Articles Posted in Controlled Substances

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Crystal Methamphetamine Defense Attorney

Crystal methamphetamine is a frequent target of law enforcement in New York. The simple possession of a small (personal use) quantity is typically prosecuted in state court as a misdemeanor pursuant to NY Penal Law Section 220.03. The possession or trafficking of very large quantities of crystal methamphetamine is oftentimes prosecuted in federal court pursuant to 21 U.S.C. Sections 846 and 841, and can carry significant mandatory minimum penalties depending upon the quantity and the defendant’s criminal record. These federal charges also typically involve presumptive pre-trial detention, meaning that it may be difficult if not impossible to secure a defendant’s release pending trial. Larger-scale trafficking and possession of crystal methamphetamine can also result in New York state Class A-II felony charges for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (Penal Law 220.18) and/or Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree (Penal Law 220.41).

Matthew Galluzzo has extensive experience defending individuals accused of possessing or trafficking crystal methamphetamine in New York state and federal courts. His clients have gotten great results in these matters. For example, on several occasions, Mr. Galluzzo has negotiated outright dismissals of serious felony charges in exchange for participation in drug rehabilitation programs. In multiple federal cases involving the trafficking of many kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, he earned his clients sentences far below those called for by the Sentencing Guidelines. In short, his track record with these sorts of matters is second to none.

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Federal prosecutors sometimes have a powerful statute to use against drug sellers whose products cause fatal overdoses. Specifically, 21 U.S.C. Section 841 – the most common federal narcotics distribution charge – includes enhanced penalties for situations in which the defendants have sold or distributed narcotics that caused overdose deaths. A charge with no mandatory minimum under normal circumstances might carry a 20-year minimum where it can be proven that the drug that was sold caused someone to die. Some prior felons can also face potential mandatory life sentences for selling narcotics that cause fatalities. Even in a case in which the prosecution may not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the narcotics caused a death, the prosecution may be able to secure a very stiff sentence under the federal Sentencing Guidelines, where the evidence proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant’s product is responsible.

First, the government has to prove that the defendant actually sold drugs to the deceased person. Law enforcement frequently uses text messages and phone records to prove transactions in these cases. Law enforcement also frequently attempts to purchase narcotics themselves (undercover) from the target/suspect. That way, in the very least, the government can prove a charge of 21 U.S.C. Section 841, if not the overdose aspect.

Many drug overdoses are polydrug situations, meaning that the deceased person ingested more than one drug recently. In those cases, it can be more complicated to ascertain the precise “but for” cause of death. Certain drugs may interact with each other in unclear ways, and other drugs may work together in aggregate towards the same toxidrome. It is critical to have the assistance of a toxicological expert and an attorney familiar with some of the issues in overdose analysis. Many if not most of the federal prosecutions in this sphere nowadays involve fentanyl, and that drug is indeed far more potent, prevalent and deadly than most others. But that doesn’t mean that fentanyl – even when it shows in the victim’s bloodwork – is always the but for cause of death.

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Platinum selling rap artist Fetty Wap (real name Willie Junior Maxwell II) was arrested and arraigned on October 29 pursuant to a federal indictment charging him and five other men with Conspiracy to Distribute Narcotics (the other five men were also charged with Use of Firearms in Connection with a Drug Crime). The charges are incredibly serious and Fetty Wap faces very significant jail time.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the rapper and five other men trafficked in significant quantities of heroin, cocaine, and the especially-dangerous drug, fentanyl. The defendants (including Anthony Leonardi, Robert Leonardi, Brian Sullivan, Anthony Syntje, and Kavaughn Wiggins) have all been arrested and detained pending trial. Prosecutors claim to have recovered at least 16 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of heroin, and fentanyl, though it is certain that they will allege that the group is responsible for far more than that. Indeed, the press release describes the amount of drugs trafficked by the crew as “massive”.

Fetty Wap is unlikely to be released on bail pending trial, though it may be possible given his likely financial resources. However, in federal narcotics cases of this size and scale, the presumption for judges is that a defendant should be detained pending trial. Fetty Wap would have to convincingly demonstrate that he does not pose a risk to the public, and that he would not flee if released on bond. Given his resources (and possible ability to live abroad), the amount of prison time that he is potentially facing, the fact that his codefendants are indicted for using firearms, and the fact that he allegedly trafficked in fentanyl, which is notorious for causing fatal overdoses, it seems unlikely that he will be bailed out pending trial.

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Federal law enforcement agents from the DEA routinely seize quantities of cash that they suspect to be tied to or derived from narcotics trafficking. Frequently, these seizures happen in conjuncture with the arrests of those in possession of the cash, or pursuant to indictments. But most of the time, agents seize cash – even huge sums of it – without arresting anyone. In those cases, the owners or possessors of that seized cash have some difficult decisions to make.

In these cases, federal law generally requires the agents to send a notice to the person from whom the cash was seized. The person who receives the notice is typically given the opportunity to make a claim for the cash, which includes an explanation as to the source of the cash. This response must be made under penalty of perjury, and can include supplemental documentation from a related business (such as tax returns or bank statements), or sworn statements from other people, among other things. Every once in awhile, the agents return the cash to the claimant based upon the representations made by the claimant, or based upon the evidence demonstrated to the agency. Our attorneys have successfully assisted clients in getting cash returned by federal agents this way.

If, however, the agency refuses to return the money based upon these representations, then they must commence a civil forfeiture action in federal court. The precise procedures for doing so are outlined in 18 U.S.C. § 983. Ultimately, in a civil court proceeding, the federal agency (DEA) must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the seized cash represents proceeds of illegal activity. This is the civil standard for proof and it is much lower (easier) than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard necessary to prove a person’s guilt of a crime.

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A huge percentage of the criminal cases in federal court involve charges relating to the trafficking of drugs, narcotics, and controlled substances. Convictions for these crimes carry serious penalties and sometimes involve mandatory minimum prison sentences. Usually, a person accused in federal court of possessing or trafficking controlled substances is charged with violating 21 USC 841, which makes it a crime to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance. Section 841(b) sets forth the potential penalties for this offense, and it depends primarily upon the quantity of controlled substance possessed/distributed in the aggregate. What matters for sentencing purposes is not the number of transactions or the frequency of the activity, but the total volume of drugs possessed or distributed over time. If the quantities involved surpass a certain threshold (depending on the drug), as set forth in Section 841(b), then there can be serious mandatory minimum prison sentences for the offenders. Those mandatory minimum sentences notwithstanding, the potential penalties for these offenses are governed by the complex system set forth in the federal sentencing guidelines. For more on the federal sentencing guidelines, click here.

Federal cases involving narcotics charges typically are the result of long-term investigations by the FBI, the DEA, Homeland Security, or a joint task force involving local police like the NYPD. As such, there are oftentimes wiretaps, surveillance tapes, confidential informants, and search warrants. An effective defense requires an attorney who can review the evidence and the law enforcement processes to determine whether any constitutional rights were violated.

Many unfortunate individuals never actually possessed or distributed narcotics but nonetheless find themselves charged in federal court on account of the conspiracy laws encapsulated in 21 USC 846. That statute explains: “Any person who attempts or conspires to commit any offense defined in this subchapter shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the attempt or conspiracy.” Basically, this means that a person who plays any knowing role whatsoever in another person’s illegal business is criminally liable for the entirety of that conduct. For example, a person who introduces two people for the purpose of a drug transaction can be expected to be charged as an equal to whatever drug transaction ultimately occurred. A person who acts as a lookout during a drug transaction could be treated as equally culpable to the seller of the narcotics. A person who simply rents an apartment to someone whom he knows is dealing drugs from the apartment could be guilty of “conspiring” to assist the dealer. These are just a few examples of people who could be charged in ways that seem unfair in light of their relatively modest role in the crime. We have however defended many girlfriends of drug dealers and casual acquaintances of true criminals who have found themselves knee-deep in serious federal cases after having had only fleeting or tangential involvement in the cases. But this is the reality of federal conspiracy law.

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An F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa granted to people abroad who wish to enter the United States in order to attend academic institutions, training programs, or conservatories. As is the case with any non-citizen, an arrest and conviction for even the most petty offense can trigger serious consequences for an F1 visa holder, including revocation of the visa itself. While the stakes in every criminal case are high, things become even more complicated with F1 visa defendants. To be sure, a criminal attorney needs to be especially diligent when representing any non-citizen facing criminal prosecution for the simple reason that a drastic change in immigration status can potentially accompany any period of incarceration, probation, or even non-jail. As the lawyers at The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo have always urged, it is of utmost importance for non-citizens who are arrested to secure experienced counsel as early as possible in the case, and especially before any plea bargan is entrered into. Crafting pleas with an eye towards preserving citizenship/visa status is a delicate and nuanced process, which is why F1 Visa holders require experienced counsel to avoid all of the potential pitfalls.

Our lawyers have a great track record of representing F1 visa holders who are arrested in New York for charges including Petit Larceny, Assault, DWI, Theft of Service, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, Marijuana possession, Weapons possession and more. One of the advantages F1 visa holders do have is that they often have minimal criminal justice contacts, if any, as well as solid resumes since they have been granted access to attend one of New York’s many fine academic institutions (many of our clients have attended Columbia or New York University, to name a couple). As former prosecutors, we are able to marshall our clients’ strengths and put together an effective and targeted strategy in each case in order to secure the best possible outcome. Our goal is always to leave our clients’ records intact, as well as ensure that they are able to preserve their visas and continue their studies here with minimal distraction. Our lawyers have also secured countless dismissals in such cases, which provides the best outlook for any non-citizen facing criminal prosecution.

If you or a loved one are studying here in the US on an F1 visa and have been arrested and charged with a crime or violation offense, do not hesitate to contact our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers at The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo as soon as possible so as to avoid any negative consequences.

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O-1 visas are granted to individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics (O-1A), as well as those with a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, and who have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements (O-1B). O-2 visas are granted to those who accompany O-1’s for the purpose of assisting them in a specific event or performance. USCIC requires an O-2 play an “integral” role in the assistance of an O-1A’a activity, or provide “essential” assistance to the completion of an O-1B’s production. O-3 visas are granted to spouses or children of O-1 and O-2 holders. All three types of visas are usually granted for a period of up to three years, after which they may be extended in one-year increments, without limitation.

As in the case of any non-citizen, the stakes are higher for O-1, O-2 and O-3 visa holders who are arrested because they face the risk of visa revocation on top of any sentence which is authorized for the crime they’ve been arrested for. For this reason, our lawyers are extraordinarily diligent in their representation of visa holders (as well as non-citizens in general), where a great deal of effort must be placed on crafting dispositions with an eye towards preserving our clients' immigration status. In addition to being accomplished trial litigators, our attorneys are also top-notch negotiators who have secured many dismissals and non-criminal dispositions for our clients. Specifically, the attorneys at The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo have represented countless visa-holders with an impeccable record of success. For all of these reasons, it is imperative for any non-citizen who has been arrested (even given a Desk Appearance Ticket) to contact us as early in the process as possible. Even those charged with seemingly “minor” misdemeanors need to be diligent, for example, those charged with: Theft of Services (PL 165.15), Petit Larceny (PL 155.25), Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree (PL 220.03), Criminal Mischief (PL 145.00), Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (PL 221.10), Assault in the Third Degree (PL 120.00), and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree (PL 265.01).

Keep in mind, U.S. visa posts routinely perform criminal background checks on visa applicants, which can lead to devastating consequences for those who don't navigate the system properly, including, but not limited to, initiation of removal proceedings. For a myriad of reasons, it is critical for any O-1, O-2 or O-3 visa holder to contact an experienced attorney who understands the delicate nuances and immigration consequences posed in each of these cases. To be sure, the lawyers at The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo have successfully represented O-1 visa holder with great success. If you or a loved are faced with a criminal prosecution, contact our attorneys without delay.

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New York City owes much of its energy and excellence to the foreign citizens living and working here. Unfortunately, a visa or green card holder’s right to remain in the United States can be seriously jeopardized by a Desk Appearance Ticket, even when the charges are comparatively minor misdemeanors. Many visa holders fail to take these arrests sufficiently seriously because the charges seem minor (like marijuana or subway fare theft) or because the arresting officer tells them “it’s no big deal.” Truthfully, though, career, educational, and family plans can be completely devastated by even a minor case of walking through the subway gate without paying, so it is absolutely critical that a foreign person arrested and issued a Desk Appearance Ticket retain competent counsel immediately.

In many ways, a Desk Appearance Ticket does not feel like such a big deal. The arrested person is usually handcuffed and taken to a police station where they are fingerprinted. They typically wait a few hours in a holding cell until they are given a piece of paper telling them the date and location of their appearance in court. Before Desk Appearance Tickets became routine, criminal defendants could expect to get “sent downtown” and spend the night in jail before seeing a judge. Obviously, Desk Appearance Tickets are preferable for criminal defendants because they spend less time in custody and also have the opportunity to choose counsel for themselves prior to going to court.

Make no mistake, however: the issuance of a Desk Appearance Ticket is in fact an arrest – it is not “just a ticket”. More importantly for visa holders, this event is not going to “fly under the radar” with the immigration agencies. If you were arrested and given a Desk Appearance Ticket, your fingerprints and the arrest charges have been sent to a New York state agency (the Division of Criminal Justice Services) and to the FBI, which maintains a federal nationwide law enforcement database of all arrest events across the United States (the Interstate Identification Index). Visa and green card holders should understand that the immigration agencies, in processing visa renewal requests, access this database to investigate whether the visa applicant has an arrest record. Indeed, some visa holders actually receive emails from Department of Homeland Security (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) agents after their arrests, because the agency was notified of the arrest via the fingerprint database.
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H1B visas (allowing foreign citizens with highly specialized expertise in the areas of math, science and engineering, among others, to live and work in the United States) are highly sought after and not easy to get due to the limit – or “cap” – on the number of such visas granted each year. There are many highly-qualified professionals working in New York thanks to the H1B visa program, and they are welcome additions and assets to the community.

Unfortunately, even a minor arrest can derail an application or renewal for an H1B visa. The attorneys at The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo have represented many individuals with H1B visas who have received Desk Appearance Tickets for misdemeanor arrests, including, among other things: Theft of Services (PL 165.15), Petit Larceny (PL 155.25), Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree (PL 220.03), Criminal Mischief (PL 145.00), Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (PL 221.10), and Assault in the Third Degree (PL 120.00). Some of these cases are oftentimes resolved with adjournments in contemplation of dismissal (“ACDs”) that would generally be considered to be favorable dispositions. However, ACDs typically involve six month waiting periods before the cases are dismissed, and any people who need to apply for or renew their H1B visas during that six month period are precluded from doing so (and thus unable to remain in the United States at their chosen and hard-earned job). Put plainly, an H1B visa will not be renewed if a criminal case is pending or if the ACD waiting period is still outsanding. This effect has also been noted in the context of other visa applications, such as F1 and J1 visas.

While these are generally not considered the most serious of cases, for visa holders, even these comparatively minor criminal cases can impact your life, career and renewal applications in a number of other ways. For example, convictions for these crimes can result in job loss, permanent criminal records, deportation or inadmissibility, fines, and potentially even jail time. A criminal case should never be taken lightly, but foreign citizens with visas need to be even more mindful of the consequences of an arrest.

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