New York continues to provide mixed signals on whether it is ratcheting down the war against drugs or escalating it. It seems excessive, in light of shifting public policy, for police to arrest people on drug charges, including a felony, for growing some backyard variety of marijuana plants. That is exactly what New York state troopers did recently when they arrested at least two residents of the town of Dover in separate incidents for allegedly growing marijuana.
Whenever there is a music festival in upstate New York, one can expect to see some arrests for generally minor legal violations. The latest such festival, the Last Daze of Summer, took place recently in Oswego County. State troopers reportedly flooded the area around the festival, waiting for trouble, and they ultimately satisfied their expectations by arresting 13 people on a variety of drug charges.
In New York and other states, some arrests are based on substantial evidence that is clearly strong enough to convict the defendant. In those cases, the defendant is often candid with defense counsel about his or her guilt with respect to the felony charges. Together, they can agree on a strategy for plea negotiations. Counsel will have a greater reservoir of influence in the sentencing process if the clearly guilty client cooperates in expediting an early guilty plea.
In a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady v Maryland, the Court held that a defendant is denied due process if the prosecutor does not turn over exculpatory evidence to defendant's counsel. Some 50 years later, the essential mandate of Brady remains intact. Recently, a New York case emerged to show the tragic results that can occur when the prosecution pursues serious felony charges against someone while hiding the existence of exculpatory evidence.