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New York Drug Crimes Defense

Well over 50,000 people are arrested for drug crimes in New York each year. Most of these arrests are for drug possession, drug distribution, drug manufacturing, and for drug paraphernalia. Drugs involved include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, PCP and various prescription drugs. Because the use of drugs presents a significant health problem and leads to other crimes, New York police and prosecutors spend millions of dollars each year and spend significant time and manpower to arresting and prosecuting those suspected for drug crimes. In their zeal to punish those involved in drug crimes, law enforcement does not always get it right. There are many cases in which those arrested have valid defenses that could result in drug charges being reduced, dismissed, or in the accused being acquitted. If you are convicted of a drug crime, the penalties can be steep. Most drug crimes are felonies, meaning that sentences can involve spending years and years in prison. Because of the possible consequences of a drug crime conviction, if you have been charged with a drug crime such as drug possession, marijuana possession, drug manufacturing, or drug distribution, you should immediately contact an experienced New York Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer who will explain to you your legal options and work closely with you to aggressively defend you against these charges. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have decades of experience representing clients who have been charged with drug crimes and other serious crimes such as assault, domestic violence and sex crimes. Find out what we can do for you by contacting us at to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

Types of drug crimes

Under the New York law there are 40 drug offenses related to controlled substances and marijuana. Most involve possession, distribution, manufacturing, and paraphernalia. While one is a violation and a few are misdemeanors, the majority of drug crimes are felonies.

Drug possession offenses involve knowingly and unlawfully possessing marijuana or a controlled substance. In some cases the amount of the drug you have will impact the seriousness of drug possession charge you face. If you have more than you would likely have for personal use, you may face a possession with the intent to sell offense.

Drug selling offenses involve selling, exchanging, disposing of, giving, or agreeing to sell, exchange, dispose of giving away drugs. Drug selling laws also prohibit unlawfully selling prescriptions and involving minors in drug distribution. Charges for drug selling offenses tend to me more serious than for drug possession offenses.

New York drug manufacturing offenses prohibit manufacturing methamphetamine. While drug paraphernalia offenses involve having substances and equipment necessary to make, store, and package drugs in order to sell it. It is also against the law to unlawfully possess hypodermic syringes or needles.

Defenses to drug crime charges Not an illegal drug

If you have a substance that resembles a controlled substance or marijuana but is not, then you have a valid defense to a drug charge. In fact there are many designer drugs that while they may cause symptoms similar to controlled substances, may not have the chemical makeup of a drug on the list of controlled substances which may mean that the drug is not illegal. A chemical lab test can show whether not the drug is a banned substance.

Lawful possession

If you are arrested for possession of a controlled substance that is a prescription drug such as OxyContin or Vicodin and you have a lawful prescription for the drug, you have a valid defense. Keep in mind, however, that it is still illegal to sell a prescription drug even if you have valid prescription.

Insufficient quantity

For certain drug crimes, a minimum amount of the drug is required. For example, for a charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second degree based on cocaine, the required amount of cocaine is at least 4 ounces. If you can show that you had less than 4 ounces, then you have a valid defense to a second degree criminal possession charge. However, you may still face a lesser charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third, fourth, fifth or seventh degree, depending the amount of cocaine you actually had.

Absence of "knowing" element

Drug offenses require that you "knowingly" possess, distribute, or manufacture. If you do not know what type of drug you have you may have a valid defense to a drug crime charge.

Witness or victim of drug or alcohol overdose

It is important to get help for someone who is overdosing from drugs or alcohol. Thus, New York law provides a statutory defense to a drug crime charge if you seek health care for yourself or for someone else who has a life threatening emergency. This means that if someone becomes very sick and you call 911, if you also happen to have drugs in the room or on your person, law enforcement cannot arrest you for certain drug offenses such as drug possession or marijuana possession. However, this exception does not apply to drug selling for consideration charges. N.Y. Pen. Law § 220.78

Unlawful search and seizure

Fourth Amendment search and seizure issues are common to drug crime cases. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits illegal search and seizure procedures. While during a traffic stop drugs that are in plain view in a car may be seized and used as evidence, drugs seized in illegal searches cannot be entered into evidence and as a result, drug charges may had to be dismissed. In People v. Rafailov,38 Misc.3d 1214(A)(2013),the police officer frisked a suspect in order to determine if the suspect had a weapon. In the course of frisking the suspect, the police officer felt an object in the suspect's pocket that turned out to be a box that contained a controlled substance. However, the court found that the search and seizure was illegal as the box was clearly did not feel like a weapon, so the officer did not have the legal right to remove the box from the suspect's pocket.


The sentence for a drug crime conviction varies based on the classification of the drug crime, with the maximum sentence being up to life in prison for crimes such as criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first degree and operating as a major trafficker. All are class A-1 felonies. The most important factors that will determine your sentence are the classification of the drug crime and your criminal history. Those who are first time, non-violent offenders will receive lighter sentences than those with prior felony convictions. In addition, if you have a substance abuse problem, you may eligible for an alternative sentencing program called Drug Treatment Court.

The Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates can help

Penalties for controlled substance sentences are some of the harshest in New York's penal code. However, there are also many ways to challenge drug crime charges. For these reasons, if you are arrested for a drug crime it is important to immediately contact an attorney who has experience defending those accused of a drug crime. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been accused of possession, distribution and manufacturing offenses and understands defenses available to the different types of drug charges. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of drug crimes in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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