If you are charged with illegally possessing drugs in Westchester County or anywhere else in New York, how will the state prove that you’re guilty? If you’re wrongly charged for possession, can you be convicted? What exactly are your rights if you’re charged for illegal drug possession? How can drug crimes law firms in Peekskill help?

Possessing a small quantity of illegal drugs for personal use is far from the worst crime in this state, but a conviction for any drug charge can still put a defendant in a New York jail or prison. Dozens of state laws deal with the illegal sale, manufacture, and distribution of drugs.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED WHEN A DRUG POSSESSION SENTENCE IS IMPOSED?

The precise sentences imposed on those convicted for illegal drug possession will depend primarily on the quantity of drugs, the kind of drugs, the amount of money that’s involved, whether minors or weapons played a role, and the defendant’s previous criminal convictions.

But exactly what will the state need to do to win a conviction for the illegal possession of drugs? The state must prove that a defendant possessed drugs illegally in one of three ways: actual, joint, or constructive possession.

law books and gavel

Actual possession means drugs were found on a suspect’s “person,” meaning a pocket, purse, backpack, shoes, socks, or underwear, or swallowed. If the search of a suspect’s “person” is conducted legally, finding drugs on a suspect’s person in most cases will mean a conviction.

WHAT ARE CONSTRUCTIVE POSSESSION AND JOINT POSSESSION?

Constructive possession and joint possession of illegal drugs are often more difficult to prove.

A suspect’s “constructive” possession of drugs is assumed when a suspect had “dominion and control” at the location where the drugs were found. A prosecutor can “infer” constructive possession if drugs are found in a suspect’s kitchen, bedroom, or bathroom, for example.

“Joint possession” happens when multiple persons had actual or constructive possession of illegal drugs. For instance, if the drugs are found in a cohabiting couple’s bathroom or kitchen, both persons are presumed to be in constructive possession of the drugs under New York law.

WHAT IF YOU ARE IN A VEHICLE WHERE ILLEGAL DRUGS ARE STASHED?

Everyone should understand that if the police stop a vehicle in traffic and illegal drugs are discovered in a storage compartment between the front seats, all occupants of the vehicle may be presumed to be in constructive and joint possession of the drugs.

Obviously, actual possession is the easiest possession to prove.

Constructive and joint possession of drugs is harder to demonstrate because the state must show that a suspect both had control at the location where the illegal drugs were discovered and also knew or should have known that illegal drugs were there.

possession laws

Merely being in a vicinity where illegal drugs are stored is not enough to prove that a defendant had constructive or joint possession of the drugs. The state must do more to connect the drugs directly to a defendant.

HOW IS CONSTRUCTIVE POSSESSION ESTABLISHED?

When a suspect resides by himself or herself or is a vehicle’s sole occupant, that is usually sufficient to establish constructive possession. But if a suspect isn’t the sole occupant of a residence or vehicle, again, a prosecutor must do more to link the drugs directly to the suspect.

In a home that the suspect shares, constructive possession may be assumed if the drugs are located in the suspect’s bedroom or personal effects.

drug laws in NY

Finding drugs in a vehicle is somewhat more complicated, but if the drugs are found under one person’s seat or in one person’s personal effects, constructive possession by that person may be presumed.

WHAT IS REQUIRED TO CONVICT SOMEONE OF ILLEGAL DRUG POSSESSION?

Here’s an example: Let’s say that the police pull you over in traffic and have reasonable cause to believe that you’re armed. An officer asks you to step out of the vehicle so that your “person” may be searched.

If illegal drugs are discovered on you in this situation, you will probably be arrested and charged for illegal drug possession, and there has been no violation of your rights.

Nevertheless, to be convicted for the illegal possession of drugs in the state of New York, you do not necessarily have to be physically and personally holding those drugs at the time of the arrest.

WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A DEFENSE ATTORNEY?

Anyone in Westchester County or nearby jurisdictions who are accused of drug possession – whether it’s constructive, joint, or actual possession – must contact an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney right away. Do not procrastinate about making the call.

Your attorney will review the details of the charge and discuss how the concepts of actual, constructive, and joint drug possession may be applied in your case. Your attorney will try to find a flaw in the state’s case against you and will seek to cast doubt on the state’s evidence.

drug lawyer

When a suspect is purportedly found to possess illegal drugs in a large quantity, the charge may be “possession with intent to distribute.” If the drugs are considered dangerous – like heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine – a conviction can trigger a mandatory minimum jail sentence.

But unless a suspect is caught “red-handed” selling drugs – or confesses – possession with intent to distribute will have to be inferred from other evidence, such as the discovery of the plastic bags or the scales commonly associated with illegal drug sales.

HOW WILL A DRUG CRIMES LAW FIRM IN NY HELP YOU?

Since the days when Nelson Rockefeller served as this state’s governor, New York has been known around the world for harsh drug laws. Serious drug crimes perpetrated by repeat offenders can put those suspects in prison for up to twenty years.

Drug laws in New York are complicated; for possessing illegal drugs, for example, six different charges are possible. If you are charged with illegal possession – or any other drug crime – in Westchester County or anywhere in the state, you will need a defense attorney’s help at once.

Any drug-related criminal conviction will negatively affect your life and possibly even take your freedom. You must avoid a conviction if you can. You must have the advice and help of an experienced Westchester County criminal defense attorney if you’re charged with a drug crime.

If you’re arrested and charged for any drug-related offense in New York, you have the right to top-notch legal representation, but you must take the first step and make the call to a reliable defense attorney without delay.

By: Kimberly Pelesz

Family law and criminal defense attorney Kimberly A. Pelesz received a B.S. degree magna cum laude and an M.P.A. degree summa cum laude from Binghamton University. She earned her J.D. from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, where she was selected for Phi Alpha Delta. Her charitable activities include work with My Sisters’ Place in White Plains and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Humane Education Taskforce.

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