Most people who ask us this question were arrested for drug possession. Simple possession accounts for about 80 percent of the drug crime arrests in Monroe County. Specifically, this question usually involves collective possession cases. If officers find drugs in a car, they usually arrest everyone in the car. Legally, an occupant possesses everything in the passenger area, a designation that includes a car’s trunk and a pickup’s bed. As confusing as it sounds, possession is not the only element of a drug possession case. More on that below and everything you need to know about a good Drug Crime Lawyer in NY.
Other unsuspecting drug defendants include people on the edges of a drug manufacturing and/or distribution scheme. Under New York conspiracy law, a person who buys meth ingredients is just as guilty as a person who cooks meth in a bathtub. That being said, these peripheral participation cases often feature some extenuating circumstances. More on that below as well.
Back to the question at hand. In any event, if officers question you about a drug crime, don’t panic, don’t say anything, and call a Rochester criminal defense attorney. A lawyer probably cannot prevent an arrest. If anything, “lawyering up” increases the chances of an arrest. But a Rochester criminal defense attorney can prevent a bad situation from getting worse. Only good lawyers know how to use procedural and substantive defenses that deny prosecutors the evidence they need to obtain convictions.
Drug Crime Lawyer NY: What to Expect in a Criminal Case
Remember, our first rule is not to panic. Since people are less likely to panic if they know what’s coming next, we’ll start there first.
Jail release is usually the first priority. Drug crimes are normally felonies. Depending on several factors, mostly the severity of the offense and the defendant’s criminal record, authorities normally set bail at around $5,000.
A defendant could post the entire amount in cash. Posting cash bail is like paying a security deposit. Defendants who meet all bail conditions, like renters who meet all rental conditions, get most of that deposit back. The obvious risk is that if defendants and renters don’t toe the line, they could lose everything.
To many people, $5,000 might as well be $5,000,000. A bail bond, which is like an insurance policy, is usually an option. Most bail bond companies charge about a 15 percent premium. If a fire burns down your house, the fire insurance company bears the financial risk. Likewise, if a defendant skips bail, the bonding company bears the financial risk.
The court process usually starts a few weeks later. A few defendants are entitled to public defenders or court-appointed lawyers. Most must hire private Rochester criminal defense attorneys. A lawyer evaluates your case, as outlined below. Sooner or later, plea bargains resolve almost all criminal cases.
Drug Crime Lawyer NY: Group Possession
Drug possession, as mentioned above, really means drug proximity. This element is very difficult to beat in court if the drugs are admissible in court. That’s a pretty big “if.”
Physical evidence usually involves Fourth Amendment search and seizure issues. We used a vehicle possession example above, so let’s stay with it.
Officers must have reasonable suspicion to detain motorists. Basically, reasonable suspicion is an evidence-based hunch. It’s not a hunch by itself. Officers cannot detain motorists because they look wrong. It’s also not a hunch supported by evidence. The evidence, like a traffic violation, must come before the hunch.
Then, they must have probable cause to search the vehicle. If they don’t have a warrant, a narrow search warrant exception must apply. Owner consent is probably the most common one. Consent is a voluntary, affirmative, and specific act. Officers cannot coerce, expand, or assume consent.
Possession also includes knowledge and control. Assume Tim gives a few partygoers rides home. He runs a red light, and Officer Kathy pulls him over. Some passengers act nervous, so Officer Kathy asks Tim for consent to search. Thinking he has nothing to hide, he agrees. Officer Kathy finds drugs underneath the passenger side rear passenger’s seat.
Tim may go to jail, but the charges probably won’t hold up in court. Tim most likely didn’t know the drugs were there. He certainly didn’t control them.
Drug Crime Lawyer NY: Peripheral Participation
In most jurisdictions, including New York, every participant in a criminal enterprise is just as guilty as Mr. Big. The “I was just following orders” defense didn’t work for Nazi war criminal and alleged Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann, and it doesn’t work in Monroe County criminal courts.
Apropos of nothing, Eichmann and other top Nazis fled to Argentina after World War II. Israeli spies kidnapped him off the streets of Buenos Arias in May 1960 and smuggled him aboard a return flight to Jerusalem. The harrowing story is definitely worth reading.
Back to the blog. In one noteworthy case, a defendant had a shopping list that included meth-making ingredients. That was the extent of his participation in the meth-making operation. Nevertheless, the court ruled that he was guilty of drug manufacturing.
Many peripheral participation drug trafficking defendants are shoppers, like the one in that case, or drug mules who don’t know all the details.
Lack of knowledge or “just following orders” may not be a legal defense at trial, but it is a mitigating circumstance during sentencing. A strong undercurrent in the law holds that the punishment should fit the crime. So, a Rochester drug crime lawyer can often negotiate a shorter probation period that has fewer restrictions. Some judges even grant unsupervised probation. These probationers only have to stay out of trouble until their probation ends.
There’s a big difference between a criminal arrest and a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester underage drinking attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Virtual, home, and jail visits are available.