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NY Drug and Marijuana Possession Crimes: Avoiding Visa Complications and Warrants

I have a visa and I was arrested in Manhattan for cocaine possession. What will this mean to my legal status? I am a student at Columbia University and I was given a Desk Appearance Ticket in Brooklyn for PL 220.03. Will my F-1 student visa be revoked? I had a little ecstasy in a bag when I was going to a concert in NYC. I’ve never been arrested before, but I am working in the United States on an H-1 visa. Am I going to lose my job and be required to leave the country? My visa is up for renewal in two months and the NYPD arrested me for smoking marijuana. Will an open criminal case for PL 221.10 cause me problems? Can I get my DAT in court early or do I have to wait for the date scheduled in Queens? Is it possible that the DA will dismiss or seal my case early before I have to reapply for my visa?

The above questions are only a few of those the New York criminal defense attorneys at Saland Law are routinely peppered with but they represent a common theme our criminal defense lawyers hear when clients are arrested and charged with possessing drugs throughout New York City. Even though the vast majority of these crimes are “personal use” offenses where Seventh Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance or Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Marihuana is charged, whether the drug you possess is heroin, cocaine, molly, or marijuana, there are some potentially crushing consequences of an arrest for these crimes. How you deal with them, whether you are residing in New York or merely here for vacation or holiday and returning to your home nation, and who you retain as your counsel can mean the difference between properly resolving a criminal case and compromising your ability to remain or return to the United States.

Managing Your Criminal Case: Leaving the Jurisdiction

In the event that you are arrested for a misdemeanor crime relating to drug or marijuana possession and you do not have a criminal record, the NYPD will often issue a Desk Appearance Ticket or DAT. The benefit is that you are not held in court overnight to see a judge and you are released within a few hours. However, if you are a foreign national from Germany, France, India, China, Brazil or any other nation, not only do you not have a local address other than a hotel or a family friend, but you likely are returning home at the end of your vacation or holiday well before you court date. Very simply, if you fail to appear a warrant will be issued for your arrest. The magnitude of this misstep may not be readily apparent, but when you apply for a visa in the future you may very well be denied entry and return to the United States because of this warrant. If somehow you are able to return because your visa did not expire, expect that the NYPD or Port Authority Police will arrest you once you get off your plane.

In the event you were not given a Desk Appearance Ticket, but were held in the “Tombs’ and Central Booking in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, then it is possible to resolve these cases when you see the judge. Be careful, however. The offer you are made may not be the offer you should accept. Instead, it could be a resolution that will adversely impact your career or status in the future. Regardless, if you are given a return date to complete community service or merely come back to court, failure to do so can and will lead to a judge issuing a Bench Warrant. In some cases, depending on the nature of the criminal charges, prosecutors in the respective District Attorney’s Office handling your case may decide to charge you in your absence with Bail Jumping. This is a distinct and separate crime.

However you are prosecuted, it is of critical importance to recognize that a quick resolution is not always the best one. Sometimes it is quite the opposite.

Resolving a New York Drug Case in Your Absence

The benefit of retaining a New York criminal defense attorney should be foremost in your mind when dealing with an arrest for PL 220.03, PL 221.10 or any drug related crime. For example, your criminal lawyer may be able to push the case forward so you can see a judge and resolve the case before you leave. If that is not possible, with the signing of certain paperwork, your criminal defense lawyer can potentially appear in your absence and explain where you are, why you cannot appear and accept a resolution. This is potentially possible even if a warrant was already ordered by a judge.

Avoiding Crimes of Moral Turpitude and Related Immigration Issues

The possession or sale of drugs or marijuana is always a concern whether you are a foreign student, tourist or worker. A conviction for one of these offenses can be deemed a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude. Such a conviction would not merely undermine your visa and legal status, but at the same time decimate your ability to visit, work or study in the United States.

Obviously, you and your criminal defense lawyer should assess your case and determine what your defense may be. Was there a misunderstanding? No probable cause? An illegal search? If there is no defense on the face of your arrest and prosecution you should discuss with your counsel the possibility of an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) or Disorderly Conduct (NY PL 240.20). Both of these are non-criminal resolutions that can minimize your exposure to immigration consequences.

Moving Forward: Hiring Counsel and Protecting Your Future

What’s done is done. You cannot change the past. However, you can educate yourself on the charged crimes, retain a New York criminal defense lawyer and prepare yourself to best resolve your criminal case. Simply, there is no other option unless never returning to visit, study or work in the United States is something you are comfortable with and you do not care about a warrant on your record.

Fortunately, for those people not willing to accept a Bench Warrant or criminal record, whether you are currently in France, Canada, Mexico, Australia or any other country including the United States, there are means to resolve a criminal case charging PL 220.03 and PL 221.10. Having lectured to consular staff of many nations from Brazil and Australia to Britain and Canada, the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors are well versed in both the process and substantive laws involving drug, narcotic, controlled substance and marijuana misdemeanors and felonies. Although we have collectively handled hundreds of drug cases during our careers and are zealous advocates, the ball is in your court. Make the decision to protect yourself today and in the future. Don’t let a mistake or misunderstanding destroy what you have work so hard to attain. Contact Saland Law to best take this horrific incident in put it in your rear view mirror instead of allowing it to control your life going forward.

Call the New York Shoplifting Lawyers at Saland Law at 212.312.7129 or Contact Us Online to Start Your Criminal Defense Now

Client Reviews
... I was facing a class B felony and potentially tens of thousands in fines and some legit jail time and after hiring Jeremy Saland he obviously struck enough fear into the prosecutors with his sheer litigation might that it was knocked down to a petty misdemeanor and after a few sheckles and a handful of counseling sessions, I will no longer have a criminal record. The offices of Saland Law are the Shaq and Kobe of criminal defense in New York City and to even consider another firm is outright blasphemy. I stand by this statement 100% Evan
Let me start by saying how amazing Liz Crotty is! I am a resident of California, who needed representation for my son who received a desk citation while he was visiting NYC. Liz jumped on the case right away; she was very thorough in explaining things to me. She is strictly business too! She went to court on my son's behalf and had his case dismissed. I am forever grateful to her. Seana G.
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