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Defendant Raises Constitutional Issues in His Defense


An appeal was made by the defendant man from a judgment of the Suffolk County Court convicting him of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, upon his plea of guilty, and imposing sentence. It is ordered that the judgment is affirmed.

The defendant was indicted for criminal sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree, class A-I felonies. The charges arose out of a sale of nearly nine ounces of cocaine to an undercover police officer. The defendant was permitted to plead guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, a class A-II felony. He was promised a term of incarceration of five years to life. The promised sentence was imposed.

He raised two constitutional challenges to the sentence statute which mandates a maximum sentence of life incarceration for persons convicted of class A felony drug offenses. The challenges to the statute are meritless. The mandatory maximum of life imprisonment for this crime does not rise to the gross dis-proportionality in violation of constitutional limitations. Thus, the man’s claim that the sentencing statute violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment must fail.

Similarly, the defendant’s claim that the mandatory maximum sentence constitutes an illegal deprivation of judicial discretion is contrary to established authority. It is well settled that, within the constraints of due process, the Legislature has broad power to prescribe minimum and maximum sentences. The statute at issue mandates a maximum sentence of life while permitting a minimum sentence of three to eight and one-third years. These limitations on judicial discretion in sentencing do not violate due process.

Furthermore, the statute does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment as applied to the defendant; although the defendant had no prior criminal record, the amount of cocaine sold in this case was substantial. Moreover, the defendant was actively involved in the transaction and was motivated by greed. The defendant has not shown that his sentence was disproportionate to the sentences imposed upon other similarly situated defendants. Under the circumstances, the sentence was not disproportionate to the crime.

Finally, the facts of the case do not warrant reduction of the sentence in the interest of justice. The defendant man, who pleaded guilty with the understanding that he would receive the sentence which was actually imposed, has no basis to now complain that his sentence was excessive.

In another cocaine possession dispute, an appeal was made by the defendant from a judgment of the Suffolk County Supreme Court convicting him of two counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree.

The defendant was charged with selling cocaine to an undercover police officer on two separate occasions. The defendant raises for the first time on appeal the argument that the cocaine packets should not have been admitted into evidence because the complainant failed to establish an unbroken chain of possession of the evidence. The testimony which was elicited provides a reasonable assurance that the packets analyzed at the police laboratory were the same packets purchased from the defendant and that there had been no tampering. The drugs were at all times under police control. Therefore admission of the packets into evidence was proper.

The defendant claims that the court’s ruling on his Sandoval motion which permitted the prosecutor to inquire into his two previous robbery convictions deprived him of a fair trial. There is no merit in this contention as robbery is an act of individual dishonesty which usually is relevant to credibility.

Given the defendant’s status as a second felony offender, the sentence imposed was not unduly harsh or an abuse of discretion. The defendant’s claim that he was denied a fair trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel is without merit.

Law offenders will do everything to free themselves from the responsibility from the crimes they committed. If you want a Suffolk County Criminal Lawyer together with the Suffolk County Drug Possession Attorney or a Suffolk County Cocaine Possession Lawyer to help you send a drug offender in jail, consult Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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