New York has an extensive list of controlled substances, and possessing any of them is illegal. If you’re facing a drug possession charge, there could be several different penalties, all of which can make a big impact on your everyday life. Here’s what you need to know about drug possession charges in New York, including how they work, common punishments and potential defenses.
How Drug Possession Charges in New York Work
The exact title for the crime of drug possession in New York is criminal possession of a controlled substance. At its lowest degree, this is a misdemeanor, but it can also be a felony depending on the amount of the drug you possessed. There are also other ways that a drug possession charge can become more severe, including if you were manufacturing the drug, trafficking it or if you were caught with it while in a school zone.
There are two requirements to satisfy a drug possession charge – you must have possessed the drug, meaning it was either on your person or on your property, and you must have done so knowingly. If you possessed a drug unknowingly, you wouldn’t be guilty of possession. For example, if you purchased a car and there were drugs hidden somewhere that you didn’t know about, that wouldn’t fit the criteria of drug possession, provided you could make the court believe that you didn’t know about the drugs.
The Possible Penalties for Drug Possession
The most common types of punishment for drug possession are fines, probation and time in prison. For first offenses, especially if it was a small amount of drugs, you may be able to get only a fine and probation through a plea deal. Punishments increase for larger amounts of drugs or if you’re a repeat offender.
Criminal possession of a controlled substance can be in the seventh, fifth, fourth, third, second or first degree. The amount you possessed determines the degree, with one potential exception. You could have an amount small enough to fit into the category of criminal possession in the seventh degree, but if you had intent to sell, then that makes it criminal possession in the fifth degree.
There’s the potential for jailtime with each degree. For seventh-degree possession, which is a class A misdemeanor, the max sentence is one year in jail. Fifth-degree possession, a class D felony, can lead to one to two-and-a-half years in prison. Fourth-degree possession, a class C felony, can lead to one to five-and-a-half years in prison. Third-degree possession, a class B felony, can lead to one to nine years in prison. Second-degree possession, a class A-II felony, can lead to three to 10 years in jail. First-degree possession, a class A-I felony, can lead to eight to 20 years in jail.
Note that the sentences listed above are for first-time offenders, and sentences can be higher for repeat offenders.
Defenses for a Drug Possession Charge
When considering potential drug possession defenses, there are a few key factors to evaluate. Did you knowingly possess the drug? Was there a legal reason for doing so? And did the police find out about your possession of the drug through legal means?
If you didn’t know that drugs were in your possession, that’s a potential defense. If you had a legal reason to possess the drug, that is, as well. If the police found the drugs through an illegal search, then any evidence found through that illegal search would typically be inadmissible in court.
What We Can Do for You
A drug possession charge can leave you stressed out and wondering what to do. The smartest move you can make for yourself is getting a lawyer to represent you and protect your rights. There could be defense strategies you didn’t know about or hadn’t considered, and a skilled drug possession lawyer can find them.
Our attorneys can handle every aspect of your drug possession case. They can give you recommendations on what you should do, work on potential plea bargains for you and defend you in court in the event that your case goes to trial.