Although possession of a controlled substance is one of the more common charged offenses in New York courtrooms, it’s still a very serious offense. The seriousness of the charge depends specifically on how much of the substance you possess. Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree is the least serious of the controlled substance possession charges. Even so, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree is a class A misdemeanor. That means that you can spend up to one year in jail and pay a $1,000 fine if you’re convicted under N.Y. Pen. Law § 220.03.
What is a controlled substance?
A controlled substance is any substance that’s listed in schedules one through five of the public health code except for marijuana. If there’s any question, it’s important that you work with your attorney to evaluate whether the substance found in your possession is actually a controlled substance. If it’s not, you might have a clear defense to the charges against you.
Possession of a controlled substance does not include marijuana under this law. Possession of marijuana is still illegal in New York. However, it’s charged under its own law with different degrees for varying amounts.
One example of a controlled substance that you can possess legally with a prescription is Vicodin. If you encounter law enforcement, and they find that you have Vicodin, they might assume that you’re possessing the drug illegally. If you have a valid prescription, you can defend yourself from the charges. For this reason, it’s important and helpful to keep prescriptions in their original pharmacy bottles.
The same prescription defense can work for other types of prescription drugs that are commonly traded or sold illegally. If you have a lawful prescription for the drugs, it’s not illegal for you to possess them. It’s still illegal for you to sell the drugs or give them to other users, but a valid prescription is a good defense to a possession of a controlled substance charge.
A residual amount as part of a syringe exchange
New York law makes an important exception in the seventh-degree possession of a controlled substance law. This exception is for what the law considers a residual amount of a substance. That is, when law enforcement finds a controlled substance, they have to find more than just a trace of it on a needle. The purpose of this exception is to allow people to participate in needle exchange programs without having to worry about arrest.
Medical emergency exception
Another common exception to possession of controlled substance charges is a medical emergency. If you or someone you’re with needs emergency medical care, you’re able to seek that care without worrying about getting arrested. This is true even if the person needs help because of an overdose. If law enforcement responds to the emergency, they can’t charge you with possession of controlled substances that they find while they’re helping you with the emergency. At Spodek Law Group, our talented team of NYC criminal lawyers can help you evaluate whether the medical emergency exception is available to you.
Ultimately, the penalties for a possession charge depend on the seriousness of the offense and your criminal history. You might consider alternative sentencing in a drug treatment court. If you qualify, you can participate in a special probation that’s meant to help you conquer a substance abuse issue. If you complete probation, you can receive a dismissal or a significant reduction of the charges that remain on your criminal history.
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