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Most of New York's drug laws still carry stiff penalties

During the 1970s and 1980s, U.S. politicians at the federal and state level took action to pass harsh drug laws that called for mandatory minimum sentences for even minor offenses. In the years that followed, incarceration rates throughout the U.S. skyrocketed leading to the widespread overcrowding of prisons and jails and billions of dollars in increased government and tax spending.

More recently, both the federal government and several states, including New York, have taken steps to do away with mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenses. While the state's efforts to reform its drug sentencing laws in 2009 was a step in the right direction, individuals who are convicted of certain drug-related offenses still face many harsh penalties.

In New York State, numerous factors are taken into consideration when determining drug charges and sentencing. These factors include the type, quantity and purity of the drug as well as whether an individual is charged with drug possession, sale, trafficking or manufacture. Some of the most punitive drug sentencing guidelines are doled out for individuals who are convicted of selling drugs.

In addition to the type, quantity and purity of the drug; in cases where an individual is accused of selling drugs, the location of the sale must also be taken into consideration. Under state law, drug sales that occur within a certain distance of a school, day care or playground are subject to additional sentencing terms.

Even a fifth degree sale of a controlled substance conviction, the least serious type of drug sale offense, carries a prison sentence of one to two-and-a-half years. Additionally, minimum fines for drug offenses range from $5,000 to $100,000.

With so much at stake, it's important that individuals who are facing drug charges contact a criminal defense attorney. A defense attorney will review an individual's case and work to build a sound defense which may include the defenses of lack of intent, entrapment, lack of knowledge and possession for personal use.

Source: FindLaw.com, "New York Drug Distribution,Trafficking, and Manufacturing Laws," April 26, 2016

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