New York Criminal Law establishes a presumption that all people in a vehicle are presumed to possess either drugs or guns that are found within the vehicle. What that means is that in New York each and every person inside a car will generally be charged with gun possession or drug possession for contraband that is found anywhere in that car, regardless of where the drugs or guns are found. (With certain exceptions, some of which are discussed below.)
NEW YORK GUN POSSESSION PRESUMPTION
In the case of gun, with possession of a loaded gun in New York carrying a mandatory minimum of three and one half years in prison, you are taking a tremendous chance driving with someone who may have an illegal gun. The New York gun presumption applies to all vehicles except stolen vehicles and public buses and applies not only to firearms but other weapons. The presumption has three major exceptions. The presumption does not apply if the weapon is recovered on the person of one of the occupants of the vehicle. It does not apply to the driver of a cab or livery cab and the presumption does not apply if one of the occupants has a license to carry the weapon concealed.
The presumption, however, does apply if one of the occupants has the firearm or other weapon on his person and discards it on the floor of the vehicle as the police are pulling over the vehicle. This situation can arise quickly and put everyone in the vehicle at risk under the presumption.
EFFECT OF THE PRESUMPTION
It is important to remember that both the drug and gun (or weapon) presumptions under New York law are rebuttable presumptions. That means that although there is a presumption that all occupants of the vehicle are presumed to possess the contraband, evidence can be introduced to show that in fact one or more of the occupants did not possess the contraband. In other words, the presumption does not relieve the prosecutor of his or her burden to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It also gives the person charged under the presumption automatic standing to challenge the constitutionality of the police conduct. That means that it gives a person charged under a presumption the right to seek suppression of evidence that they might not otherwise to be able to challenge.
So if you or a loved one are charged with a New York weapon offense or a New York gun offense under New York’s gun presumption or a New York Controlled Substance offense under New York’s controlled substance presumption, contact an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer who has experience in these types of cases. Contact Tilem & Campbell for any questions about New York criminal matters.