One of the great things about living in (and visiting) New York City is the amazing nightlife. The city is home to some of the best nightclubs and bars in the world, including places in the Meatpacking District like Tenjune, 1Oak, The Griffin, Gaslight, Beaumarchais, the Standard (The Top of the Standard and Le Bain), as well as other clubs throughout Manhattan, such as Lavo, Santos Party House, Provocateur, Output, the Jane Hotel, Mehanata, Verboten, Cielo, Webster Hall, the Pyramid Club, the 40/40 Club, and the Marquee, among countless others. Unfortunately, arrests for theft, assault, sexual assault, and drugs are common at these sorts of establishments, and some unfortunate people are saddled with more than just a hangover after a night partying at these places.
The attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP have represented dozens of people arrested at nightclubs and bars throughout the city, and our experience as prosecutors and defense attorneys has taught us that certain types of cases are quite common. Through our experience on both sides we have also learned that these types of cases present unique challenges and opportunities for defense attorneys, and have learned how to best take advantage of the unique circumstances that these cases often present.
The most typical arrest charges for drugs at nightclubs are Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail (Penal Law 220.03) (frequently charged as a Desk Appearance Ticket), Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B felony punishable by multiple years in state prison (Penal Law 220.39), and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B felony punishable by multiple years in state prison (Penal Law 220.16) for possessing with the intent to sell. It is noteworthy in the club context that the definition of “sale” in New York state law simply means to give to another person, thus “sharing drugs” with your friend is technically a “sale of drugs” even if your friend did not pay you anything for the drugs. Typical nightclub drugs classified as “controlled substances” include cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), molly or methylone, heroin, prescription drugs like oxycodone, and methamphetamine or crystal meth, to name a few.
One thing that is unique about these cases in the context of nightclubs is that oftentimes the “arrests” are made by security guards or bouncers. Individuals do not have a right against being “illegally searched” by private actors on private property (such as security guards), so those arguments that might work for searches performed by police officers typically do not apply. However, security guards are notorious for mishandling contraband prior to delivering it to police and quite frankly make for less-than-reliable witnesses at trial. Also, undercover officers frequently attempt to purchase drugs inside of nightclubs, and arguments about entrapment might be available where someone (possibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol already) who was simply in possession of drugs at a nightclub without any intention of selling them suddenly is persuaded into selling some out of an innocent desire to be social with the undercover.
We have previously been successful in getting felony drug sale charges dismissed for individuals arrested by undercover police for allegedly selling drugs inside of NYC nightclubs, and have had countless nightclub drug possession charges for our clients as well. If you or a loved one have been arrested or issued a Desk Appearance Ticket in connection with an alleged possession of drugs that occurred at a nightclub or bar in New York City, you should strongly consider contacting the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP. Their three attorneys were all former Manhattan prosecutors that used to investigate and prosecute crimes like these, and they have had considerable success getting drug charges (possession and sale) dismissed for clients in cases originating in nightclubs and bars.