New York Marihuana Charges: A Guide for Defendants
Current Marihuana Laws in New York
The MRTA made major reforms to New York’s drug laws. Here’s a quick summary of what’s now legal for adults 21+ :
- Possessing up to 3 ounces of flower cannabis or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis
- Using, smoking, or consuming cannabis products
- Transferring small amounts of cannabis to other adults without compensation
- Growing up to 6 cannabis plants at home (up to 12 per household)
Public consumption through smoking or vaping is prohibited anywhere tobacco smoking is banned. Violations are subject to a civil fine up to $25.
The law also expunged many past marihuana convictions and created opportunities for resentencing. We’ll discuss this more in Section III.
Expungement and Resentencing
A major component of the MRTA is providing relief for those with past marihuana convictions. Here’s an overview of what’s available:
A. Automatic Expungement
The law automatically expunged many low-level marihuana conviction records. This includes:
- Violations under former Penal Law §§ 221.05 and 221.10
- Misdemeanor convictions under former Penal Law §§ 221.05, 221.10, 221.15, and 221.20
- Convictions under former Penal Law §§ 221.35 and 221.40
Defendants with eligible convictions no longer have to acknowledge or report them.
B. Petition-Based Expungement
People with certain convictions can petition the court to have their records expunged. This includes:
- Certain felonies under former Penal Law § 221
- Convictions under former Penal Law §§ 220 and 240.36 where marihuana was the only controlled substance
Petitioners will need to submit court records and other documents to support their case. The process can take 6 months or more to complete.
Those still serving sentences for eligible offenses can petition for resentencing. The court may choose to resentence them to a lesser penalty under the MRTA or even time served.
Resentencing provides an opportunity for early release from prison or jail. Defendants will need documentation from their original case and details on their efforts at rehabilitation while incarcerated.
Understanding the Consequences
The penalties for a marihuana conviction depend on the charges and your criminal history. Some potential consequences include:
- Jail or prison time – Felony convictions often lead to years behind bars. You may be able to get early release by completing drug treatment programs.
- Fines – Most drug offenses involve heavy fines in addition to incarceration. The court may offer fine-only sentences for minor violations.
- Probation – Terms often include mandatory drug tests, treatment, and restrictions on activities. Violating probation can result in new charges.
- Criminal record – Drug convictions stay on your record and can show up on background checks for jobs, housing, loans etc. Expungement can help minimize this.
- Loss of rights – Felony convictions can strip voting rights, ban gun ownership, and impact government aid like public housing and student loans.
- Deportation – Drug offenses are grounds for deportation for non-citizens, even if they hold a green card. Consult an immigration attorney.
- Child custody issues – Drug charges can be used against you in custody hearings and lead to loss of parental rights.
Don’t let fear of consequences drive your plea decisions. Your lawyer is there to help minimize penalties through smart negotiation and defense.
Finding the Right Lawyer
The lawyer you choose can make or break your case. Look for these qualities:
- Experience with local courts, judges, and marihuana cases specifically. Check their background and client reviews.
- Communication skills to explain the law and strategy in understandable terms. You want an attorney who listens and answers all questions.
- Negotiation skills to secure plea bargains or alternative sentencing options that minimize penalties.
- Trial experience for complex cases that may go before a jury. Your lawyer should have litigation skills to take on the prosecution.
- Objectivity to give straightforward legal advice, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Beware lawyers who overpromise unlikely outcomes.
- Affordability – Public defenders provide free representation if you can’t afford private counsel. Either way, understand the total costs.