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New York Drug Crime Laws and Penalties 2024 Explained

New York Drug Crime Laws and Penalties 2024 Explained

As with many states, New York’s cannabis laws are moving toward decriminalization, although there are still restrictions governing marijuana use. Adults 21 and older can now possess up to three ounces of cannabis for personal use in New York. There are still prohibitions on using marijuana inside a motor vehicle or in areas where smoking is prohibited. If you were arrested or issued a citation for possession of an illegal drug, you need a New York drug crime lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected.

Attorneys with the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, understand New York’s drug laws and how to defend clients who are facing drug charges. Drug-related penalties can range from low-level misdemeanors to serious felony charges that come with the potential for many years of prison time if convicted.

What Are the Potential Penalties for Drug Crimes?

Drug crime penalties range from small misdemeanor fines to potential felonies that could come with maximum penalties of life imprisonment. Post-release supervision is commonly added to any fines or jail sentences.

The court must consider factors like the nature of the crime and the circumstances surrounding the incident. The defendant’s criminal history and character are also considered. Prosecutors and judges are more likely to seek harsh penalties for repeat offenders. Trafficking and selling drugs to children are also subject to harsher sentences. Facing drug charges can have additional consequences for immigrants.

New York Drug Crime Laws and Penalties

Drug Crime Classification

In New York, crimes are classified as a violation, misdemeanor, or felony. Misdemeanors are divided into Class A and B, while felonies range from A to E. Crimes are further subdivided into violent and nonviolent offenses.

Minor charges below anything classified as a misdemeanor are handled through a citation that comes with a fine. In general, minor possession of less dangerous drugs can lead to a misdemeanor charge or citation. Possession of large amounts of an illegal drug can result in felony charges. Drug trafficking is considered one of the most serious offenses and can result in a life sentence.

New York’s drug laws take into consideration the drug’s potential danger. Methamphetamine, for example, is a very dangerous stimulant. Also known as meth or speed, the drug is classified as a Schedule II(d) controlled substance. New York’s drug laws not only criminalize possession of meth but also the materials for making meth.

Possession of less than .5 ounces of meth can result in a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a potential jail sentence of up to one year. Possession of more than .5 ounces but less than 2 ounces can result in a Class C felony punishable by a 5.5-year sentence.

Possible Defenses for Drug Crimes

Drug possession crimes are some of the more commonly prosecuted crimes in New York. Many New Yorkers who are arrested for drug possession are productive citizens who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. As your New York drug lawyer prepares your defense, they can look for factors that can lead to reduced charges, a favorable plea bargain offer, or even potentially dropped charges.

Although it is not a guarantee of lower penalties, a lack of knowledge can be a mitigating factor in your case. For example, someone may have given you medication for pain management without disclosing that the drugs require a prescription. In other cases, a person may have left the drugs in your possession without your knowledge. This plays into the aspect of criminal intent. When there was no criminal intent behind the drug possession, your attorney can argue that you deserve leniency.

In other cases, you may be able to argue that you lawfully possessed the drug. This argument has helped many of our past clients. Maybe you did not have a valid prescription on hand at the time of your arrest but can prove that you met with a doctor at a later time. Certain drugs can be prescribed for medicinal use, even if they are not legal for recreational use.

The quantity of the drug in your possession matters significantly when criminal charges or an indictment is brought. Police can make mistakes when measuring drugs, and later tests may prove that the quantity of an illegal drug is lower than previously thought. The charge will be reduced in these situations.

The age of the defendant is another factor, especially when the drug possessor is under 16 years old. First-time juvenile offenders may face more lenient charges because minors are seen as more redeemable than adults in the eyes of the law.


Q: Will I Wait for My Trial in Jail?

A: Non-violent offenders who do not pose a threat to the public are generally granted bail. Jails have to maintain safe occupancy levels, so steps are taken to allow the majority of defendants to prepare their defense outside of jail. Repeat offenders or individuals alleged to have trafficked drugs may face high bail amounts or be denied bail. If you are granted bail, you will have to follow your bond conditions to ensure that you can remain out of jail.

Q: Can My Felony Drug Possession Charge Be Reduced to a Misdemeanor?

A: Yes. This is one possible outcome of the plea-bargaining process. If you have no prior convictions or past drug-related charges and are otherwise an upstanding resident of New York, your drug possession lawyer can use the facts of your case to try to lower the charge. Avoiding a felony conviction on your record could greatly help your personal and professional life.

Q: Can Drug Charges Be Dropped?

A: Yes. In some cases, when exculpatory evidence is discovered, prosecutors may seek to have the charges dropped. Prosecutors are sworn to seek justice, and the discovery of new evidence can change the circumstances of your case. Prosecutors will rarely move to have a case dismissed on their own, though, which is why the services of a New York drug possession lawyer are so critical.

Q: What Is the Legal Standard for Proving Guilt for Drug Possession?

A: Prosecutors have a very high bar to meet when proving guilt. In fact, criminal courts have the highest standard to meet. While police only need to show probable cause and civil courts require a preponderance of evidence, prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If a jury has a reasonable doubt that an individual is not guilty, they are obligated under that standard to find the defendant not guilty.

Schedule Your Drug Possession Consultation Today

Every drug defendant is presumed to be innocent, and anyone charged with a drug offense has constitutional rights. If you were recently charged with drug possession, the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, can fight for your rights. Don’t wait to begin preparing for your defense. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.

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