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New York Criminal Defense Law Blog

Do New York misdemeanor charges add to inequality?

Although the term "misdemeanor" applies to minor offenses, these charges play a considerable role in the U.S. criminal justice system. According to one expert, misdemeanor allegations and the sentences that often come with them only worsen the inequalities in American society.

In a book exploring criminal justice, Alexandria Natapoff, a one-time public defender, highlights how the long-term consequences of misdemeanor charges have harsher impacts on people who already face hardships. For instance, poorer people who can't afford attorneys still end up paying public defender fees. They also face the risk of being jailed when they can't pay their fines or having to wait behind bars for prolonged periods to see judges.

Wrongful convictions remain a serious concern

A wrongful criminal conviction may be the worst nightmare for many defendants in New York. Still, innocent people are convicted on a regular basis. In fact, one study estimates that 6 percent of cases may end with wrongful convictions. Some of these miscarriages of justice have come to light in recent years due to advancements in DNA technology. New access to evidence has enabled people convicted of serious crimes like rape and murder to show that it was scientifically impossible for them to have committed the offenses for which they were imprisoned.

Exonerations have happened in about 3 to 5 percent of such serious criminal cases, according to criminologists. University of Pennsylvania researchers noted that less serious criminal charges, including armed robbery, assault and drug possession, have not been studied. By surveying 3,000 state prisoners in Pennsylvania, the team found that 6 percent claimed to be innocent of the charges against them. The researchers said that this could be considered a high estimate, because some convicts may have reported their innocence untruthfully. However, the fact that the vast majority of respondents did not make such claims indicates that the responses are not inherently unreliable.

Terms to know regarding drug charges

Drug charges are serious and can come with strong penalties. If you are facing such charges, you should try to build the best defense possible. 

Understanding the process and its important aspects can be vital in building your defense. In doing so, there are a few key terms to be aware of in regards to drug charges.

Child pornography laws in New York

People accused of crimes related to child pornography may face New York state charges as well as federal charges. Under the New York Penal Code, Article 263 defines offenses involving the sexual performance of a child. These crimes include production, distribution, promotion and knowing possession of child pornography. Child pornography does not involve any form of nudity of a child; the material prohibited by this law involves actual or simulated sexual conduct by a child younger than 16. The law applies to children under 17 if the person is accused of authorizing or inducing the child to create the pornographic material. It also applies to children under 17 if the person is accused of producing, directing or promoting the pornography.

One of the more common charges related to child pornography is possession of the material. For a person to be convicted of possession of child pornography, prosecutors must show that he or she knew the content of the material. Therefore, the simple presence of material on a computer may not be sufficient to convict a person of these charges. Illegal materials covered under the law may include films, photos or other visual representations.

Understanding possession with the intent to distribute

Possession with the intent to distribute is a serious charge that can lead to prison terms and fines. However, in order for a New York resident to be charged with this crime, three conditions must be met.

The first condition is possession. Typically, possession occurs when a person is found holding illegal drugs on his or her person, including in his or her hands, clothing or bags. Possession can also occur if illegal substances are found in a person's car or home, but authorities must show that the person knew or should have known the drugs were there. The second condition is the intent to distribute. This charge occurs when authorities can prove that a person was intending to distribute drugs. Since prosecutors cannot read the minds of defendants, they must use circumstantial evidence to establish this crime. For example, if a person is in possession of an amount of drugs too large for personal use, prosecutors may assume the drugs are intended for sale. Likewise, the presence of items typically associated with drug distribution, such as packaging materials, scales and large amounts of cash, could indicate an individual's intention to distribute drugs to others.

What to learn from Bernie Madoff

New York residents and others may remember that Bernie Madoff was taken into custody in December 2008. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison after being convicted of perjury and other felony charges. Madoff ran a Ponzi Scheme, in which investors put money into a project or some other entity that doesn't exist. The original investors are paid with cash that is collected from those who enter into the deal later on.

One of the critical lessons learned from the Madoff scandal is that investors should always spend time investigating an opportunity before handing over their money. Taking the time to do so can help an individual better understand how the returns are generated and if they are likely to continue. If there are parties claiming that an investment is too good to be true, it is possible that they are correct.

The difference between tax fraud and negligence

According to the IRS, about 17 percent of taxpayers don't follow the tax code in a given year. However, less than 1 percent of taxpayers are convicted of tax fraud or other tax code violations annually. This is because not all violations of the tax code are the same. To rise to the level of fraud, a taxpayer in New York or elsewhere must willfully ignore or violate some portion of the tax code.

This may include failing to file a tax return or making false statements on a return. Those who fail to report income or pay taxes owed could be committing a serious offense as well. In most cases, the IRS will assume that a mistake occurred because of carelessness as opposed to a blatant attempt to violate the law. When auditing a return, the government can generally spot signs of fraud such as using a false social security number or keeping multiple sets of books.

Bodybuilder pleads guilty to New York drug charges

On Nov. 28, a New York bodybuilder pleaded guilty to a high-level drug charge and holding his wife captive. As a result, he will spend a minimum of 18 years in prison.

In November 2017, the defendant, a 39-year-old resident of DeWitt, was found to be in possession of hundreds of pounds of marijuana and over $3 million worth of cocaine. The drugs were discovered after police responded to a domestic violence incident in which he bound his wife with duct tape and threatened to kill her. His 47-year-old landlord was also taken into custody as a result of the incident, but he was later cleared of all charges and released.

How does a drug conviction affect NY voting rights?

If you face felony drug charges in New York, you likely have a variety of concerns. While mounting a good defense and limiting prison time are probably at the front of your mind, you cannot forget about your post-conviction civic life. You may wonder how a drug conviction in the Empire State could affect your legal right to vote. 

As you probably know, state law dictates who can vote. In some states, convicted felons permanently lose their legal right to cast a ballot. Fortunately, that is not the case in New York. Once you finish your sentence for a drug-related crime, you can probably register to vote again. Here are some things you need to know about criminal convictions and voting rights in New York. 

Federal felony fraudulent use of a credit card

Fraudulent use of a credit card in New York can be a federal crime if it involves interstate commerce. Chapter 15, Section 1644 of the United States Code contains provisions defining fraudulent use of a credit card.

A person who knowingly uses or attempts conspire to use a credit card that is counterfeit, altered, fictitious, forged, lost or stolen to obtain money, goods or services worth $1,000 or more in a transaction affecting interstate commerce may be charged with fraudulent use of a credit card in federal court. A person who transports or conspires to transport a credit card that they know to be lost, stolen, forged or fraudulent or attempts to sell the card across state lines may be charged with this offense.

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