The best criminal defense attorneys have experience on both sides of the courtroom. Jacqueline Cistaro has nearly 20 years of experience serving as both a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. As a result, she can offer the best possible defense for any New York or federal drug trafficking charge. She has defended clients locally, nationally, and internationally, including Europe, South and Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Africa.
An arrest for drug possession, sales or trafficking is a very serious offense. Under state and federal laws, many drug convictions carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. You need to know these statutory mandatory minimums to make an informed decision about whether to plead guilty or go to trial.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a drug crime, you should know that you have options. I have helped many clients in similar situations and will aggressively defend your case.
New York classifies drug crimes based on the severity of each crime, which takes into account the type and class of a controlled substance a person possesses (actual or constructive), quantity and quality of the controlled substance, intent of that person, whether there was a sale of the controlled substance or drug, and the number of prior convictions for the same crime.
New York State law defines a “controlled substance” as any substance listed in schedule I, II, III, IV or V of section thirty-three hundred six of the public health law other than marihuana, but including concentrated cannabis as defined in paragraph (a) of subdivision four of section thirty-three hundred two of such law.
Drug trafficking charges can involve the possession, sale, delivery, manufacture, or transportation of controlled dangerous substances depending on the quality and quantity. The federal government’s drug trafficking laws are stiff and the penalties are severe. Even a drug trafficking conviction involving seemingly small amounts of cocaine, heroin, meth or LSD can lead to a minimum of five years in jail. Furthermore, a drug trafficking conviction involving large qualities can lead to decades in prison, serious financial consequences, limited travel freedoms and much more, and require a drug crimes lawyer with the skill to defend such a high-level offense.
Defenses to Drug Charges
There are a few possible defenses to drug possession/sales/trafficking that a criminal defense attorney can argue:
- Lack of knowledge or intent
- A Fourth Amendment violation due to illegal stop, search, and seizure
- A valid prescription for the controlled substance
How can a drug conviction alter your life
Besides lengthy terms of probation or incarceration, one of the most common fears of having a criminal conviction on your record is the inability to get a job or loss of professional license. However, this one fear only scratches the surface of the negative consequences a drug conviction can have on your life. Without the representation of a drug crimes attorney, you could be left with a felony conviction. Having a conviction on your record will affect the rest of your life.
Under New York Law:
New York State drug crimes range from low-level misdemeanors to serious class A-I felonies. If convicted of a class A-I felony, as a first-time felony drug offender, you could be facing the possibility of 8 to 20 years in state prison and fines of up to $100,000. Whereas, a sentence of class B to E felonies can range from a minimum of 1 year to 9 years and fines ranging from $15,00 to $50,000. In some instances, a defendant may be charged with violations of both state and federal drug crimes.
Under Federal Law:
You could be facing mandatory minimum sentences of incarceration, 5 years or 10 years. But you can also face up to 40 years in prison. Also, even if mandatory minimums do not apply to your particular case, you could be facing lengthy incarceration due to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Drug charges can carry serious consequences. Without a criminal defense attorney by your side, you could face a significant prison sentence.
What are your options
There may be options that an experienced drug crimes attorney can negotiate on your behalf. The state of New York offers “Drug Treatment Court” as an alternative to incarceration. This applies where addiction is a component of the offense.
On the other hand, if Drug Treatment Court is not a viable option, there are other ways to avoid prison:
- Willard Drug Treatment Center
- Shock Incarceration Program
- Comprehensive Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Program (CASAT)
Also, under federal law, you may qualify for an exception to the mandatory minimum penalties mandated for drug trafficking offenses. Federal law provides a “Safety Valve” exception if you meet the enumerated criteria for a reduced sentence:
(1) The defendant does not have:
(A) more than four criminal history points, excluding any criminal history points resulting from a 1-point offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines; a prior 3-point offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines; and a prior 2-point violent offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines;
(B) a prior 3-point offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines;
(C) a prior 2-point violent offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines;
(2) s/he must not have been a leader, organizer, or supervisor in commission of the offense;
(3) s/he must not have used violence in commission of the offense;
(4) the offense must not have resulted in serious injury; and
(5) s/he must tell the government all that s/he knows of the offense and any related conduct.
Have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side
If you have questions or concerns, I invite you to contact me directly to discuss the issue you may be facing at 646.253.0583 or JEC@cistarolawfirm.com. You will discuss your concerns with me personally – never an associate or paralegal. Additionally, you should know that your contact with me, and with my firm, is privileged under the law. You have protection regardless of whether or not you decide to retain my firm to represent you.