be administered through smoking
- Medical marijuana may not be used in public
- Patients are permitted to possess only a 30-day supply of medication at one time
- Patients must carry their registry ID card while in possession of marijuana
It remains illegal to possess more than the permitted amount of medical marijuana or to distribute or sell it to someone else.
Drug Charges in New York State
There are several types of drug charges involving drug possession, drug manufacturing, and drug trafficking.
In New York State, laws concerning drug possession are divided into controlled-substance and marijuana-related offenses. Nonetheless, the components of the offenses are basically the same. To convict you of “actual” possession of a controlled substance or marijuana prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The substance was, in fact, in your physical possession (on your person) or within your control (constructive possession).
- It was a controlled substance
- You were aware that you possessed it
- The possession was unlawful
It is also possible to be convicted of “constructive” possession, meaning that you had control over the person who possessed the drugs or the place in which they were found. Constructive possession can be proven even if the defendant is not physically present at the time the drugs are found.
Possession of drug paraphernalia, including syringes, cocaine pipes, and scales is also illegal in and of itself. Possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia is often a jumping off point for further charges if the police find incriminating evidence of the manufacture of trafficking during the arrest.
New York has some of the toughest drug laws in the United States since it classifies the compounds used to manufacture illicit drugs, as well as the drugs themselves, as controlled substances. Drug manufacturing may involve cultivation of plants (e.g. poppy seeds for opium), or mixing chemical compounds (e.g. to produce methamphetamines or LSD).
There are both federal and state laws regulating drug abuse and distribution of controlled substances. In most cases, local and state arrests are for possession, while the majority of federal convictions are for drug trafficking.
Criminal Defenses Against Drug Charges
There are many potential defenses against criminal drug charges and the skilled attorneys at Barket Marion have the experience using each of them to successfully protect our clients. Defenses against drug charges include:
- Lack of knowledge or intent
- Possessing medication prescribed for the defendant’s own use
- Entrapment, meaning a police officer coerced the defendant into committing the crime
- Illegal search and seizure
- Planted evidence
Penalties and Sentences
The legal consequences of drug crimes vary greatly. State arrests for simple possession (without intent to distribute) are usually charged as misdemeanors, resulting in a fine, probation or a short jail sentence, depending on the defendant’s age and criminal history.
The knowledgeable attorneys at Barket Marion have a long track of record of fighting vigorously and successfully to protect their clients’ rights and achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients. Please feel free to contact us for more information.