Criminal Possession of Marijuana in New York City
The New York Penal Law § 221, Criminal Possession of Marijuana, provides various factors and elements that are considered by prosecutors when deciding what charges to bring against someone arrested for marijuana. For example, small amounts of marijuana found on a person or in their car, should not amount to anything more than a non-criminal violation, such as an open container summons.
From there, the seriousness of the charge can increase depending on the weight of the marijuana in possession or intended to be sold. Regardless of the seriousness of the charge, the skilled narcotics and marijuana possession attorneys at our firm could do a tooth and nail investigation into the circumstances of the stop, the arrest and recovery of the marijuana, and conduct a background check into any other person involved to make sure none of your constitutional rights were violated by law enforcement during the interaction.
What is an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal?
In many situations, especially if this is your first drug-related arrest, these cases can end up in an outright dismissal or an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) under the New York Criminal Procedure Law, §170.56. If the remaining counts on a criminal complaint or an indictment are violations of section 221 of the New York Penal Law, you are entitled to an ACD for a period of one year or a dismissal. However, you must have not received a marijuana ACD or dismissal before, or have not been previously convicted of a crime which involved possession of controlled substances.
If you are convicted of a crime other than one involving controlled substances, then you may still be eligible for a marijuana ACD or dismissal if the prosecutor consents. The lawyers at our firm are experienced with getting ACDs for our clients pursuant to CPL §170.56 and have had great success in achieving favorable outcomes with marijuana-related cases.
What are the Penalties for Criminal Possession of Marijuana Charges?
There are a wide range of penalties associated with the various marijuana charges outlined by state law. Criminal possession of marijuana is not to be confused with unlawful possession of marijuana. These are distinct charges in New York City. Criminal possession of marijuana incurs criminal penalties, whereas unlawful possession of marijuana is a violation rather than a crime and carries the most minimal of punishments attached to marijuana possession.
Charges for criminal possession of marijuana charges are separated into five degrees of offenses. The lowest charge for criminal possession is possession in the fifth degree, while first-degree possession of marijuana carries the strictest penalties. A person may face charges of criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree if they intentionally and illegally possess more than 25 grams of marijuana. Criminal marijuana possession in the fifth degree is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by no more than three months in jail.
On the other hand, a conviction for criminal possession of marijuana in the first degree incurs much harsher punishment. A person may endure charges of criminal possession of marijuana in the first degree if they possess more than 10 pounds of the substance. This offense is categorized as a Class C felony in New York, prosecutable by up to 15 years’ incarceration. If the amount of the marijuana in question is less than 25 grams, usually, the punishment will be no more than a financial penalty of $100.
What Factors Could Mitigate a Marijuana Offense?
The amount of marijuana involved will be a significant determinant of whether or not it is possible to mitigate someone’s charges. However, they may be other factors that could serve to lessen the penalties for a marijuana offense. For example, if the individual accused of a marijuana offense was not aware that the substance was in their possession, the element of intent required to make the charge hold up in court would not be met.
The Impact of Mayor de Blasio on the Prosecution of Marijuana Offenses
Prior to November 19, 2014, the mere possession of marijuana in public, regardless of the weight, or whether it was burning, could result in an arrest for a misdemeanor. However, under the de Blasio administration, there has been a move towards decriminalization of lower level marijuana offenses, the first being that possession of smaller amounts of marijuana in public can result in the issuance of a summons rather than arrest and misdemeanor charges. Despite the Mayor’s new initiative towards lower level marijuana offenses, many New York City police officers and Assistant District Attorneys do not share in the Mayor’s ideology and continue to arrest and charge individuals for low level marijuana possession. Although this policy change was announced in late 2014, approximately six months later in March of 2015, the New York Times reported that the Mayor and his police chief were offering “mixed signals” over how to deal with Marijuana offenses. While the Mayor says he “champions the new policy regarding low-level marijuana possession,” Commissioner Bratton compared marijuana to cocaine-related violence in the 1980s and ‘90s. The bottom line is that it is important to hire an attorney who is up to date on the current and changing areas of the marijuana laws, especially on issues where prosecutors are resistant to change. Call us if you’d like to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.