Defending Drug Charges in Rochester, NY

Drug possession cases make up the vast majority of drug prosecutions in Monroe County. In fact, they even constitute about 85 percent of the drug arrests in Monroe County. Many of these arrests are for marijuana possession alone. Although marijuana possession is usually a misdemeanor, most other drug possession offenses are felonies. Even if the defendant only had a couple of prescription pills or a barely measurable amount of an illegal street drug, like crack cocaine, they may need to seek help with drug charges in Rochester, NY.

There are a number of defenses to drug possession charges. An experienced drug charges lawyer in Rochester, NY can leverage these defenses into a favorable pretrial resolution or a not-guilty verdict at trial.

Pretrial settlement options like pretrial diversion or deferred adjudication are often available in drug possession cases. Pretrial diversion is an alternative to prosecution where the defendant can undergo alternative sentencing typically through community service, counseling or fines. Deferred adjudication is a form of a plea deal where the defendant agrees to certain requirements laid out by the court ahead of time. These kinds of resolutions are important since New York essentially has no expungement law.

No Miranda Warnings

Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the Miranda warnings (you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, etc.). In movies and TV shows, the defendant often goes free if officers do not immediately read suspects their rights.

But the real world works a bit differently. Officers must only inform suspects of their Constitutional rights after custodial interrogation begins. Additionally, the Supreme Court sharply limited the scope of the Miranda decision in 2010’s Berghuis v. Thompson.

Nevertheless, the rule remains in place. “Custodial interrogation” is a very ambiguous term. Basically, this phase begins when officers ask questions and defendants do not feel free to leave at any time. This point usually begins before officers say “You’re under arrest,” but there’s no bright line.

If defendants give statements to officers during custodial interrogation and the officers have not read the Miranda rights, those statements might be excluded in court.

Drug Charges in Rochester, NY and Inapplicable Search Warrant Exceptions

Most drug possession prosecutions begin with chance encounters. First, an officer pulls over a motorist for a traffic violation or sees a suspicious character on a street corner. After officers approach these defendants, they find drugs. A search warrant is nowhere in the picture. However, the seized drugs may still be admissible in court if a Monroe County prosecutor convinces a judge that a recognized search warrant exception applies. Some common ones include:

  • Plain View: If officers see drugs or other contraband items in a car or anywhere else, they may confiscate them. That’s assuming the traffic stop or other detention was lawful. That’s also assuming the officers did not use binoculars, fancy surveillance equipment, or any other such devices.
  • Consent: Owners may give officers consent to search their vehicles, dwellings, and other property. The person giving consent does not have to be the official, record owner. But the consenting party must at least have apparent authority to give permission to search.
  • Pat-Down Searches: If they have reasonable suspicion, officers may pat suspects down for weapons and seize any contraband they find. The problem is that, in drug possession cases, it’s hard to tell the difference between a baggie of drugs and a baggie of anything else just by touching it.

Other drug charges in Rochester, NY involve the automobile exception or the exigent circumstances exception.

No “Possession” of the Controlled Substance

Finally, simply being close to drugs is not enough. In addition to proximity, Monroe County prosecutors must also establish:

  • Knowledge and
  • Control.

So, in the aforementioned vehicle cases, it’s hard for prosecutors to connect a back-seat passenger with front-seat drugs. That’s especially true if the defendant did not know the other people in the car very well (possible lack of knowledge) and/or the drugs were in another person’s coat pocket (lack of control).

Count on a Tough Attorney

Drug possession cases are not easy to prove in court. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester, NY drug charges lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Convenient payment plans are available.

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