This is an appeal by the defendant, as limited by his brief, from a sentence of the County Court, Suffolk County, and imposed October 26, 1994. A Suffolk Criminal Lawyer said that, the defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the fifth degree in connection with his purchase of cocaine from another individual. At sentencing, the court suspended the defendant’s driver’s license for a period of six months, in accordance with Vehicle and Traffic Law § 510(2)(b)(v), because the defendant’s conviction was drug-related.
A Suffolk Cocaine Possession Lawyer said that, on appeal, the defendant argues that the court improperly suspended his driver’s license because Vehicle and Traffic Law § 510(2)(b)(v) provides for such suspensions where one is convicted of a crime defined in article 220 or 221 of the Penal Law, and he was not convicted under either article.
The issue in this case is whether the court erred in suspending defendant’s driver’s license.
The court disagrees. At the outset, the court notes that it is not the Penal Law, but the Vehicle and Traffic Law which requires construction in this case. It is well settled that suspension or revocation of a driver’s license is a civil, not a criminal, sanction. Thus, we construe the statute at issue so as to give it “a sensible and practical over-all construction, which is consistent with and furthers its scheme and purpose and which harmonizes all its interlocking provisions”.
The purpose of former Vehicle and Traffic Law § 510(2)(b)(v) was “to continue State eligibility for the full amount of federal highway funds” by complying with 23 USC § 159. Under 23 USC § 159, the Federal government enacted legislation to withhold Federal highway funds from any State that has not enacted “a law that requires in all circumstances, or requires in the absence of compelling circumstances warranting an exception” the revocation, or suspension of at least 6 months, of the driver’s license of any individual who is convicted of “any drug offense” (23 USC § 159[a][A][i][II]. “Drug offense” is defined, inter alia, as any criminal offense which proscribes “the possession sale, transfer, or the attempt or conspiracy to possess sell, or transfer any substance the possession of which is prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act” (23 USC § 159[c][A]. Therefore, the defendant’s admission that he conspired to possess cocaine was a “drug offense” which warranted suspension of his driver’s license.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the People, we find that it was legally sufficient to establish the defendant’s guilt of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree. The defendant was found standing in close proximity to a table holding approximately 12 ounces of cocaine, at least some of which was in open view, and aluminum foil, a scale, and a spoon. When narcotics are found in open view in a room other than a public place, under circumstances evincing intent to unlawfully mix, compound, package, or otherwise prepare them for sale, every person in close proximity to the narcotics at the time of their discovery is presumed to have knowingly possessed them. Although this presumption is rebuttable, in this case, based upon all the evidence, the jury could have properly drawn the inference of criminal possession from the defendant’s presence at the place of discovery. Moreover, upon the exercise of our factual review power, we find that the verdict was not against the weight of the evidence.
The court finds that the charge, when read as a whole, adequately instructed the jury as to the People’s burden of proof with respect to circumstantial evidence. The trial court instructed the jurors that they were required to find that the inference of guilt was the only inference that could be fairly and reasonably drawn from the facts and that the facts had to exclude every hypothesis but that of guilt. The defendant’s remaining contentions are either unpreserved for appellate review or without merit.
Accordingly, the court held that that the sentence is affirmed.
If you are facing cocaine possession charges, seek the representation of a Suffolk Cocaine Possession Attorney or Suffolk Criminal Attorney in order to properly defend your case.