New York Drug Possession Charges Attorney
New York drug offenses are prosecuted under Article 220 of the State’s Penal Law and are referred to as “controlled substance” violations. There are seven levels that a suspect may be charged with — one is a misdemeanor, and the rest are felonies.
Elements that factor into what drug offense you are charged with include:
- The illegal substance you are caught with;
- The amount (weight) of the substance you possessed;
- Your intended use (Is it for personal use, or are you selling?);
- How many previous convictions do you have (not necessarily drug-related);
- The area in which you sold the controlled substance (school zone).
If charged with possession with intent to distribute, manufacture or cultivate drugs, the penalties are more severe and, in some instances, could be prosecuted in federal court. But if your case for drug possession is in a New York State court, it can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the type of drugs, the amount you’re arrested with, and whether they were only for your consumption.
First-time misdemeanor possession is less serious, and although it is punishable by up to one-year in jail, the charge can often be reduced and result in no jail-time, and no criminal record.
In cases involving arrests for small amounts of marijuana, you may be charged with a violation or misdemeanor, and issued a Desk Appearance Ticket instead of being held to see a judge. Low-level marijuana and drug charges can often be reduced or dismissed if it is your first offense.
Types of New York State Drug Offenses and Their Penalties
The following punishments are for a first-time conviction. More serious penalty upgrades apply to subsequent convictions; in addition to lengthy prison sentences, fines that could exceed six figures for the most serious convictions can be added to your prison sentence.
- Possession of a controlled substance – 7th degree (Misdemeanor) [CPL §220.03] – Up to one-year in jail or three years of probation for possession of small amounts of a controlled substance with no intent to sell it
- Possession of a controlled substance – 5th degree (D) Felony: [CPL §220.06] – Maximum of 2 ½ years in prison for certain weights of different types of controlled substances, or the intent to sell
- Possession of a controlled substance – 4th degree (C) Felony: [CPL §220.09] – Maximum of 5 ½ years in prison for certain weights of different types of controlled substances, including: cocaine, heroin methamphetamine or LSD
- Possession of a controlled substance – 3rd degree (B) Felony: [CPL §220.16] – Up to 9 years in prison for certain weights of different types of controlled substances, or the intent to sell
- Possession of a controlled substance – 2nd degree (A-II) Felony: [CPL §220.18] – Up to 10 years in prison for moderate amounts of controlled substances, including: cocaine, heroin, meth, LSD or methadone
- Possession of a controlled substance – 1st degree (A-I) Felony: [CPL §220.21] – As much as 20 years in prison for large amounts of controlled substances, including: cocaine, heroin, and methadone
If other circumstances are involved, such as prior felony convictions, or sale near a school or to a child, the possible prison sentence increases. Additionally, if other felonies are involved — such as drug distribution, sale, or trafficking, or conspiracy to distribute, sell, or traffic, or illegal gun possession — upon conviction, those penalties could result in even harsher prison terms and fines as well.
In recent years there has also been an increase in illegal possession of prescription drugs. If you are caught with them and can’t produce a prescription, or if you present a forged prescription, you could suffer many of the above more serious state felony penalties if convicted.
Federal Drug Prosecutions
Federal authorities usually defer to state prosecutors on simple possession cases. But distribution, trafficking and manufacturing sentencing guidelines often involve mandatory minimum incarceration in prison. They are based on the type [21 USC § 812], the amount of drugs involved, and any previous drug convictions the defendant(s) may already have in state or federal court.
Sentences can involve the following:
- Prison sentences can range from a mandatory minimum of 10 years, to as much as life: [21 U.S. Code 841, § 842, or § 843]. Penalty enhancements can be added to underlying convictions of conspiracy [18 USC § 371], organized crime (RICO), federal weapons offenses [18 USC § 922] and money laundering, [18 USC § 1956].
- Fines are extremely stiff. Enterprise drug traffickers can pay $1 million or more.
Federal mandatory minimum prison sentences are statutory and may not be reduced at a judge’s discretion. And those convicted of serious distribution or repeat offenses have no chance of receiving modified sentences.
Get an Attorney Immediately
Having a drug conviction on your criminal record affects the rest of your life. It’s much harder to get good employment, get a mortgage to buy a house, borrow money from a bank or get into the college of your choice. And though being charged with a drug offense does not equate to a finding of guilt, an experienced drug defense lawyer can help protect your rights and freedom and minimize the negative effects of these charges on your life.
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