Drug distribution and trafficking include the transportation, selling, and importation of substances such as cocaine and heroin. If convicted of such a crime, you can either face the federal or NYC state laws. In case the crime involved more than one state, you will have to face the federal law.
Penalties for drug charges are dependent on the drug in question and the amount you have in your possession. Beyond a certain amount, the police will consider you a seller and not just a user. Undercover police can also arrest you for drug trafficking if they believe you have drugs intended for sale, even if you have not transacted yet. With drugs such as marijuana, possession of fewer than 25 grams will only result in fines and no jail time. Beyond that, you will face at least 3 months in jail and fines.
Drug trafficking charges are not just applicable to illegal drugs. The unlawful distribution of prescription medicines such as painkillers also results in drug trafficking charges. Buying such medications is also a crime.
Food Stamps for People Convicted of Drug Charges
Under the NYC state laws, you will have to prove that you are free of drugs before you are eligible for food stamps. This law applies to ex-convicts and people who are thought to be drug addicts. The law was introduced in the late 1990s after the federal government made it illegal for drug convicts to receive food stamps. Also, the federal law does not allow any discretion or method of receiving food stamps in the future, even if the convict reforms and completes rehabilitation. However, it allows states to enact laws that either ignore the federal ruling altogether or modify it.
The NYC law requires ex-convicts to undergo drug tests to ensure they are not using tax payers’ resources to subsidize their drug habits. It does not require all recipients of food stamps to test for drugs. In Michigan, food stamps recipients have been tested for drug abuse, and only a little over 10 percent have been discovered to have been abusers. Lawmakers in New York State have found it poor use of tax payers’ funds and have, therefore, limited the process to ex-convicts and people who are likely to be addicted to drugs. There is insufficient proof to suggest that food stamp recipients are more likely to use drugs than working citizens.
It is prohibited to use food stamps to pay for drugs or anything other than the required foods. Engaging in such activities can lead to SNAP fraud and drug charges. Transacting any amount of money using food stamps is illegal, but the charges get more severe with an increase in monetary value. This is a serious offense and can lead to jail or prison sentence in a federal facility, fines, court fees, and limitation or loss of your food stamp benefits. If you are not a US citizen, you may even get deported and denied a green card and US citizenship. The charges may also result in criminal records that affect your ability to rent an apartment or get a job in the country. Prosecutors will often allow lesser penalties for convicts who co-operate in larger cases. This option is usually available to lower level offenders.
The food stamp penalties will be determined by the type of court that rules your case. New York courts will still allow you to access food stamp benefits after release from prison. If you use food stamps to pay for drugs, the charges will fall under one of five tiers:
Welfare fraud in the fifth degree is the least serious offense and it includes crimes involving less than $1,000
Welfare fraud in the fourth degree includes offenses exceeding $1,000
Welfare fraud in the third degree includes offenses exceeding $3,000
Welfare fraud in the second degree includes offenses exceeding $50,000
Welfare fraud in the first degree includes offenses exceeding $1,000,000. This is the most serious SNAP fraud.
Drug charges are not only limited to the sale or possession of the substances. Even being in possession of drug paraphernalia can lead to a conviction. Drug paraphernalia is legally classified into two; those used for drug distribution and those used for ingestion of drugs. The latter includes syringes used to inject drugs such as heroin. In some cases, equipment such as spoons can also be considered drug paraphernalia as they are sometimes used in the distribution of drugs.
Possible Defenses against Drug Charges
If you are facing drug-related charges, it is best to hire a New York lawyer to handle your case. They are always in a better position to win cases or at least get you the best deal possible. It will be in your best interest to give your lawyer all the relevant information so that they can come up with the best defense. Otherwise, they may be unable to formulate a proper defense for your case.
Defenses for the possession of drugs in New York include:
Unlawful or illegal seizure or search
Missing or insufficient evidence
Drugs were not in your possession
Coercion to take the drugs
It is worth noting that the use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in New York. Certain life threatening conditions make you eligible for medical marijuana in New York. These include AIDS and cancer, and the disease must be accompanied by chronic pain or other complicating conditions. You will have to get certification from a registered medical practitioner and then register through the medical marijuana program. You will still have to stick to the recommended dosage or you will be charged.
Use of medical marijuana is not a defense in federal courts but is acceptable in New York state courts.
Drug trafficking and possession charges are very serious and can result in lengthy jail terms, in addition to major fines. In the state of New York, you will still be eligible for food stamps, although you have to undergo drug tests. It is advisable to enlist the services of skilled New York attorneys if faced with such charges. This will enable you to get the best deal possible.