Police in Brooklyn recently arrested five men as part of a drug ring that ceased operating for Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath day. According to law enforcement, the men apparently texted customers a warning that would stop dealing drugs around sundown Friday. The five men, who ranged in age from 25 to 38-years-old, sent out texts to over 50 people advertising the holiday shutdown and also advertising a particular brand of heroin. The men have been indicted for possession with intent to sell and for conspiracy. The men are accused of selling heroin, oxycontin, cocaine, and other drugs. They allegedly obtained over 23,000 oxycodone pills worth up to $460,000 using stolen prescription sheets and also were in possession of a sawed-off shotgun. The men are currently in prison awaiting bail.
Drug possession with intent to sell is a charge levelled at drug dealers who are in possession of large amounts of illicit drugs. Generally, for a defendant to be found guilty, it must be proven that he or she had the intent to distribute the drug. This offense is typically a felony offense and penalties involve jail sentences and fines. These criminal charges can come at the state level and also at the federal level if interstate trafficking was involved.
In drug cases, the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures is extremely relevant. For a search of contraband to be constitutionally permissible, police must have a valid search warrant, the contraband must be within the plain view of the officer, or someone must give consent to the search. The search and seizure must not be in an area where the defendant would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, pending certain exceptions.
Anyone accused of possession with the intent to sell is entitled to a strong criminal defense and is presumed innocent until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Any defendant in a drug case has the constitutional right to defend themselves from the state's charges.
Source: New York Daily News, "Group of observant Brooklyn drug dealers told customers they were closed for Shabbat: authorities," Erik Badia and Tina Moore, Sept. 10, 2013.