Posted On: January 1, 2012 by Stephen Bilkis

Proof in Drug Possession Case Must be Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The Drug Enforcement Task Force initiated an investigation into an organization in Brooklyn that was purportedly selling a brand name of heroin called "Raw". As a result of that investigation, the defendant was convicted, after trial, of selling narcotics to an undercover police officer. The detective testified that on May 17, 1988, he and a confidential informant went to 31 Patchen Avenue in Brooklyn, where they met with the defendant for the purpose of arranging a purchase of five packages of heroin. A New York Criminal Lawyer said after telephoning his connection, the defendant told the detective that the heroin would be arriving shortly. A man thereafter arrived on a motorcycle with the packages and he and the detective agreed to a purchase price of $4000. After the defendant complained, however, that he was being cut out of the deal, the man raised the price to $4700. The detective gave the man the $4700 from which $700 was given to the defendant.

After the informant contacted the defendant by beeper, he and the detective agreed to another sale. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the defendant then contacted his connection, who thereafter arrived with a brown paper bag filled with 500 glassine envelopes, which he gave to the defendant. handed over $4700 to the defendant in exchange for the bags. Although Joseph The detective attempted to deal directly with the man who brought the narcotics, the man refused to give him his beeper number. Instead, he told the detective that any dealings would have to go through the defendant.

They then returned to 31 Patchen Avenue where another man and the defendant got into the confidential informant's car. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said the detective and the confidential informant, then followed the other man and the defendant to Crescent and Fulton Streets, and then to 2958 Atlantic Avenue, which was a radio car repair shop. Once at this location, the defendant directed the detective inside. The man then entered the shop while the defendant remained outside. The man told the detective to get the money ready. When he returned to the shop, the man dropped the five paper bags which later were determined to contain 485 glassine envelopes of heroin, to the floor. The detective knelt down to pick them up and, while still on the ground, handed up the money. The defendant, who had entered the shop, grabbed the money from the detective, counted it and handed it over to the man.

The defendant contends that the People failed to prove his guilt of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, with respect to this last transaction, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the People, and giving due deference to the jury's findings of credibility the court found that the defendant's guilt on a theory of accomplice liability was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The record establishes that the defendant acted with the mental culpability necessary to commit the crime charged and that, in furtherance thereof, he solicited, requested, commanded, importuned or intentionally aided the seller to commit such crime (Penal Law § 20.00).

A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said while mere presence at the scene of a crime with knowledge of its perpetration does not render the observer accessorily liable, the defendant's actions, under the totality of the circumstances, were clearly designed to effectuate the commission of the crime. His course of conduct conflicts with the dissent's portrayal of him as a possible bystander.

According to the court, the People did not have to prove that the defendant acted with the specific intent to sell the drugs; the culpable mental state for criminal sale of a controlled substance is "knowledge". In sum, the jury reasonably inferred the defendant's knowledge of and participation in the drug transaction.

The court said that the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not require proof beyond all possibility of doubt and the jury was so charged (CJI § 6.20). The testimony of the prosecution expert was not "so baseless or riddled with contradiction that it was unworthy of belief as a matter of law" and, despite the challenge by the defense expert, the jury was entitled to [199 A.D.2d 115] accept this evidence.

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