Ongoing efforts to revise criminal laws across the country and reduce penalties for drug offenses often focus on racial disparities in the criminal justice system. New data out of New York City shows that some significant disparities still remain.
A whopping 89 percent of city residents arrested for smoking marijuana last year were black or Hispanic, according to statistics from the New York Police Department. Whites accounted for only about 7 percent of the arrests. The difference is even starker in Manhattan, where black people are arrested for low-level marijuana offenses at 15 times the rate of whites, according to a study from the New York Times.
The new data comes as the cops in the big apple are more often looking the other way on marijuana offenses. Pot related arrests dropped by more than half—to 7,400 from 17, 100—in 2018. Still, it shows that minorities are still far more likely to be busted for pot.
The simple possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in a number of jurisdictions across the state. Penalties for the possession of relatively small amounts of the drug reduced to a ticket and fine, similar to traffic violations. Possession in “public view,” however, is still at least a misdemeanor offense. That includes situations in which a person is caught smoking marijuana on the street or is found to be in possession of the drug during a police stop and frisk.
The penalties for marijuana possession vary widely based on the amount of the drug involved and how many times you’ve been previously caught. A first-time offender caught with 25 grams of marijuana or less is looking at a $100 fine. Get busted with a pound or more of pot and you’re facing a felony charge that comes with up to seven years in prison and $5,000 in fines. Selling weed of any amount is also considered a felony.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has commissioned a task force to consider eventually legalizing marijuana. In the meantime, the new NYPD data shows that prosecution for pot-related crimes remains a real possibility.
Talk With an Experienced Albany Drug Crime Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been charged with marijuana or related crimes in the Capital District, it is vital to seek the advice of an experienced Albany drug crime lawyer. A lawyer can help you weigh your options and start building the strongest possible defense, in some cases before you’ve even been charged with a crime.
James E. Tyner is an experienced attorney who has been representing clients in domestic violence and other cases for more than a decade. Mr. Tyner has a strong track record of getting optimal results for the people that he represents. He is happy to serve clients in Albany, Schenectady, Latham and throughout the state. Contact us online or call 518-783-3800 to schedule a free consultation.