Being arrested for drug possession is a frightening experience. More than likely, your mind quickly turns to all the potential consequences of your arrest: heavy fines, incarceration, a criminal record that may interfere with your educational or career goals, a soiled reputation, adversely affected relationships. It’s true, especially in New York, that penalties for possession of drugs may be particularly harsh (ironically at the same time that the governor of the state is pressing for legalization of recreational marijuana).
Depending on which controlled dangerous substance (CDS) you are found to possess and the quantity of the substance you are holding, penalties vary widely. The laws regarding drug possession are complicated enough in New York, but you will also be dealing with federal laws as laid out in the Controlled Substances Act. If you are arrested in Syracuse, any part of Onondaga County or the surrounding Central New York area, the experienced drug crime attorneys at Carden Dotzler Hammond PLLC (CDH) are ready to defend your rights with the strength that comes from well-honed skills and years of successfully defending clients against drug charges.
The Broad Range of Penalties for Drug Possession in New York
If you are arrested with a relatively large amount of a controlled substance, you may well be charged with a higher offense than possession, whether or not you intended to distribute or sell the drugs in question. You should also be aware that New York State law classifies the compounds used to manufacture drugs, not only the drugs themselves, as controlled and dangerous substances. In addition to the quantity of drugs in your possession at the time of arrest and the classification of the type of drug you possess, any criminal record you have will also have a negative impact on your sentence if you are convicted.
Because of these variables, you may be fined anywhere from $100 to $100,000 and may have to spend a few days in jail or as many as 20 years in prison. This is why once arrested you should seek the counsel of CDH’s sharp and forceful drug possession attorneys. Once you contact us you will feel the reassurance of having a team of well-seasoned, caring criminal defense attorneys on your side. We will protect your rights every step of the way and always treat you with respect in accordance with our firm belief that you are “innocent until proven guilty.”
What CDH Drug Possession Attorneys Can Do for You
Once you explain the particular circumstances of your case to us we can begin working on the best strategy to defend you, whether in a court of law or through well-crafted plea bargain techniques. We may use tactics familiar to us or develop an innovative approach. Our priorities are  to get your charges dismissed  to win you a not guilty verdict or  to plea bargain to a lesser offense, in that order. We are looking to make the best possible deal with prosecutors — hopefully one that will protect your wallet as well as your personal freedom. Our well-deserved reputation for being both cutting-edge negotiators and tough litigators will stand you in good stead whether your case is decided in or out of the courtroom.
How the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) Will Affect You
Under the Controlled Substances Act, drugs are classified according to a number of factors, including: their psychological and physical effects on the body, their potential for abuse, and their risk factor for dependency or addiction. The classifications range from the most dangerous (Schedule I) to the least dangerous (Schedule V). Believe it or not, marijuana is right up there in Schedule I with heroin, LSD, Ecstacy, and fentanyl. At the bottom of the list, in Schedule V, are cough medicines with codeine and Lomotil. In the middle range are drugs like Ritalin, oxycodone, cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, Xanax, and Ambien.
CDH Attorneys Will Fight for Justice
Which drug you are arrested for possessing can make a big difference in how law enforcement treats you and how your prosecution may proceed. At CDH, we are also aware that, in spite of anti-discrimination laws, the color of your skin, your clothing, your gender identification, your sexual orientation or your accent may also alter the circumstances under which you are stopped and arrested, what you are charged with, and how you are treated by law enforcement personnel. Our savvy criminal defense attorneys will bring our leverage to bear in order to level the playing field and see that you are treated fairly.
Possible Defenses for Drug Possession
Our drug possession attorneys are well-schooled in all types of criminal defense. Which strategy we will use to disentangle you from your legal troubles will depend on such things as your age and the circumstances surrounding your arrest and questioning.
- Age — If you are under 16, we can use a defense known legally as “infancy,” meaning that you are too young to be considered criminally liable.
- Lack of knowledge — In some cases, we may be able to argue that you had no awareness of possession and that the drugs were placed in your bag or pocket by someone trying to frame you or to save him or herself from arrest.
- Racial or other profiling — If you were stopped while driving or hanging out with your friends in the park and you feel you were searched because you were African-American, gay, transgender, Muslim or a member of some other protected minority, we may be able to get your case dismissed.
- Police misconduct — Unlawful search and seizure that results in the discovery of illegal drugs, may give us the means to get you off the hook for possession, as may documented police brutality.
- Procedural errors — If you were arrested and questioned without being read your Miranda rights, we may be able to get your charges dismissed.
- Mistaken identity of the substance you possessed — Many powders or capsules resemble illegal drugs so we can insist on a laboratory analysis to prove your innocence.
- Loss of the drugs after arrest — If the police cannot produce the evidence, which has gone missing by the time we get to trial, law enforcement has no case against you.
- Entrapment — Because entrapment is very difficult to prove unless the police actually provided you with the drugs, we rarely, if ever, use this defense.
- Medical marijuana — While never a defense in federal court, if you are carrying medical marijuana in New York, where its use is legal, and you have verifying paperwork, we will probably be able to have the charges against you dropped.
Drugs in a Car Belong to Everyone in the Car
Imagine, for a moment, that you are riding in a car with two friends and one friend’s visiting cousin who you have never met before. None of you are impaired by drugs or alcohol. The driver, chatting happily, carelessly blows through a stop sign in front of Solvay Middle School.
Flashing lights and the car is pulled over. You all get out, the officer does a quick look inside the vehicle, and discovers a small bag of cocaine that has slipped from under the front seat.
Does it matter that you did not know about the cocaine? Under what is termed the “Automobile Presumption,” set out in NYS Penal Law section 220.25:
“The presence of a controlled substance in an automobile, other than a public omnibus [bus], is presumptive evidence of knowing possession thereof by each and every person in the automobile at the time such controlled substance was found.”
As far as the law is concerned, it is presumed the cocaine is yours. A presumption may be overcome at trial, but that often requires the defense to present some evidence that the drug in fact belonged to someone else.
Suppose, however, that the drug under the seat is a bag of marijuana instead of cocaine. Then the presumption does not apply. That is a result of the requirement that the drug be classified as a controlled substance. Although marijuana is a Schedule I Controlled Substance under federal law, it is not classified as a controlled substance under New York law, and thus the presumption does not apply to marijuana.
The “Automobile Presumption” applies to guns and certain other weapons, as well. So if the visiting cousin dropped his gun on the floor of the car when he saw the flashing lights, now it is your gun as well.
Somewhat broader than the “Automobile Presumption” is the “Room Presumption” that applies to both guns and drugs. If either is in full view in a room, they are both presumed to belong to everyone in the room. The “Room Presumption” also applies to marijuana as it is explicitly included in the law as one of the substances that trigger this presumption.
The combination of weapons and marijuana ups the ante considerably. It may increase the likelihood of felony gun charges as well as felony drug charges.
Federal Marijuana Laws and Enforcement
Although enforcement priorities shift and change with administrations, federal drug laws still permit criminal prosecution. The penalties for possession of marijuana set forth in 21 U.S. Code Section 844 are up to one year in jail, as well as a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. They increase with subsequent convictions.
Section 841 specifies that sale or possession with intent to sell less than 50 kg of a mixture containing marijuana is punishable by up to 5 years in jail, as well as a maximum fine of $250,000. Penalties also increase sharply with increased amounts.
In January 2018, the Department of Justice instructed United States Attorneys to resume marijuana prosecutions under pre-Obama administration standards. Prosecutors may continue to exercise discretion, but the situation is hardly re-assuring to the cannabis-friendly community. It is difficult to know what to anticipate for the future.
Contact Our Syracuse Drug Possession Lawyer
Don’t waste time worrying and imagining worst-case scenarios. Instead, reach out to our powerful drug possession attorneys. We will immediately take effective steps to protect your reputation and your liberty. We can be reached by phone, email, or the form on our website. Don’t hesitate. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we’ll begin strenuously fighting for your rights.