Cuomo Corners Chronic Cannabis Conviction Conundrum, Clearing Currently Condemned Andrew’s Administration Affirms Albany’s Application Amending Ancient and Abusive Act

New York lawmakers attempted to correct the state’s archaic marijuana laws and their effect on minority communities, but failed to do anything that actually protects the populations. While the efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use failed, the decriminalization law that goes into effect in late August operates to lower penalties for possession and attempts to correct several-decades of uneven punishment on its previous offenders.  This means that if you have a criminal marijuana possession conviction, it’s time to get it removed from your record!   First, what does the new law do moving forward? Second, what does the new law do retroactively?  Third, realistically, does it really correct what it says it corrects?

From here forward, the new law lowers the penalties associated with having pot by reducing its possession to a violation level offense. It also limits the fines for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana to $200, while possessing under one ounce is capped at $50. Even with these amendments, if found with it, the police are still going to take it from you. Retroactively, Albany aims to correct the disproportionate impact that the state’s previous marijuana laws overwhelmingly had on minority communities. The law does this by providing a path for people, who have misdemeanor marijuana convictions, to expunge such convictions from their records. The new law closes a loophole that the 1977 marijuana laws created when it expanded the criminal act of possessing even small amounts in “public view” despite establishing that 25 grams only constituted a violation. The loophole permitted law enforcement to arrest and prosecute anyone who used even small amounts of marijuana in a public place or in “public view” with a criminal offense. [i]

Third, the story goes that a full-legalization vote was going to fall-short due to “safety concerns” such as an increases in the likelihood of drugged-driving or the inability to regulate the substance, so Albany instead opted for the amendments we are discussing now. Realistically, however, the new law still recognizes the mere possession of marijuana as an offense, which means that it doesn’t stop unnecessary and superfluous enforcement by police in minority communities. The smell of pot is one of law enforcement’s universal-catalysts used to establish probable cause.

According to the Colorado Division of Criminal Justices October 2018 report on the Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, the number of DUI-Marijuana citations State-wide dropped several points between 2017 and 2018, but the amount of DUI-Marijuana citations in the City of Denver actually increased by 92%.[ii] I’m not an expert on the demographic makeup of Colorado and its urban areas, but those numbers would seem relevant to me if I were promoting legislation that aims to resolve uneven law enforcement applications.

Driving drugged has the same criminal liability as driving drunk and it is even easier for the state to convict defendants for than drunk-driving.  If an officer believes that you are driving while feeling the effects of marijuana, likely because you have a specific smell, you will be arrested for DWAI-Drugs. This is a misdemeanor offense that, if convicted, will result in a criminal record, a $500 to $1,000 fine, up to a year in jail, a three year period of probation, and a revocation of the driver’s license for at least 6 months.

There is no .08 equivalent for drugged driving in New York. This means that if you have any measurable amount of Delta-9 THC in your blood, you can be convicted of the crime if the officer “observes” any impairment, even if it wasn’t from the pot. What everyone should take away from this is that the new law makes it all the more likely that if the cabin of a car smells like the marijuana, legal amount or otherwise, the police are likely going to “test the driver’s sobriety,” which will, in 99.99% of cases, give the officer “enough facts” to establish probable cause to arrest the driver and request a blood sample for analysis.  The metric for determining whether to provide a blood sample is a topic for a different time, but what every driver needs to know is that even a contact-high can place him or her in a compromising position that requires lawyers and judges.



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Nave Law wins suit against City of Albany to protect Reverend’s civil rights.


As part of Nave Law Firm’s efforts to give back to the communities we practice in, our own Derek Andrews took action after reading a Times Union article about a local woman’s plight against a local government who stonewalled her efforts to obtain body camera recordings of an incident that involved her.


In 2019, uniformed members of the Albany Police Department wearing body cameras forcibly removed Reverend Cheryl Hawkins, a street-reach minister in the New York Capital District, from a public park as she preached and sang Christian hymns, for which she had received a special event permit from the City of Albany. That removal violated her constitutionally-guaranteed rights to free expression. As part of a lawsuit, her civil rights attorney requested those body camera recordings from the city through New York’s Freedom of Information Law but was rebuffed, having been told that they were protected and confidential because of Civil Rights Law Section 50-a.


Mr. Andrews helped both Ms. Hawkins and her civil rights attorney by filing an Article 78 special proceeding, a type of lawsuit, against the City of Albany and the Albany Police Department, claiming that they violated Ms. Hawkins’ right to free access to body camera recordings of that incident.


Although the city produced those recordings before the conclusion of the lawsuit, Judge David Weinstein of the Albany County Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Andrews’ arguments when he issued a decision at the end of 2020 stating that Ms. Hawkins had substantially prevailed and that the city was unreasonable in originally denying her access. That last part meant that the city Times Union Article, which resulted in a five-figure settlement. Ms. Hawkins will now continue her lawsuit against Albany for violating her civil rights.


When asked for comment by Reverand Hawkins, she responded:

“Mr. Andrews saw the Times-Union Newspaper Front Page Huge Article (February 17, 2020). He then contacted my attorney and wanted to see how he could help.  He felt that I was facing an injustice.  I was already paying another lawyer big money to represent me, and I could not afford a second law firm.  Derek then spoke with the leadership team with Nave Law Firm, and the team decided to take the case at no cost to me.  

I was so grateful that he believed in me enough to advocate for me and cared enough to help me at no cost.

The best part is that he WON THE CASE; he even won the city’s and the cop’s appeal filed in Albany County after winning the case.”


Nave Law Firm is grateful for the opportunity to have assisted Ms. Hawkins in her pursuit of justice.



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Decriminalizing Possession of Hard Drugs

Oregon seems to be leading the way in the war . . . on the war on drugs while New York falls further behind. In a more sizable margin than either Biden or Trump would secure in this election, nearly 59% of citizens in Oregon voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine.

Their decision also supported greater access to treatment for those who need it, which is paid for by the tax proceeds from marijuana sales. New York took a step in the right direction when they decriminalized possession of marijuana last year, but they remain several steps behind a large swath of the country that has legalized marijuana possession outright, including our next-door neighbors. While legislators and Governor Cuomo are interested in legalization, it’s unlikely to happen in the next year or two. Here’s why the legalization of marijuana, and other drugs, is worthwhile: not only would it ameliorate years of disproportionate effects of criminal drug possession on communities of color but it would give those with addictions greater access to higher-quality treatment. It also wouldn’t hurt to make some money by taxing those “products,” which could prove to be cleaner and safer than those cut with harmful and toxic chemicals. By the way, we certainly don’t mean to imply that it should be legal to drive while impaired by a drug, whether it’s legal or illegal. Please don’t do that.

We’re only suggesting that the war on drugs was misguided and that Oregon, and other states who are following suit, are headed in the right direction. Let’s convince New York to do the same.

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New York State Driver’s License Issues

After receiving notice that your New York driver’s license has been revoked or suspended, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about how to respond. During this difficult time, it is important to remember that you have the opportunity to fight for your driving privileges. An experienced New York driver’s license attorney can support you during this process. It also helps to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible about suspended and revoked licenses in New York State.


Reasons People are Summoned to Hearings in New York

Various factors might lead a person to be summoned to appear before the New York Department of Motor Vehicles for a hearing, but some of the most common reasons include:


  • Alcohol-related offenses like drunk driving.
  • Involvement in a deadly accident or an accident that resulted in a serious injury.
  • Refusing to submit to a breath test.
  • The accumulation of too many points on a person’s driver’s license.
  • Traveling at high speed.
  • Medical review.
  • Failure to pay tolls.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol when under 21.

Suppose your license has been revoked or suspended. In that case, a skilled traffic attorney can help create a plan to get back to driving as soon as possible while also helping you address fines, points,and limiting how the event will impact your motor vehicle insurance moving forward.


Restricted/Conditional Licenses in New York


Even though license suspension is a common result of many driving-related offenses in New York, drivers are still sometimes able to obtain either conditional or restricted licenses for purposes like commuting to work or school, transporting children to daycare, attending court-required classes, and traveling to medical appointments.


One of New York’s driving law’s most confusing areas is the difference between conditional and restricted licenses. The Department of Motor Vehicle issues conditional licenses to qualified drivers whose New York driver’s license was suspended or revoked due to an alcohol or drug-related violation. The Department of Motor Vehicles can also issue a restricted use license to a driver who qualifies and whose license is either suspended or revoked due to violations or incidents that are not alcohol or drug-related.


Suppose a person in New York State has had a conditional or restricted license issued within the past five years. In that case, the Department of Motor Vehicles will sometimes issue a restricted license provided the individual’s license was not revoked for alcohol use, criminal violations, or drug use.


If a person has not had a conditional or restricted license issued within the last five years, the individual might be eligible to complete an Impaired Driver Program. On successful completion of this program, an individual will receive a “Notice of Completion,” which in some cases will result in a person’s license being automatically restored or a person becomes eligible to apply for a new license. Remember, however, that a person will be dropped from the program and unable to obtain a conditional license if he or she does not attend class, does not satisfactorily participate, or does not pay program fees.


Multiple Alcohol or Drug-Related Driving Convictions

If your license is revoked and you have three or more DWI/DWAI-Drugs/DWAI convictions on your license, the DMV may be denying your ability to get relicensed. There are specific rules about your ability to get relicensed when this occurs.


If you have three or four alcohol/drug-related convictions, the DMV will likely deny your ability to get relicensed for a minimum of 5 years. If you have a serious driving offense on top of the three or four alcohol-related offenses, the DMV will deny your ability to get relicensed FOR LIFE.


If you have five or more alcohol/drug-related convictions, the DMV will deny your ability to get relicensed FOR LIFE.


If your license has been revoked because of multiple convictions, a skilled traffic attorney can help create a plan so you can get back.


Numerous Suspensions on Your License

If your license is suspended because you failed to answer traffic infractions or pay a fine, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony the next time you get pulled over.


The reason for this is because every time you fail to answer a traffic infraction or fail to pay a fine, the Court will put a SCOFF, or a suspension, on your license.


You must speak to an attorney about your license status if you fall into this category. An experienced attorney will know how to handle and take care of the suspensions on your license so that you can drive free and clear.


How a New York Driver’s License Attorney can Help

Whether you need counsel at a DMV hearing, it is your first time DWI, you failed to answer a traffic infraction, or you have multiple convictions, an experienced attorney can help you get your license back.


Contact an Experienced Driver’s License Attorney

If you are convicted of a driver’s license offense in New York, you can end up facing some serious consequences. One of the best ways to handle these charges is to retain the assistance of an experienced attorney. Contact Nave Law Firm at 855-349-NAVE (6283) today.

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