Queens County Bar Association
Martindale Hubbell - Distinguished 2023

How Has Your Experience Been in Handling Drug Related Crimes?

I’ve been a criminal lawyer, practicing mainly in Queens, for the past 40-plus years and certainly, over those years, a large part of my practice has dealt with drug-related cases of basically every kind.

What Are The Common Types Of Drug Offenses That You Handle?

They have varied over the years. When I first started, heroin cases were the most prolific. People were really helpless in terms of any kind of treatment, and heroin was the biggest drug around. Later there was cocaine and then the so-called crack cocaine epidemic. These days the most common charges involve marijuana, as well as the designer drugs that are similar but stronger than marijuana and cocaine.

How Is A Drug Charge Determined To Be Either A Misdemeanor Or A Felony In New York?

It depends on the type of drug. For instance, most marijuana cases, even sales, are misdemeanors, unless you get to larger quantities. When you’re dealing with controlled substances, only very small quantities of possession are misdemeanors. The possession of any controlled substance can be a felony with possession of relatively small quantities. Sale of just about any controlled substance is a felony, no matter how small the amount. And the severity will depend, to a large extent, on the quantity course, and the particular drug being sold. Moreover possession with intent to sell is usually just as serious as actual sale and can involve even very small quantities of drugs.

What Are Unlawful Controlled Substances?

There are many, and they are governed by law. In New York, they don’t fully follow the federal guidelines of controlled substances, but they are the ones that you would expect: heroin, cocaine, hallucinatory drugs, depressives and stimulants. Just about all of them are considered a controlled substance in one way or another.

What Is Considered Possession, Sale And Intent To Distribute Unlawful Drugs?

Actually, the only charges that we deal with are either sale or possession. When you have possession of a drug, again, the seriousness can be determined by the quantity of the drug, but there may also be an intent to sell. For instance, you could have a small quantity of drugs and be charged with possession with intent, and that’s just as serious as an actual sale of the drug. Of course, it can be difficult to prove that you possessed it with the intent to sell, and that sometimes can be a jury question because there’s a big difference in the severity between just plain old possession of a relatively small quantity of drugs and possession with intent to sell.

Does New York Address Drug Trafficking Charges?

There’s no such thing, really, as trafficking. They are all covered by, again, sale or possession with intent, which will basically cover what trafficking means. It’s just a different term that’s used.

Are Police Allowed To Conduct A Warrantless Search If They Suspect Drug-Related Crimes?

When it comes to the home, the law is perfectly clear. You cannot go into a person’s home without a search warrant for practically any reason other than for what are called exigent circumstances, which really don’t apply too often in drug cases. The only other way that an officer can come into your home is if you give him consent. So one of the things you should be very careful of is if an officer comes to your house and says, “Look, I want to make a search of your room or your son’s room.” In this case, you have every right to keep him from coming into your home unless he can show you a valid search warrant.

As far as automobiles, the law is much less stringent. If a police officer stops a vehicle for a lawful purpose, such as a traffic infraction, and he smells marijuana, he is at that point allowed, under current New York law, to actually make a search of the vehicle. Also if he makes a stop, even without any cause whatsoever, and fears for his safety, he can look into the area of the vehicle that is within reach of the motorist to protect himself. That’s more used as an excuse than anything else. But the laws regarding searching a car are much less stringent than they are for a person’s home.

For more information on Drug Cases In New York, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (718) 793-5700 today.

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