Operating as a major trafficker – NY’s “Kingpin” statute (Penal Law Section 220.77)
A few years ago, the New York Assembly enacted into law a tough new statute designed to increase the penalties for major narcotics traffickers or managers of drug trafficking organizations. Penal Law 220.77, oftentimes referred to as New York’s “kingpin statute,” makes it a Class A-1 felony offense to
- act as a director of a controlled substance organization during any period of twelve months or less, during which period such controlled substance organization sells one or more controlled substances, and the proceeds collected or due from such sale or sales have a total aggregate value of seventy-five thousand dollars or more; or
- as a profiteer, knowingly and unlawfully sell, on one or more occasions within six months or less, a narcotic drug, and the proceeds collected or due from such sale or sales have a total aggregate value of seventy-five thousand dollars or more; or
- as a profiteer, knowingly and unlawfully possess, on one or more occasions within six months or less, a narcotic drug with intent to sell the same, and such narcotic drugs have a total aggregate value of seventy-fie thousand dollars or more.
Notably, the statute sets forth especially severe penalties, even when compared to other Class A-I narcotics-related offenses. A person convicted of this offense – even one with no prior record – faces an indeterminate prison sentence anywhere from 15 years to life or 25 years to life.
Interestingly, it should be noted that under New York law, there is a big difference between controlled substances and narcotic drugs. Controlled substances include most every drug, but a narcotic drug is heroin and cocaine.
In calculating the values of the drugs, obviously a qualified police officer can attest to the average street value; in many cases however undercover officers purchase the drugs from the defendants or their associates, so the amount of money that was spent is the proof of the value of the drugs.
These cases typically arise after long-term investigations involving undercover police officers and police informants. Oftentimes wiretap and other forms of electronic surveillance play a prominent role in developing these cases as well.
Defending these cases effectively regularly requires strong challenges to search warrants and electronic surveillance or “eavesdropping” warrants. Also, defense attorneys can sometimes effectively argue that although trafficking of narcotics may have in fact occurred, their particular clients played a minor or negligible role in the criminal enterprise.
One notable recent “kingpin charge” case in the news involved the arrest of several members of an organization allegedly in possession of over $2 million worth of heroin (70 kilograms).
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a major trafficking or “kingpin” charge, you should strongly consider contacting the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP. Their team of former Manhattan prosecutors has worked on several cases involving major traffickers with an outstanding record of success.