Even if you didn’t intend to sell or distribute a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance is a serious criminal offense in New York. The greater the quantity of the substance, the greater the possible criminal penalties. Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second degree is a New York class A-II felony under New York penal code 220.18.
A conviction for second degree controlled substance possession can bring a sentence of up to ten years in prison. There’s also a minimum sentence of three years. That means the judge can sentence you to prison for anywhere from three to ten years.
There are increased penalties if you’re convicted two or more times. There are also increased penalties if you have a previous violent conviction on your criminal history. Once you’re released from prison, you’re probably going to stay under court supervision for a number of years.
For a charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the second degree, you must possess four ounces or more of most drugs. In the case of methamphetamine, you only need to possess two ounces. There are many other drugs that can bring a second-degree possession charge, depending on the amounts in your possession. Some examples of these are hallucinogens, stimulants and methadone. At Spodek Law Group, we’re the NYC criminal lawyers with extensive experience helping clients evaluate their case to see if the state made charging errors that could be fatal to the case.
Preparing your best defense
If you’re facing these serious charges, there are a number of ways that you can defend yourself. In a court of law, you don’t have to prove your innocence. Rather, the police have to prove every element of a crime in order to show that you’re guilty.
The police have to show the jury that you knew you had the drugs. If you pick up the wrong backpack at school and the backpack has drugs in it, you’re not in knowing possession of a controlled substance. Likewise, if someone plants the drugs on you and then calls the police, you’re not in knowing possession of the drugs.
Medical emergency exception
It’s a valid defense to a drug possession charge that you or someone in your vicinity sought help for a medical emergency. For example, two people overdose on drugs in someone’s home. One person realizes that the other needs medical attention and calls for emergency medical services.
When the medical technicians arrive, they find large quantities of drugs at the scene. Even though they found the drugs, the people in the home can’t face charges for possession of the drugs. That’s because New York has decided that it’s good public policy to allow people to call for emergency help when they need it without having to worry that they’re going to face serious criminal consequences as a result.
Unlawful search defenses
You might also be able to defend your case on the grounds that law enforcement conducted an unlawful search of your person or property. This is a constitutional defense. Law enforcement can only search your property if they have a search warrant, if there is an emergency warrant exception or if they take advantage of one of a number of other limited ways to lawfully search private property. The laws on search and seizure are often subtle, and they can change as new cases move through the courts. If law enforcement violated the law in your case, the result can be dismissal of the criminal charges.