The growing problem of opioid addiction and drug arrests in New York

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

As more people in Orange County struggle with opioid addiction, more are being arrested for drug-related offenses and facing potentially serious penalties.

Unfortunately, something as simple as filling a prescription from their doctors for pain medications may result in a serious addiction and be the start of potentially serious legal issues for some people. As the opioid epidemic grows in New York, so too does the number of drug-related arrests. In 2016 alone, there were 2,076 adults arrested for felony and misdemeanor drug offenses in Orange County, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Factors contributing to the opioid epidemic

Numerous factors have contributed to the growing opioid problem in New York. As it has become more socially acceptable for people to use medications for various purposes, more have turned to prescription drugs. Further, more medical providers have accepted opiate medications as a treatment option for those suffering from acute or chronic pain in recent years. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports there were almost 207 million opioid prescriptions written in 2013, a huge jump from the approximately 76 million that were written in 1991.

Over time, people's tolerance to opioid medications builds up. Thus, they require more and more to achieve the same levels of pain relief or euphoria. This may lead to some abusing these drugs, taking more than prescribed. In some cases, people may turn to drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine when their access to the medications runs out or because they are cheaper options.

Potential criminal consequences

Simply having an opiate medication they do not have a prescription for or another opioid drug on them may result in drug possession charges for people in New York. General possession may be considered a class A misdemeanor offense, and thus, carries the possibility of up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. People who allegedly had over 500 mg of an opioid drug on them or those who are suspected of selling opiates may be charged with class D or B felony level offenses. If convicted on these charges, they may be sentenced to between one and two and a half years in jail for a class D offense and between one and nine years for a class B charge.

Additionally, the court may order probation or post-release supervision for those convicted of drug-related offenses involving opioids. Understanding that addiction is a disease and not a choice, some judges may order people to participate in drug treatment programs as a part of their sentence. In such situations, they may receive lighter jail sentences or extended probation periods.

Obtaining legal guidance

A drug-related arrest may have life-changing implications for people in New York who are battling an opiate addiction. Therefore, those who are facing drug possession or other such charges may benefit from seeking legal counsel. A lawyer may look out for their rights and interests throughout the legal process, as well as help them establish a solid criminal defense.