Has the number of criminal charges increased over the past decade? Since 2012, the number of drug arrests in Monroe County has decreased by over 80 percent.  However, this decline represents more of a shift.
In the early 2010s, drug possession arrests, specifically marijuana possession arrests, made up almost all of the drug arrests in New York. These cases are still fairly common, though marijuana’s partial legalization in NYS has had a drastic effect. Today, law enforcement focuses more on trafficking and altering drugs.
Aggressive prosecution has contributed to this trend as well. When they review the evidence in a case, prosecutors keep a sharp eye out for additional seized evidence, like guns or cash, which could justify elevating simple possession charges to more serious trafficking charges.
A Rochester criminal lawyer normally doesn’t pay much attention to politics. Aggressive representation is different. As tenaciously as prosecutors try to obtain convictions, that’s how hard a Rochester criminal lawyer works to beat drug charges in court.
Possessing Criminal Drug Charges
In terms of marijuana, it’s usually legal to possess one or two joints or one or two plants. Anything greater is illegal, even if it’s for personal use. Other common charges include illegal possession of prescription drugs and possession of street drugs, like meth and crack. All drug possession cases require prosecutors to prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Proximity: Generally, if Max is in a room, any drugs in the room are close enough to satisfy this requirement. The same is true if Max is in a vehicle and drugs are anywhere in the cargo or passenger area.
- Knowledge: The further away the drugs are from Max, the harder it is for the state to prove he knew they were there. That’s especially true if Max was a guest in the house or he didn’t know the other people in the car very well.
- Control: This element is even more difficult to prove than knowledge, particularly if there was more than one person in the room or vehicle. If Max couldn’t access the drugs without asking someone to move, he didn’t control them.
Thanks to the changing legal environment, most prosecutors view drug possession as not a criminal issue but a health and safety issue. Therefore, in most cases, resolutions are available that keep the matter off the defendant’s permanent record.
This offense usually involves manufacturing, selling, and/or distributing illegal drugs. Giving away an illegal drug, like giving leftover pain pills to a co-worker, is drug distribution.
These matters often involve long investigations with lots of moving parts. Therefore, procedural defenses are common in such matters.
Search warrants based on the informer’s testimony are a good example. Prosecutors cannot work backward in these situations. They cannot argue that if the information was accurate, it must have been reliable. Accuracy and reliability are two different things.
Most people will say practically anything for love or money. Therefore, judges closely scrutinize informer information in search warrants. If the informer doesn’t have an established track record or there’s no corroborating evidence, a judge may throw the warrant out of court. If that happens, the seized drugs are inadmissible.
Procedural and other possible defenses are critical in drug trafficking cases. These offenses are more serious than possession. Therefore, prosecutors don’t hand out favorable plea bargains like candy on Halloween. Plea negotiations are a little like poker. If a Rochester criminal lawyer holds a good hand, the prosecutor is more likely to fold.
Technically, these offenses don’t involve illegal drugs. Instead, these cases usually involve altering a medicine label or, less commonly, faking a prescription. Almost anyone with a laser printer and some patience can create a fake medicine label. Simple safeguards, like calling the doctor to confirm the prescription, have all but eliminated prescription fraud, at least with regard to opioids.
Prosecutors are particularly aggressive in these cases, and not just to protect public safety. Essentially, there’s a presumption that people who alter labels have drug problems. Nevertheless, favorable plea bargains are still available in these cases, especially if a drug evaluation reveals the defendant isn’t an addict.
These cases sometimes have proof problems. For example, in New York, possessing a fraudulent label is only “presumptive evidence of such person’s intent to use same for the purpose of illegally obtaining a controlled substance.”  This presumption alone usually isn’t enough to prove altering beyond any reasonable doubt.
Facing Criminal Drug Charges? Get Help Today
There’s a big difference between a criminal arrest and a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.