Many people think the War on Drugs is over. But every year, Monroe County police officers still make hundreds of drug arrests.[1] Most of them are for simple drug possession.

Officers respond to disturbance calls at parties or pull over a carful of people in many situations. They find drugs during a warrantless search and arrest everyone in the room or everyone in the car. Cases like these have several defenses, and a skilled drug possession attorney Rochester will know how to present these defenses in court.

Drug possession convictions are crippling for anyone. But they are especially bad for students at the University of Rochester, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and other area schools.

Elements of a Drug Possession Case

Many people think possession is synonymous with ownership. In the everyday world, that’s usually true. I usually possess my living room television set even if I am in the bedroom. But in Monroe County court, prosecutors must establish three elements in possession cases, as follows:

  • Proximity
  • Control
  • Knowledge

These same basic elements apply in other possession cases, such as illegal weapons.

The state must establish all three prongs beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard of proof in New York law. This showing is not easy to make, especially in the aforementioned situations.

Assume Rick is in the back seat (driver’s side) when a police officer pulls over the vehicle for speeding. The driver, Benjamin, acts suspiciously. Officers ask him for permission to search the car, and Benjamin agrees. They find a few OxyContin pills under the front passenger seat during the search. Officers then arrest everyone in the car, including Rick, for drug possession.

The charges against Rick would probably not hold up in court. Legally, the state could probably establish proximity, since both the drugs and Rick were in the passenger area. It would be very hard to establish control since there were other people between Rick and the drugs. And, unless Rick knew everyone in the car very well, knowledge might also be an issue.

Consequences for College Students

Drug cases have harsh indirect consequences for everyone. These consequences are especially acute for college students. Some of them include:

Immigration Issues:

Possession of marijuana is not a deportable offense, but possession of a controlled substance is normally deportable. The government could revoke a student or visitor visa after only a brief hearing.

Grad School Denial:

Until recently, many grad schools denied admission to anyone with a criminal record as a matter of course. Then the Department of Education adopted a rule which discouraged such actions. Now, grad schools might still consider applicants with criminal records. But a black mark on your record could put you behind other students in the competitive admission process.

Student Aid Revocation:

The federal government will not only deny future assistance. It might also demand students to pay back previous aid.[2] Many scholarships also have morality clauses, which are similar.

Academic Suspension:

When the state files drug charges, colleges usually begin parallel disciplinary actions. The results vary significantly in different cases. But most people can expect some academic penalties, such as probation.

Other than academic suspension, convictions trigger these adverse actions. So, avoiding a drug conviction is paramount.

Drug Possession Attorney Rochester and Case Resolutions

Most college students have clean criminal records. As such, they are usually eligible for pretrial diversion. Prosecutors often offer diversion programs in both misdemeanors and felonies, especially if the evidence is weak.

Program requirements vary. Typically, however, defendants must perform community service, complete some self-improvement classes, and jump through a few other hoops. Afterward, prosecutors dismiss the charges.

Deferred disposition might be available as well. The defendant pleads guilty, but the judge does not find the defendant guilty. Instead, the judge simply placed the defendant on probation. If the defendant successfully completes community supervision, the judge dismisses the case.

Immigration matters work a bit differently. Deferred disposition often counts as a conviction in these situations.

Contact an Aggressive Lawyer

Don’t let a drug possession conviction derail your educational career. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester, NY criminal attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi.





The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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