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New York Possession of Controlled Substance Lawyer

Outside of a few minor exceptions, the crime of possession of a controlled dangerous substance is a felony offense in New York.  Convicted felons face serious penalties such as hefty fines, lengthy prison sentences, asset forfeiture, and more. Fortunately, as with other criminal drug offenses, the prosecution is required to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be convicted, and you have the right to defend yourself with the assistance of an attorney. This article discusses the ins and outs of New York drug possession laws, and how the Goshen criminal defense attorneys at Dupée & Monroe can help you if you have been arrested for possession.

New York State Controlled Substances Act

New York drug laws outlaw the possession of “controlled dangerous substances.” To find out what a controlled dangerous substance is, you have to look at New York Public Health Law section 3306, where you will find hundreds of substances listed as controlled dangerous substances. Basically, all of the drugs you can think of, and then some, can be found on these lists. They include opiates and opiate derivatives (e.g. morphine), hallucinogens (mescaline, psilocybin, ecstasy, peyote), depressants (GHB, phencyclidine), and stimulants (speed, crystal meth).

All of these drugs are listed on one of five different “schedules” depending upon their medicinal value and their susceptibility for abuse. In addition to “street drugs” like cocaine and heroin, these schedules also include many different prescription drugs that are legally available by prescription. Of course, it is illegal to possess one of these drugs if you don’t have a valid prescription, but the fact that many of these substances can be legal or illegal sometimes makes it difficult to enforce a particular drug charge and may provide an avenue for defense.

In outlawing the possession of controlled dangerous substances, New York drug law makes the severity of the crime primarily dependent on the type and amount of drug involved. Criminal charges for possession range from Class A-I felony offenses down to Class A misdemeanors. If convicted of a Class A-I felony, you could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, with a minimum of 15 years, and fines up to $100,000. This serious felony can be imposed for being in possession of eight or more ounces of narcotics. Even a Class A misdemeanor conviction can land you in jail for up to a year with a $1,000 fine.

Marijuana Possession and New Developments in the Law

Effective late August 2019, New York State officially decriminalized the possession of marijuana.  Under current law, New York residents can possess up to two ounces of marijuana without facing criminal charges.  Rather than eliminate marijuana entirely, however, the 2019 law converted minor possession of marijuana (Marijuana Possession in the Fifth Degree) from a misdemeanor to a non-criminal violation.  Police cannot arrest people for possession of small quantities of marijuana, but they can still issue summonses and require those caught with less than two ounces to pay a fine (a maximum $50 fine for possession of under an ounce and up to $200 for between one and two ounces).

Possession of larger amounts of marijuana is still a crime in New York.  However, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State legislators are currently working on a bill to fully legalize recreational marijuana possession and use.  Gov. Cuomo has stated that he hopes to ensure marijuana is legalized soon, and representatives for the governor stated that their aim is to enact legislation legalizing cannabis and cannabis products by April 2021.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law for all purposes, although federal prosecutors typically do not target individuals who comply with state law.  Legal commentators expect that President-Elect Joseph Biden will re-enact the Obama-era policies generally directing federal law enforcement officers to essentially remove marijuana crimes from their list of priorities.

How We Can Help

Depending upon the precise nature of the possession charge against you, there may be a number of defenses available.  The seasoned criminal defense lawyers at Dupée & Monroe employ a variety of defenses to protect our clients from the worst consequences of a conviction, including:

  • Unlawful search & seizure. One chief concern is always whether the police had probable cause to search your home, car or person, or wherever the drugs were alleged to be found. As experienced drug crimes and civil rights lawyers, the attorneys at Dupée & Monroe fully understand how the search and seizure requirements of the Fourth Amendment may apply in your case.
  • Unwitting possession. The prosecutor must not only show that the defendant did, in fact, possess the drugs charged, but also that they were aware of the drugs they possessed. If the defense can show that the defendant did not know they were carrying drugs–such as if they were merely a courier carrying a sealed package from one location to another–then they may not be guilty of possession.
  • Lack of possession. It may seem counter-intuitive, but prosecutors must affirmatively prove that a defendant found with drugs actually “possessed” those drugs.  The mere presence of nearby drugs is not sufficient to demonstrate possession.  For example, if a person is a passenger in a car with several people and drugs are discovered in the car, or if a person is renting a home where drugs are found and the homeowner is not present, the defendant might have a claim that they did not actually possess the drugs charged.

Depending upon the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case and the available defenses, we may be able to get the charges reduced or dropped, or provide a strong and effective defense in court.

Get Help from a Passionate New York Drug Possession Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested and charged with drug possession under New York state law, contact Dupée & Monroe, P.C., in Goshen. We represent clients charged with drug crimes and other serious offenses in Orange County and throughout the Hudson Valley.

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