Feeling the cold handcuffs around your wrists and hearing the sound of your arresting officer in your ear can feel like a nightmare. If authorities arrest you on suspicion of committing the crime of drug possession, you naturally may worry about how this will affect both your immediate and long-term future.
Fortunately, just because police have arrested you for drug possession does not mean you are automatically guilty in the eyes of Lady Justice. Here is a glimpse at New York's drug possession laws and your rights in the state's criminal justice system.
What does a drug possession conviction entail?
New York laws divide offenses related to marijuana and those related to controlled substances. However, the elements of these offenses are basically the same. Before you can face a conviction for possessing marijuana or a controlled substance, the government must be able to prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The substance in question was indeed a drug.
- You possessed the drug.
- You knowingly possessed the drug.
- Your possession of the drug was illegal.
Your possession of an illegal drug might be either physical or constructive. Constructive means you had control over the particular place or person where police found the drugs.
Penalties for drug possession
If prosecutors in New York can prove that you possessed at least eight ounces of a substance featuring more than 5,700 milligrams of methadone or a narcotic drug, you may receive a $100,000 fine and/or a prison sentence of eight to 20 years. This crime is a class A-1 felony. Otherwise, lesser drug possession felonies may lead to fines between $15,000 and $30,000 and/or a prison sentence of one year to nine years.
Meanwhile, if the government can prove that you illegally possessed marijuana, you can expect to spend 15 days or less in prison and/or pay a fine of under $250.
Your rights in a drug possession case
You have the right to vigorously fight a drug possession charge by going to trial. In the alternative, it may be in your best interests to seek to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution, as this might lead to a lighter sentence than what you would receive following a guilty verdict at trial. A criminal justice attorney will push for the most personally favorable outcome for you given the facts of your case.