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Court Rules on Use of Public Health Law


This is a matter dealing with an application made by P.H., the District Attorney of Suffolk County. He has entered a petition for a judgment and determination of forfeiture under Article 33, Section 3388 of the Public Health Law of the State of New York. The respondent of the case is S.C. The case is being heard in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Criminal Term in Suffolk County, Part II.

Case Background

A New York Criminal Lawyer said on the 3rd of September, 1980, the defendant – respondent S.C entered a plea of guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree. This plea satisfied the seven charges that were made against him in an indictment. The defendant was then sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one to three years.

The petitioner District Attorney of Suffolk County has now moved for an order for the defendant to forfeit his 1977 Chevy car. The grounds for this forfeiture are that this was the car that the defendant used to sell cocaine and meth to an undercover police officer.

A New York Criminal Lawyer said a formal hearing was held on this motion and the defendant conceded that this was the car that was used to sell narcotics to undercover police officer. The defendant argues that a forfeiture should not be entered against him because selling narcotics from the car is a mere technical violation and did not amount to a significant connection with the criminal activity that was conducted.

Case Facts

On the first of February, 1980 the defendant met J.G. inside a Newmark and Lewis store located in the city of Patchogue, New York. J.G. is an undercover police officer. The defendant and J.G. discussed the sale of an eighth of an ounce of cocaine and meth while in the store. They left the store and S.C. suggested that the complete the sale in his car that was located in the parking lot of the store. The two went to the Chevy and money and narcotics were exchanged. The narcotics were on the defendant and not concealed in the vehicle.

Officer Glasso stated that he did not see the defendant drive the car to the parking lot of the store or leave in it afterwards. The only time the narcotics were in the car was during the sale.

Case Background and Decision

A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said the question presented to the court is whether the use of the vehicle as the site for a drug sale constitutes a facilitation of the sale that is sufficient to invoke the provisions of the statute of the Public Health Law.

The Public Health Law provides for a forfeiture order with respect to any vehicle that is used to facilitate the transportation, carriage, concealment, purchase, or sale of any controlled substance.

The court has not found any similar cases in the state of New York, but there have been several decisions made in Federal Court that are similar in nature. The Federal Courts have typically ruled that forfeiture is required if at any time the drugs were inside the vehicle.

In this case, the defendant suggested that his car be used for the sale of the narcotics and would have been successful in this transaction had the sale of the drugs not been to an undercover cop. For this reason, the Public Health Law is applicable and the petition is granted.

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