For people in New York accused of serious drug crimes, significant prison sentences can be a very real consequence. In one case, a 21-year-old man from New York City was stopped in his vehicle and found to possess 2,195 bags of heroin. The man was sentenced in December 2017 to nine years in state prison, the maximum sentence associated with the charges against him.

The defendant had hidden the heroin inside a secret compartment inside his van. Underneath the center console of the Chrysler minivan was a metal plate and a concealed area designed for the transportation of the packets; the hidden area could be locked shut. The special transportation system was a significant part of the state’s case against the man, as they accused him of having a vehicle built specifically for drug trafficking.

In addition to the van that he drove over 7,000 miles in the four months prior to his April 2017 arrest, he also had access to two other vehicles and had been pulled over before in Georgia while driving south. Prosecutors alleged that this indicated his involvement in substantial drug trafficking. However, the man said that he did not sell drugs and did not use drugs himself, other than cannabis.

The man was convicted of third-degree criminal drug possession several months before his sentencing. Despite the focus in sentencing and prosecution on drug trafficking, he was actually acquitted of possession with intent to sell and has no prior record. The man’s lawyer noted that he plans to appeal the sentence.

People charged with drug trafficking or possession can face significant penalties, prison time and criminal records. A criminal defense lawyer can provide critical representation in court for people accused of these types of drug crimes, challenging questionable evidence and unconstitutional searches and seizures.