Common Drug Offense Questions & Answers
I was caught with drugs. Do I need to hire an attorney?
Most drug sale offenses are felonies, which could subject you to jail or prison. I, as an experienced attorney may be able to either get the charges reduced to a lesser offense, negotiate a plea deal that will keep you out of jail, get you into one of the drug diversion programs or have the charges dismissed outright.
What is plea bargaining in drug cases?
Plea bargaining is simply negotiating with the prosecutor and the judge to get the charges reduced and the punishment minimized. For example, if a person is charged with 4 separate drug charges, (sale, possession, possession with intent to sell, conspiracy, and operating under the influence of drugs), I may be able to negotiate a plea bargain to only possession. The remainder of charges would be dismissed as covered by the plea. I can then negotiate a sentence which does not involve state prison, such as community service, or a short time in the local jail together with probation (called a split sentence). Each case is evaluated based on a number of factors including the quantity and type of drug, the defendant’s role in the offense and the defendant’s prior record.
Are there any defenses to drug cases?
Yes. The most common is to challenge the search and seizure of the defendant which resulted in the police finding the drugs. If the police violated the defendants 4th amendment rights, then the court will suppress, or throw out, the drugs. The prosecution will therefore have no evidence against you, and the case will be dismissed. A suppression motion can be asserted for any amount of drugs.
What are the maximum penalties for drug convictions?
Depending on the weight and type of drug, a person could get a lengthy sentence in the state prison .The maximum in New York State is currently 30 years. In addition, as with all felonies, the defendant will not be able to drive for six months, vote, or own or possess a firearm.
Are there alternatives to jail or prison in drug cases?
Yes. Judicial Diversion programs for misdemeanors and felonies abound in New York. These programs allow the defendant to complete a drug program sometimes with a period of probation to avoid spending any time in custody. An experienced attorney can advise you of the best program available.
Please review the Sentencing Chart For Penal Law Offenses Committed in New York State as well as the article concerning the 2009 Drug Reform