New York’s drug possession laws are complex and beyond the scope of this article. Whether convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, the consequences can be life-changing and there can be collateral consequences in employment and on things like your driver’s license. When facing these charges, it is critical to take the situation seriously and consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. In order to provide a better understanding of how drug-related criminal charge are handled, here are some answers to a few common questions.
What to Know About Drug Possession Laws in New York
How is drug possession defined under New York law?
In New York, controlled substances refer to both illegal “street” drugs, as well as many other types of medications that are usually prescribed. It is important to note marijuana is treated separately.
Possession can be actual or “constructive”. Constructive possession occurs when a person exercises dominion or control over the place where a controlled substance is found. For example, the owner of a home or vehicle can be charged with constructive possession if a controlled substance is found in the home or vehicle. Legal “presumptions” often apply in these situations, such as the “automobile presumption”, which presumes all occupants of a vehicle are exercising dominion and control over drugs found in that vehicle. This can often lead to complex litigation depending on the number of occupants in the vehicle and where the drugs are found.
What are the potential penalties?
There are seven categories for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, only one of which is a misdemeanor. Depending on the type of drug and quantity found, penalties can range from a fine of up $1,000 and one year in jail or three years probation for the misdemeanor, to a fine of up to $100,000 and a State Prison sentence
Possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana is a violation and often not prosecuted. Criminal Possession of Marijuana, which generally begins at over two ounces, carries penalties that range from local incarceration to state prison and fines from $100 to $5,000.
How is a conviction obtained?
To get a conviction for drug possession, prosecutors must prove each and every element of the statute beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes demonstrating the substance defendant is accused of possessing was a controlled substance or marijuana (usually thorough a laboratory report and expert chemist testimony), that defendant was in possession of that substance, and that defendant had knowledge of the possession.
What are some possible defense strategies?
After investigating the facts and circumstances of a case, an experienced criminal defense attorney may find several avenues to negotiate reduced charges, get them completely dismissed, or obtain an acquittal after trial. Some common criminal defense strategies include insufficient evidence of possession, particularly constructive possession, illegal search and seizure, or lack of knowledge a controlled substance was present. Laboratory and technical evidence errors are often part of the major defense, and often result in reductions or dismissals. Each case varies on its individual facts.
If you’ve been arrested on drug possession charges, trust Thomas A. Corletta, Attorney & Counselor at Law to advocate aggressively on your behalf. With nearly 40 years experience practicing law, he has successfully represented countless people in and around Monroe County, NY against a wide variety of drug-related offenses and other criminal charges, including drug-related driving charges. He takes a personalized approach to each case and will work on criminal defense strategy focusing on achieving the best possible result for your particular circumstances. Call (585) 546-5072 to schedule a consultation, or visit him online to learn more about his wide array of expert legal services.