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Understanding changes to drug possession laws in New York

In the state of New York and other states across the nation, when laws and regulations are no longer appropriate, adjustments should be made. With regards to regulations dealing with drug possession, the details of the law might require modification if the resulting penalties or consequences do not align with the crime. In some cases, the punishment is much too severe for the crime committed. In order to avoid unjust treatment to defendants, these punishments are modified.

Back in 1973 the Rockefeller Drug Laws were enacted in the state of New York. These laws were enacted in order to reduce the rising crime rates and drug use in the state. Furthermore, the laws were primarily used to make it easier to bring charges against drug kingpins. These set of laws included a law that mandated a punishment of at least 15 years to life in prison for a conviction of possessing four ounces or more of heroin or cocaine.

These laws were criticized due to their harsh penalties, especially for first time offenders. The law was amended several times since its enactment, and its most recent amendment occurred in April 2009. This resulted in the elimination of the mandatory prison sentence. Moreover, this also reduced the minimum sentence lengths for other drug charges.

The most recent drug law reform also included a requirement for an impact study. Understanding how these laws impact the general public and those accused or convicted will help them better the laws. This information could help current and future defendants. Having knowledge of the possible penalties of a drug possession charge could help the defendant understand the importance of a robust defense strategy.

Facing a drug crime is a serious and emotional experience. Those accused should be aware of their rights and that they are entitled to a defense. Those seeking to devise a defense strategy should seek advice about their possible legal routes. This will ensure their rights are protected and they understand how to make the best possible defense against the charges.

Source: NYS DCJS, "Drug Law Changes," accessed on Sept. 30, 2014

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