Orange pill bottle spilling white pills onto a table


Melanson Law Office P.C. July 27, 2021

In 2018, drug overdose deaths from synthetic opioids — namely fentanyl and fentanyl analogs — totaled 2,195 in the state of New York. Another 998 individuals died of prescription opioid overdoses, and an additional 1,243 more from heroin overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All three substances fall under the category of opioids. Opioids are painkillers derived from opium, or from a synthesized version. Fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, is only prescribed in extreme cases of pain, often terminal cancer, but it also flourishes on the black market

Together, these drugs have resulted in what the media often refer to as an opioid epidemic, which currently takes about 115 lives a day across the United States. It has also resulted in those addicted taking to extreme measures, including crime, to fuel their habit so they can feel “normal.”

If you’re facing a drug-related charge in or around Kingston, New York, or in the surrounding communities of Hudson, Catskill, Poughkeepsie or New Patz, contact my firm, the Melanson Law Office P.C.

You can face serious consequences for illegally possessing or distributing opioids, and you will need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. I have the knowledge and resources to help you assert your rights and pursue an aggressive defense.

The Heroin and Opioid Epidemic

Addiction to opioids often begins with a prescription from a licensed medical practitioner. Over-the-counter prescription opioids include common names like Codeine, Demerol, Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Methadone, Oxycodone, and Tramadol.

The initial prescription often is intended to be temporary, but when the user runs out, he or she may already have grown addicted to the relief they get from the drug. Their next step — unless they want to endure painful withdrawal symptoms — is to seek the drug on the black market to avoid the physical nightmares of withdrawal.

Transitioning from Prescription to Heroin

The cheapest version of an opioid has historically been heroin, which is where many turn to continue their new state of “normal.” Illicit prescription drugs are simply too expensive, so synthetics rapidly became a cheaper alternative. Largely due to an influx of synthetic opioids from China, black-market fentanyl has now become the leading opioid of choice, or at least the number-one cause of opioid overdoses.

Once hooked, users often find themselves forced to turn to crime to support their habit. Theft, once unthought of, may become an option. Dealing in drugs may be another. Even just being hooked at your own expense can lead you to behavioral changes with unwanted consequences, such as violence.

Opioids and the Law

The possession and sale of controlled substances are covered by New York Penal Code Article 220. Like the federal Controlled Substances Act, New York classifies controlled substances according to “schedules.”

Schedule I is reserved for the most lethal drugs, Schedule V for the least serious but still dangerous and illegal. Most opioids fall under Schedule II, characterized as having a “high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Heroin, however, falls under Schedule I.

State Charges and Penalties

Simple possession of opioids, if obtained for illegal use, can land you in jail, especially with the state’s new emphasis on cracking down on opioids. A misdemeanor possession conviction can result in up to one year in jail. Sale or distribution convictions, which are considered felonies, will be even harsher and can result in several years behind bars.

These are just New York State charges and penalties. Federal authorities may get involved as well, depending on the type and quantity of the drugs involved, and on whether you crossed state lines to obtain or sell the products.

Other Consequences

Consider this: If you share a potent opioid with anyone else and that person dies of an overdose, you could be charged with murder, even if the two of you just thought you’d get high together.

Finally, you will become the not-so-proud owner of a criminal record. Mere possession, a misdemeanor, will show up in the criminal history database, making it difficult for you to obtain employment or professional licensing. Also, credit reporting agencies buy information about criminal court cases and then sell individual background checks. These criminal background reports are not always correct, but they can haunt you forever.

Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are hooked on opioids, you should seek help immediately to break the habit before your addiction leads to adverse personal effects, including overdosing, or to criminal charges being filed against you. The consequences can be severe, but fortunately, cases in New York courts can now go through what is called Judicial Diversion, which can result in a significant reduction or even dismissal of your charges.

If you’re facing a drug-related charge in or around Kingston, New York, or anywhere across the Hudson Valley region, contact the Melanson Law Office P.C. immediately. I will listen to your story, investigate the details of your case, and craft a strong defense strategy aimed at protecting your rights and pursuing the best possible outcome for your situation. Don’t let one mistake define your life forever. Contact my office today to schedule a one-on-one case consultation.