New York  Federal Drug Crimes Attorney

The New York Federal Drug Crimes defense attorneys at Joseph Potashnik & Associates, PC are routinely called upon by clients charged with various federal drug-related offenses.

Facing the federal government in a criminal prosecution case is one of the most trying times in life.

Being charged with a federal drug-related crime is even worse because of the harsh potential consequences. When choosing an attorney for a federal criminal case, it is important to realize that not just any criminal defense lawyer is qualified to undertake a successful defense in a federal court.

Federal practice is hugely different from state practice and it is often overwhelming even for defense attorneys experienced in state criminal courts. Our New York federal drug crimes defense lawyers are highly skilled at representing clients in New York and New Jersey federal courts. We will not be intimidated by prosecutors and will be prepared to take your case all the way to trial if necessary.

We have provided a short overview of the federal drug statutes and sentencing for the benefit of our present and potential clients.

Federal Drug Schedules

Under federal law, 21 U.S.C.  812, there are five schedules of controlled drugs. The schedules are designated I, II, III, IV and V. Every controlled narcotic drug is listed in one of the schedules. Knowing to which schedule a particular drug belongs is important because it determines the penalty for the offense. The most severe penalties are designated for offenses involving drugs listed in Schedules I and II.

Schedule I includes heroin, marijuana, LSD, mescaline, and peyote. Schedule II lists opium, cocaine, methadone, amphetamine, as well as other substances. Schedule III includes nalorphine, anabolic steroids and lysergic acid Schedule IV includes meprobamate, barbital, chloral hydrate, and paraldehyde Most drugs listed in Schedule IV are hypnotics and sedatives. Schedule V lists Codeine mixed with other ingredients.

What are Federal Drug Offenses?


One commonly prosecuted federal drug crime is possession. 21 U.S.C. 844 makes it a federal crime to possess a controlled substance without a valid prescription. The possession must occur ”knowingly” and ”intentionally.” It makes no difference what the amount of the substance was; amount does matter for sentencing purposes once the defendant is guilty of possession.

Section 844 discusses several penalties for drug possession that vary depending on the circumstances. A first offense normally has no mandatory minimum of imprisonment and a maximum of one year assuming there are no prior state or federal convictions for drug offenses. If there is one prior conviction for a drug offense there is a minimum of 15 days with a maximum of two years imprisonment. Where there are two or more drug convictions, there is a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of three years.

The situation is drastically different when the person possessed cocaine base, also known as crack. For a first offender, there is a minimum sentence of five years if the possession involved more than 5 grams. For the second time offender, there is a five year mandatory imprisonment for possession of only 3 grams or more. Two or more prior crack convictions will bring the five year mandatory sentence if the new conviction is for possession of only one gram or more.

Manufacture, Delivery or Possession with Intent to Deliver

21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), is used in most of federal drug prosecutions. The statute makes it a crime to knowingly or intentionally manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess a controlled substance with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense.

Section 841 provides truly draconian penalties that depend on several factors such as the nature and quantity of the drug, and the prior record for drug convictions of the defendant. Generally, minimum terms of imprisonments are at least 5 years (up to life) for first time offenders, 10 years (up to life) for second and third time offenders.

Distribution to Persons Under Age Twenty-One

Under 21 U.S.C. 859, it is a crime for a person eighteen years or older to distribute a controlled substance to a person under the age of twenty-one. The maximum penalties are doubled and tripled for second and third time offenders respectively and the minimum imprisonment is at least one year.

Distribution or Manufacture in or Near Schools and Colleges

It is a separate offense under 21 U.S.C. 860 to distribute or manufacture a controlled substance in, on or within 1,000 feet of a school, college, playground or a public housing facility, or within 100 feet of a public or private youth center, a public pool, or a video arcade facility. Penalties for this crime range from the mandatory one year imprisonment minimum to twice the maximum punishment applicable for the same offense under 21 U.S.C. 841(b). A second time offender will be eligible for a minimum 3 year imprisonment; the maximum sentence may be from three times the maximum imposed under Section 841(b) to a term of life imprisonment.

Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE)

21 U.S.C.  848 prohibits ”engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE). A CCE means engaging (together with five or more others) in a federal felony drug violation, which is part of a ”continuing series” of violations of the federal drug laws. To be convicted under this law, the defendant must also play the role of an organizer, a supervisor, or a manager in the organization and he or she must have received substantial resources or income from the enterprise.

A first offender under Section 848 is eligible for a mandatory minimum term of 20 years and a maximum term of life in prison. A second time offender is subject to a mandatory minimum term of 30 years imprisonment with a maximum of life. However, under some circumstances, the penalties can increase to a life sentence or even death penalty.


One of the most widely used statutes in federal drug prosecutions is conspiracy. Under 21 U.S.C. ? 846, to secure conviction in a drug conspiracy case, the prosecutors must prove that two more persons had an agreement to commit a federal drug offense and that the defendant knew the purpose of the agreement and then deliberately joined the conspiracy. Convicted conspirator are subject to the same penalties as those imposed for the substantive offense that the conspiracy intended to commit.

Federal conspiracy cases are often difficult to defend because Federal Rules of Evidence allow admission of ”a statement by a coconspirator of a party during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy” as non-hearsay. This rule makes it easier for the government to use statements made by co-conspirators.

Import/Export Offenses

21 U.S.C. Sections 952 and 953 prohibit importing and exporting controlled substances into and out of the United States except for some exceptions that involve specific scientific purposes and the authorization of the Attorney General.

Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations

The anti-racketeering statute, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), is used against larger drug organizations. The RICO statute is aimed at interstate criminal enterprises that conduct their business through a pattern of racketeering. TO obtain conviction on a RICO charge, the government must prove several facts, including the existence of an enterprise, that the enterprise affected interstate commerce, that the defendant was associated with the enterprise and that he participated in the business of the enterprise, and that such participation was through a pattern of racketeering activity through a knowing commission of at least two racketeering acts within ten years of each other. A RICO conviction carries a maximum of 20 years imprisonment, however, in some cases it could be a life imprisonment.

Drug Related Firearms Charges

Federal firearm charges are not technically related to federal drug charges; however they are commonly used in drug prosecutions. Under 18 U.S.C.  924(c), there is a minimum 5-year sentence for anyone who uses or carries a gun during and in relation to any federal drug or violence crime.

Sentencing for Federal Drug Crimes

Sentencing in federal criminal cases is a complex process where many important factors are considered. Federal criminal statutes provide for minimum and maximum penalties, but the actual sentencing until fairly recently was controlled by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The Guidelines are now discretionary but they still remain very important in the sentencing process. Along with the Sentencing Guidelines, there are other equally important considerations which weight heavily with the sentencing court: cooperation with authorities, quantity of the drug in question, entering the guilty plea and previous criminal history of the defendant.

These factors can significantly reduce the Sentencing Guideline calculations. Judges may and do consider cooperation and other factors as grounds for a lighter sentence, sometimes even below the mandatory minimum.

How to find the best NY drug crimes lawyer

When you are facing federal drug charges, you are also facing one of your life’s biggest challenges. You need the best attorney but how do you find one? There are many excellent criminal defense attorneys in New York, and we believe that to choose one you need to do your own research, checking out the lawyer’s credentials and reviews, but then you must meet the lawyer in person and interview him or her. You should not rely on the Internet representation. Ask your lawyer how many cases they handled and how many cases they tried. Don’t fall for “I never lost a trial” nonsense. First, many lawyers never tried a case, and there is no defense lawyer who never lost a trial. You must be comfortable with the lawyer you choose. This is why we encourage you to meet with us so that we could discuss what we can do for you.

Joseph Potashnik and his colleagues, all experienced New York federal defense attorneys are ready to help when you or your loved ones are facing federal drug charges in New York.

If you have been charged with a federal drug crime or are currently the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, the first thing you should do is discuss your situation with qualified legal counsel. At  Joseph Potashnik and Associates, we advise clients who wish to learn what options might be available to them as they attempt to defend themselves against allegations of possession or trafficking of controlled substances. We can help you understand what your rights are under the law and how we would address the allegations leveled against you in federal court. Whether we feel that you need a criminal attorney at your side to help you mount a vigorous defense or wise counsel to assist you in negotiating a plea agreement, you can rest assured that we will be working hard every step of the way in order to secure the best terms possible for you.

Federal Drug Investigaions

Any major drug investigation in the United States has the potential to become a federal case, without regard to whether the investigation started at the state or local levels of law enforcement. Even if a case starts out being a purely local affair, federal prosecutors and investigators often bargain with local and state officials to trade defendants who they believe might be beneficial to their own cases, especially if they feel that a particular defendant might be leveraged as a potential witness or source of information in another case. Thanks to minimum sentencing guidelines, even individuals found in possession of small amounts of drugs can face significant federal prison time. Most estimates indicate that between 20- and 25-percent of all individuals incarcerated for drug crimes are jailed for federal offenses.

An attorney should be present

Before a defendant says anything to a local, state or federal investigator regarding a drug case, it’s a good idea to request the presence of a lawyer. Investigators have immense leeway under the law to use a number of techniques in order to gain information from suspects and witnesses, including the right to lie to them. The presence of an attorney may discourage an investigator from trying to approach a case from this angle.

Even in instances where an individual may wish to cooperate with law enforcement, it’s a wise choice to seek the advice of a lawyer before going forward with the process. An attorney can explain what is expected of a person who enters into an agreement with the government and see that their rights are being protected.

What options are available?

At  Joseph Potashnik and Associates, we help our clients review the details of the cases brought against them in order to provide what we think are the best available options given the circumstances. An attorney may be able to review your case and identify procedural problems that should be brought to the attention of the court. We will check that the officers involved in the investigation handled all evidence properly and highlight where they might have done something wrong. If we believe that pursuing an agreement with the prosecution is the right choice for you, we will explain how the system works and help you try to obtain the most favorable terms possible, including asking the court for a reduced sentence or diversion toward alternative programs for first-time or non-violent offenders.

The attorneys of  Joseph Potashnik and Associates help clients present their cases clearly before the court, and our goal is always to see that you receive the fair treatment that you deserve. If there are questions about the investigation, we’ll work hard to see that the judge is made aware of those concerns. We’ll review the search and seizure process that was applied in the case in order to verify that everything was handled properly by law enforcement officials at every stage of the process. If we believe that the prosecution is being overzealous in applying the law against a client, we’ll remind the court of the defendant?s rights before the law.

Contact us today and request a time to discuss your situation with a lawyer who’ll work hard to present your case and protect your rights.

Drug Crimes Attorney

Facing a scenario where you are charged with the possession of drugs or having involvement with such a predicament in another way can be frightening. Not only are you afraid of what the future is going to hold, but you also do not know how to navigate your way there. Fortunately, our law firm can provide you with an attorney to help, and hiring one is a wise decision to make.

Understanding Your Rights
When you do not know what your rights are, moving on with this particular type of case is going to be difficult. Even if you have a basic understanding of what you can and cannot do, and what your rights are in the case, completely recognizing them can be challenging. Instead of just guessing with this extremely important element of the process, a lawyer can help you to fully see what your place is and where you belong in this process.

Having Representation in Court
Some people think that they are going to do well when they defend themselves. While it is not unheard of to defend one’s self and succeed, you generally have a much better chance of doing so with the lawyer. Even if you feel that there is no one better to represent you than yourself, you may very well not have the knowledge necessary to predict what types of questions might be asked in court and to determine what type of scenario you can expect when you are on the stand.

Explaining Legal Terms and Phrases
Whether you have a lot of material to read through before the day of the trial or you are trying to figure out what everyone is saying in court, not knowing what is going on around you can be seriously detrimental to your case. Having a lawyer from our firm means that he or she can explain unfamiliar words to you. Not only will you know the definitions of all of these terms, but the lawyer can put them into words that you understand and can explain the implications of them for your case.

Guiding You Along the Way
A court case for drug crimes is going to involve a number of different components. Even if you just spend one day in court, a lot will happen leading up to that day, and more may come after it in the event that you are found guilty. At some points during the process, you are going to have decisions to make. While the decision is ultimately up to you, legal guidance is extremely important. With the advice of professionals, you could make a decision that ends up in the worse case scenario for you. Heeding the advice of professionals can make all of the difference.

The decision to hire a drug crimes attorney is a smart one because you have the opportunity to learn more about the circumstances of the situation, receive representation in court and have someone with whom to consult when you are faced with a challenge or decision.

What Happens When I Am Charged With Federal Drug Charges?

Drug trafficking violates both federal and New York State law; thus, if you are arrested on a drug charge, you may be prosecuted in either state or federal court, and you can be charged with violating state and federal law. If you have been arrested by federal law enforcement, you will likely be tried in federal court.

The federal government has designated the New York and New Jersey area as a high intensity drug trafficking area (HIDTA); therefore, federal law enforcement officers have many well-funded resources dedicated to investigating and prosecuting drug trafficking crimes in these areas. Typically, the federal authorities prioritize going after drug trafficking organizations and their investigations will center on individuals the authorities believe can lead them to the organizations.

Federal narcotics and controlled substances cases are generally prosecuted under 21 U.S.C. section 841, which makes it illegal to manufacture, distribute or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, a controlled substance. Controlled substances includes cocaine, crack-cocaine, and heroin, as well as marijuana, steroids/HGH (human growth hormone), methamphetamines like crystal meth, ecstasy (also known as methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA), date rape drugs such as GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid), and prescription drugs like oxycontin etc., as well as others.

Usually, federal prosecutors will not go after low-level drug offenses where there is typically little evidence of intent to distribute or dispense. Other than that, federal prosecutors prosecute a wide range of cases, from relatively simple cases against “drug mules” arrested at airports to complex trafficking cases against international cartels. Since 21 USC 841 is very broad, its provisions can be applied to almost any drug-related scenario, as long as there is some indication (whether through drug quantity or other evidence) of involvement with drug trafficking, rather than simple possession for personal consumption.

Many federal drug arrests and indictments come as a result of long-term investigations by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) or DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), directed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys. In these investigations, federal law enforcement agents will frequently use wiretaps, search warrants, undercover officers, and confidential informants to gather evidence for their cases. Bank and financial records can also be used to bring federal money laundering charges and show that illegal drug proceeds were being disguised or hidden. Many defendants in these cases often end up testifying against their co-conspirators because of the potentially significant penalties for refusing to cooperate with the government.

Due to the government’s focus on going after organizations, any individual caught up in such an investigation risks being charged as a conspirator in offenses they have not committed and may not even have known about. Statutes such as RICO may be used to charge low-level offenders, against whom individually there is not much evidence, with involvement in international drug trafficking.

The penalties for federal drug offenses can be quite stiff and depend largely on the federal sentencing guidelines. A federal sentence will this be determined by the convicted defendant’s base offense level, and the existence of possible aggravating factors or bases for downward departures from the base offense level. One of the most important factors federal judges look at is previous criminal history. Other factors include the issue of whether the crime caused harm to another person, whether the crime was violent, and the level of the defendant’s cooperation with authorities. Conversely if the crime was violent, harmed innocent bystanders or risked harm to others, or the defendant had a leading role in the criminal organization, the judge may well find the presence of one or more aggravating factors and increase the sentence accordingly.

Other consequences of a federal drug prosecution may include civil forfeitures, where property is seized from the defendants and may be permanently forfeited if prosecutors show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was knowingly bought with proceeds from drug sales or other criminal acts.

Non-citizens should also be aware of the impact that a federal drug prosecution will have on their immigration status. Non-citizens who are arrested and charged with drug trafficking will typically be also be subject to removal proceedings; it should be noted that a non-citizen can be removed even if he or she is not actually convicted of drug trafficking by the federal court.

If you or someone you know has been arrested or is being investigated for federal drug trafficking charges, your first step should be to contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will help you mount the best possible defense, give you a realistic picture of possible outcomes, and address any collateral consequences that are specific to your individual situation.

Call our experienced NYC criminal defense attorneys at (212) 577-6677 to schedule an immediate consultation.