In the United States, crimes are categorized three different ways:
Violations are minor charges, and are rarely used except in juvenile cases or non-moving infractions. Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies but still carry fines and the potential for jail. Felonies are very serious offenses that are usually punished with jail time and fines. There are a lot of different variables between the felony and misdemeanor charges, but basically, it’s penalties. On a felony conviction, you are likely to go to a state prison facility or have a longer term of probation.
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People often underestimate the impact of having even a misdemeanor on their record. The reality is that any type of crime can go on your permanent record and can surface in the future and be used in future employment evaluations.
Serious drug crimes are considered felonies in New York
In a study completed as part of the 2012 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Annual Report, researchers tested for drugs in 1,736 men, in five major cities and within 48 hours of the men’s’ arrests. More than 60 percent of the men tested used at least one illegal drug.
New York has historically been known for some of the toughest drug laws in the United States. Most offenses involving controlled substances are felonies. They carry huge fines and most often are accompanied by long prison sentences.
There is a wide spectrum of drug crimes of which one can be charged with committing. The types of criminal drug cases include:
- Sale of controlled substance — Conviction of selling drugs is an offense that could lead to extensive jail or prison time.
- Drug possession — Possession of 500mg or more is already a Class D felony punishable by one to two and a half years in prison.
- Drug trafficking — Like most states, New York has laws that strictly punish those convicted of producing, distributing, or selling controlled substances.
- Marijuana charges — Marijuana charges vary significantly. Possessing a few joints, cultivating a field and trafficking marijuana are examples of marijuana drug charges.
- Narcotics charges — There are certain drugs that are very dangerous to society. Legislatures have enacted laws that make the possession of these drugs, in even small amounts, a felony offense. Heroin, ecstasy and cocaine are examples of these drugs.
The variables that affect drug penalties
The penalty sought by the prosecution and the sentence ordered by the court depends on the circumstances of the crime. The following are some of the factors affecting the penalty, per the criminal defense laws in NY State:
- Which illegal substance was involved in the crime?
- How much of the drug was involved?
- Was selling or intent to sell drugs evident?
- Were firearms seized with the narcotics?
- Does the client have any prior convictions and, if so, were any of them for felonies or violent felonies?
- Had the client received drug treatment?
Drug Crime Penalties
The penalties for drug possession vary drastically depending on the type of drug found on your person. They may involve minimum mandatory state prison sentences and substantial fines and penalties.
Unlike states in Colorado or Washington or the District of Columbia, it is still illegal to possess marijuana, especially in quantities over 28 grams. First-time possession doesn’t carry much consequence, a citation and a $100 fine. It is a non-criminal charge in New York State. We have decriminalized certain amounts of marijuana. In most cases I will be able to get you a delayed dismissal. If you possess marijuana in a quantity over 28 grams, you will be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Cocaine, on the other hand, carries a much stiffer penalty. Even if you are only found to be in possession of a very small amount, penalties can be several months to 15 years in prison and fines can be up to $500,000. Prosecutors and police will look at the type of cocaine and the amount to determine whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony.
Possession with intent to distribute may be determined based on the amount of drugs found on your person. The quantity required to increase the charge from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute varies between the drugs found and their weight. Penalties for this offense are very serious. They range from a misdemeanor to an A felony.
Individuals are usually charged with distribution if they are caught with a larger quantity of drugs than would warrant a possession charge, but not enough to necessitate a drug trafficking charge. The heavier the drug, the steeper the penalty. And for a significant amount, an individual can face years behind bars.
More Information You Should Know About Drug Charge Cases:
- What is an ACD?
For a first offense, an experienced attorney is usually able to negotiate an ACD, which is an abbreviation for adjournment and contemplation of dismissal. What this means is, if you stay out of trouble for the next six months, fulfill any condition that the court imposes, then the charges will be dismissed, your record will be sealed and expunged, and this will be like it never happened.
- What is the Difference Between an Adult and a Youthful Offender?
New York State categorizes crimes between adult and youthful offender. There are also cases that are sent to family court based on age as well. If you are above the age of 16, in most cases you will be prosecuted in adult court. However, if you are between the ages of 16 and your 18th birthday, you will be treated as a youthful offender. If you are under 16 years of age, your case will more than likely be referred to family court as a juvenile offender.
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This education blog was brought to you by Arthur Pressman, a dedicated Drug Crime Attorney in Buffalo NY with over 20 years of experience.
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