23 April 2011

The collateral consequences of pot possession

In New York, the direct penalty for possessing a very small amount of un-burned marijuana is slight.  Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (UPM) is a violation, not a crime, and the maximum penalty for a first-time offense is $100.*  However, given that a UPM charge is probably where most otherwise-law-abiding high school and college kids will intersect with the criminal justice system, there is one more important consequence to consider before pleading guilty, handing your Ben Franklin over to the friendly Town Court clerk, and going on your way.

A UPM conviction could result in a suspension of federal financial aid for college students.  Under 20 USC 1091[r][1], any conviction for simple drug possession "during a period of enrollment" results in ineligibility for federal financial aid.  The period of ineligibility is 1 year for a first offense, 2 years for a second offense, and indefinite ineligibility for a third offense.

Losing federal financial aid eligibility for getting caught with a joint is a bit draconian, but it is a very real consequence that a student facing a UPM charge needs to be aware of.

* Second offense is a higher fine, and a third offense carries potential jail time.

13 April 2011

Give 'em the Boot

Webb v Salvation Army, 2011 NY Slip Op 02592 [available here]

This just in: we live in litigious times. Case in point: a customer sued the Salvation Army "seeking damages for injuries she sustained when she fell in defendant's parking lot after stepping on a small boot of a doll." The boot "measured 1.75 inches in both height and width."*

And here's the kicker: the trial court refused to grant the defendant store summary judgment (i.e. refused to toss out the plaintiff's case) . . . and the Fourth Department affirmed. Meaning that, at some point next fall, a jury in Buffalo will be treated to a full-blown trial about the perils of ill-laid doll accessories.

To be fair to the Fourth Department, it was bound by the defendant's concession that "the doll boot constituted a dangerous condition." And the Court did toss out plaintiff's cause of action based on inadequate lighting in the parking lot, holding that the plaintiff acknowledged "she was not looking down as she was walking and that she had walked only a 'little distance' after getting out of the vehicle before she fell."

The surviving issue for trial is whether "the doll boot had . . . been in the parking lot for a sufficient period of time to permit an employee to discover and remove it."

     *  The doll settled with plaintiff after completion of discovery and therefore was not a party to the appeal.

11 April 2011

Fourth Department stats and case summaries

The Hiscock Legal Aid Society has a great, useful blog that breaks down each packet of decisions from the Fourth Department, with full stats and case summaries (here).  If you have a criminal appeal pending, and want to be depressed, check out the reversal rate from the first quarter of 2011 (80% affirmed, about 5% reversed or dismissed).