A man was arrested and charged with illegal heroin possession and illegal possession of hypodermic needle and syringe. Even before the man was brought for arraignment, he already filed a motion to dismiss the information on the ground that the laws punished the misdemeanor offense of illegal possession of hypodermic needle and syringe is unconstitutional. He also moved to dismiss the information charging him with illegal heroin possession on the ground that this crime is a misdemeanor and the law defining it as a crime is unconstitutional.
A New York DWI Lawyer said the man claimed that the statute violates his right to due process of law because he is deprived of the right to be presumed innocent. He claims that the statute makes it a criminal act to possess a hypodermic needle and syringe. He claims that the statute is arbitrary and unreasonable and the passage of the law is an abuse of the police power of the State.
The man based his motion for dismissal of the illegal heroin possession charge on two cases decided by the Supreme Court of New York. The man alleged that the facts of those two decided cases and his case are similar. He points particularly to the case of People v. Hicks and People v. Baker where the Court dismissed the indictment because only a trace of heroin was found on a cotton wad that was found on the person of the accused in those two cases. The man claims that these two charges against him should also be dismissed because along with the hypodermic needle and hypodermic syringe, a wad of cotton was also found and seized on his person and the wad of cotton only had a trace of heroin on it. Therefore, these charges should be dismissed.
The only question in this case before the Supreme Court is whether or not the charges should be dismissed for being unconstitutional and because a prior case with similar facts was dismissed by the Court.
On the issue of the similarity between the facts of this case with the facts in the cases of People v. Hicks and People v. Baker, the Court held that the motion to dismiss was prematurely filed as the facts of this case have not yet been proved. A New York DWI Lawyer said that the accused here has just been charged. He has not yet been arraigned and trial has not yet been conducted. No facts have as yet been proven so it is impossible for the Court to determine if the facts are similar.
On the issue of unconstitutionality of the law that punishes the misdemeanor of illegal possession of syringe and hypodermic needle, the Court held that not all possession of hypodermic needle and syringes are punished under the statute. Only the possession of hypodermic needle and syringes which are for the intent of injecting illegal or regulated drugs is punished.
The Court traced the history of the increasing drug problems in New York which necessitated the enactment of strict and sweeping laws that aimed to curtail the rising drug addiction.
The Court relayed how the legislature noted with alarm that the number of drug-related arrests rose dramatically by leaps and bounds in the years 1954 , 1955, 1956 and 1957. The legislature also noted that drug addiction spurred on an increase in the commission of crimes such as larceny, robbery, theft and even murder.
To stop the epidemic of drug addiction, the legislature had to enact very strict laws that punished a person who has in his possession a hypodermic needle or syringe for the specific purpose of injecting prohibited or regulated drugs. A diabetic who carries with him a hypodermic needle and syringe for the purpose of injecting himself with insulin will not be punished under this statute. In fact, the possession of a hypodermic needle or syringe with a legitimate physician’s prescription is exempt from prosecution. A Nassau County DWI Lawyer said the operative phrase that renders the possession of a hypodermic needle or syringe illegal is that the possession of such paraphernalia is for the purpose of injecting drugs.
The Court denied the motions to dismiss and remanded the cases for arraignment and trial.
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