It depends on what’s going to be done with the case. If it’s a typical case, it’s either going to be disposed of by a traditional type of plea bargain or, if the case goes to trial, it will follow the same track as any other case. Queens County, in particular, has developed very strong resources for alternative programs to help people that are charged with drug offenses under various circumstances, and in that case, the case can go on for a year or more while the person is being treated.
Can A Passenger Be Charged If Drugs Are Discovered In The Vehicle?
Yes, they can. New York law makes a specific presumption that if you are in an automobile, any drugs that are found within the vehicle are presumed to belong to each and every occupant of the vehicle. For instance, you could have a tiny amount of a substance that’s recovered from a car, far less than would be used by the six occupants of the car; however, everybody in the car can and will be charged with possession of that substance, even if it was shown that they never touched it, as long as it was within the vehicle.
What Are The Potential Penalties For A Drug Charge Conviction In New York?
Once again, it depends on the particular drug and the quantity. Penalties can be extremely severe. For instance, if you either sell or have possession of more than four ounces of a controlled substance, such as heroin or cocaine, you face the possibility of a lifetime sentence with various minimums attached to it. So the penalties can be extremely severe. Penalties for smaller quantities may amount to a misdemeanor, which is no more than a year in jail for a first offense and can go up from there, depending on the quantity and the type of drug. But penalties tend to be fairly severe in New York for drug offenses.
Are Penalties Enhanced If There Are Multiple Convictions For Similar Crimes?
Yes, they are. For instance, if it’s a second felony offense, then the individual, if convicted, faces mandatory state incarceration for periods measured in years. Again, there are ways of getting around that, but that’s the penalty that a multiple offender will be facing if he’s convicted of that charge.
Can The Involvement Of A Minor Or Proximity To A School Enhance Drug Charges?
It depends on the particular charge. For instance, if the sale takes place within close proximity to a school, the penalties are enhanced. If the sale is to a minor, the penalty will also be enhanced.
Are Any Alternative Programs Available To First-Time Drug Offenders In New York?
Yes. I practice criminal law in Queens County, and Queens was really one of the pioneers in developing drug courts and treatment rather than incarceration for drug offenders. For the typical drug offender, if he’s motivated to help himself, we can, in almost all situations, work out something that will keep him out of jail and, instead, into either a drug court program or a task program where the court will follow the course of treatment. Other counties are trying it as well, but Queens has been very successful in rehabilitating people rather than sending them to jail.
The key question, there, is whether the person is motivated to help himself. If they’re just trying to beat the system, it generally won’t work; but if they want to help themselves, people can wind up, oftentimes, with no conviction whatsoever if they successfully complete their program or, at worst, get a reduced plea and a non-jail sentence. So it’s important that you discuss the different alternatives with your attorney before you either plead guilty or go to trial.
What Do These Programs Entail?
All of the programs will have frequent drug testing at a bare minimum. The biggest decision is between a residential program and a non-residential program. Most people will do fairly well in an outpatient program, where they’d be going to meetings several times a week. There is also psychological help and job counseling available, which can help a person get their life back together. And if that’s not adequate, then the court will mandate that the person be in a residential program; and once again, for people that have a more serious problem, this is helpful. A residential program is usually for six month, but it’s well worth it to stay out of jail and get your life back together.
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