Marijuana cases in New York State are defended in a number of different ways. When a client comes to us having been arrested for possession or sale of marijuana, we obviously interview them as to the circumstances of their arrest. In many of these arrests, it’s critical to determine how they were observed with the marijuana, where it was found, whether it was in their car, whether it was on their person, whether it was displayed in public. Those factors have a very critical impact on the defense of the case because if it’s possible to have the evidence suppressed – that is the marijuana that was seized by the police officers – then we can have the charges dismissed outright. As with every criminal case, there is a thorough investigation of the arrest by the police officer, and often the police officer will stumble upon the scene, and what will happen is he will work backwards into determining what the facts are, understanding that he doesn’t want the evidence to be suppressed. What we try and do is point out the illogical pattern in which he indicates the crime took place, and we’ve been very successful in dropping the police officers in mistaken testimony that leads to the suppression of evidence and the dismissal of the charges.
We also go into great depth in terms of the person’s background. If an individual has never been arrested for a marijuana charge, either a sale or a possession, there is a mechanism within the law also known as an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. It’s a different type of mechanism than you might see for a minor crime that is dismissed because in an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal for marijuana, the period of the adjournment is for one year, and after that one year, you don’t have to make an appearance on that one-year anniversary. An order goes out to the judge, and the judge signs the order, and the charge is dismissed, and the record is sealed. Now, people that have never been arrested for a marijuana charge, have never received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, do not have a prior conviction for another crime, are eligible for that adjournment in contemplation of dismissal certainly on that first offense, and in fact, in subsequent arrests, we’ve been able to obtain with the discretion of the prosecutor and the judge additional adjournments in contemplation of dismissal. When you get to a felony charge, which is usually based on the quantity of marijuana that is involved in the criminal transaction, those require the discretion of the court and the prosecutor and are not mandatory in those cases.
We’ve also had an opportunity over the last year with the advent of medical marijuana. In New York State in January of this year, the law was enacted, and we’ve been successful in getting our clients enrolled in the medical marijuana program where they have demonstrated a hardship because they are for example in one case, in extreme pain and can’t take the normal painkillers that are prescribed for treating such type of pain, and the marijuana seems to have an effect. Unfortunately, many of them buy the marijuana before they’re in the program, and if we’re able to demonstrate that we have a suitable candidate for that program, our experiences are that the prosecutor and the court has looked favorably on it in the resolution of those old and pending charges.