Drugs & Guns Possession
Drug charges are the most common crime brought in state and federal courts in New York. There is a huge variety of drug charges that prosecutors may seek with penalties ranging from a small monetary fine to possibly life in prison. As a New York drug lawyer Money and Cocaine result, it is extremely important that you work with an experienced New York drug lawyer for your defense.
Generally, the severity of the penalties you face such as whether you face a misdemeanor or felony charge will depend upon three factors. These include the type of drug you are accused of possessing, the amount of the drug involved, and whether the drug was for your own use or the use of others.
Possession or use of any weapon is a serious crime in New York State that could result in a lengthy prison term. Possession of a firearm, switchblade, gravity knife, cane sword, Kung Fu star, electronic stun gun, or other weapon is illegal under most circumstances depending on whether you have a license to carry or sell such weapon.
People who are convicted felons may not own guns and possession of a firearm by a felon is a serious felony. Most prosecutors refuse to reduce any possession of a weapons charge that involves a loaded firearm. This means that you will have to plead to a violent felony offense or go to trial. Often the charges result from several persons who are charged simply because they were in a car or house that contained a weapon such as a loaded firearm.
Types of Drug Charges
There are many different types of drug crimes in New York. Some of the most common charges that a New York drug lawyer defends against include:
Drug Possession. Drug possession in New York typically involves an individual possessing some quantity of drug for his or her own use. Because drug possession involves someone’s personal use, the amount of the drug at stake is usually very small. Prosecutors may assume that an individual possessing larger sums of the drug intends to sell or distribute the drug. Some convicted of drug possession can face misdemeanor charges and may even avoid jail time.
Drug Distribution. Drug distribution is also commonly referred to as the crime of drug dealing. Prosecutors may assume that someone with a large quantity of a drug intends to distribute. Additionally, equipment and devices in your possession, such as scales and baggies, may also support that you intend to distribute the drugs in your possession. Drug distribution can be a serious felony charge that involves significant jail time and other penalties.
Drug Manufacture. The manufacture of drugs can include a wide range of activities such as growing marijuana in your basement or creating a meth lab. Just like drug distribution, prosecutors treat drug manufacturing as a very serious crime, typically involving a felony charge and long prison sentences.
Drug Trafficking. The crime of drug trafficking generally involves an individual or group of individuals smuggling drugs across state or federal lines. Drug trafficking is almost always a federal offense and can involve severe penalties.
Conspiracy. While not technically a drug crime, prosecutors oftentimes tack on a conspiracy charge to a drug offense. A conspiracy generally involves a scheme involving two or more people to commit some crime and an overt act by someone in the conspiracy towards the commission of the crime. If prosecutors believe there are multiple individuals involved in a drug crime, they almost always will add a conspiracy charge. Conspiracy charges are very serious as someone convicted of the offense could face the same penalties as the underlying drug charge.
Defenses Against Drug Charges
Prosecutors oftentimes build weak cases against drug crime defendants or use unscrupulous methods. Many drug cases feature two recurring themes of police error that can seriously damage a prosecutor’s case, says a New York drug lawyer.
First, law enforcement officials may violate your rights with an illegal search and seizure. Police generally need probable cause to make a stop or to search your possessions. In addition, police may need a warrant to enter your home. Probable cause can be difficult to prove and prosecutors have the burden to show that the police reasonably believed a crime was being committed. An experienced attorney can introduce evidence and help demonstrate why such belief by the police was, in fact, unreasonable. The police similarly need probable cause to receive a search warrant. Getting a proper warrant can take some time, and many law enforcement personnel wrongly skip this important step, jeopardizing their case.
The second error that many law enforcement personnel engage in is the use of untrustworthy informants to gather information. Many of these informers are far from reliable. The informers may have their own motives to point the finger at you. For example, an informer may be absolved of his or her own crime or may get a reduced sentence as an exchange. As a result, an experienced New York drug lawyer knows how to chip away at the credibility of many of these informers.
Potential Penalties to a Drug Charge
From a misdemeanor possession charge to a felony drug distribution charge, you should be aware that you face very serious penalties if you are convicted of a drug charge. This is true even for first-time offenders. The exact penalty that you face generally depends upon the following three factors:
Drug Type. The type of drug you are accused of possessing plays a key role in the potential penalties you face. For example, someone accused of possessing marijuana likely faces less severe penalties than someone possessing an equal amount of heroin. Some drugs are deemed more severe and carry greater penalties.
Amount of Drug. The larger quantity of the drug you possess, the greater the penalties you possibly face. If you are accused of possessing a large enough quantity of the drug, you could face a severe mandatory minimum sentence even for a first-time offense.
Intent. You face less severe penalties if you intend to use the drug for your own personal use. If you plan to sell or traffic the drug, you likely face felony charges and long prison sentences.
Criminal Possession of a Firearm
In New York, individuals possessing a firearm are required to register the firearm in a state registry. In addition, individuals may be required to update the information on a periodic basis and include such information as serial and model numbers. Individuals who fail to register their firearms face a class E felony charge. The penalties for a class E felony can include up to four years in prison. There is much at stake in a criminal possessions charge, and a New York gun possession lawyer can help.
Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree
This charge generally applies to persons who possess any firearm, knife, dagger or other categorized weapon including certain types of ammunition. Individuals accused of possessing these devices without a proper license face a class A misdemeanor charge.
The fourth-degree criminal possession charge is typically the least severe charge you may face. It also applies to individuals who possess one of the listed weapons if that person is not a lawful resident of the United States or suffers from a mental condition making him or her unsuitable to possess the weapon.
Someone convicted of criminal possession in the fourth degree faces up to one year in jail, along with significant monetary fines, advises a New York gun possession lawyer.
Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree
A third-degree weapons possession charge may apply to several situations, including:
- Someone who has previously been convicted of another weapons possession charge
- Someone possessing a firearm who has previously been convicted of a felony or a class A misdemeanor within the past five years
- Possession of an unloaded firearm in conjunction with a drug trafficking felony charge
- Possession of an unloaded firearm in conjunction with the commission of any violent felony offense
- An individual who possesses certain types of firearms including explosive or incendiary devices, bombs, gun silencer, machine-gun or other weapon which may be adapted into a machine-gun
- Possession of an assault weapon
- Possession of a large capacity ammunition-feeding device
- An individual who possesses three or more firearms
- Knowing possession of a disguised firearm
- Someone knowingly possessing a firearm where that person is aware that the weapon has been defaced to conceal its identity
Criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree is a class D felony and carries a prison sentence of up to seven years.
Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree
A criminal possession of a weapon in the second-degree charge typically applies in one of three situations:
- The individual possesses a machine-gun, loaded firearm or a disguised gun and has the intent to use one of these weapons against another person.
- The individual possesses five or more firearms. This does not require that the individual possess the intent to use the weapon against anyone.
- The individual possesses any loaded firearm, unless such possession takes place in the person’s home or place of business.
Someone convicted of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree faces a class C felony charge and up to 15 years behind bars.
Criminal Possession of a Dangerous Weapon in the First Degree
A New York gun possession lawyer will advise that as a result of one of the most serious weapons offenses in New York, a person faces a first-degree charge of criminal possession of a dangerous weapon if that person possesses any explosive substance such as an improvised explosive device and has the intent to use the explosive against someone or something. An individual may also face a first-degree charge if he or she illegally possesses ten or more firearms.
Criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree is a class B felony and carries up to 25 years in prison.
Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds
The state has a very harsh stance on possessing firearms in certain locations such as schools. In the wake of several high-profile school shootings, the state passed a law that makes it an automatic felony charge if an individual possesses a firearm on any buildings or grounds used for education purpose such as schools, colleges, universities and even school buses.
The penalties for criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds is a class E felony and carries up to four years in prison.
Unlawful Possession of a Weapon By Someone Under 16 Years of Age
There are special rules regarding possession of certain types of weapons by a minor under the age of 16. Generally, someone under 16 may not possess any air-gun or spring-gun, knives or other types of weapons that may use blank cartridges. A minor convicted of this offense will be treated as a juvenile delinquent.