In New York, all controlled substance charges are serious offenses. However, the most serious of the charges is criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree. A conviction can mean up to life in prison.
What qualifies as a first-degree possession charge
The charge of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance is quite specific in New York. It involves possession of certain narcotic drugs. You must have eight or more ounces of the narcotic in order to receive a first-degree charge. Alternatively, if you have more than a certain quantity of methadone you can also receive a first-degree possession charge. New York’s first-degree possession of a controlled substance law is New York’s penal law 220.21.
Penalties and sentencing
A first-degree possession charge is a very serious offense because of the possibility of life in prison. In addition to the maximum possibility, you also face a mandatory minimum term in prison of fifteen years. That means if you’re convicted as charged, the judge doesn’t have the option to give you less than fifteen years in prison.
How much time you actually serve depends on the specific nature of your offense. The court also looks at your criminal history. When your NYC criminal attorneys work on your case, they can help you consider whether it’s in your best interests to go to trial or to negotiate a plea deal to a reduced charge.
Ways to defend your case
There are a number of different ways that your defense team can attack the charges against you. In the United States and in New York, you’re innocent until proven guilty. It’s up to the police to prove the charges against you. They must collect their evidence in a lawful way.
Constitutional search and seizure laws
The first thing your attorney might do is evaluate the traffic stop or the search of your property. Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to live your life peacefully without unreasonable interference from police. That’s the case if you’re in your home, walking down the street or driving a moving vehicle.
If the police search your property in an unlawful way, they can’t use the evidence that they find against you in court. Your attorney can file a pretrial motion to ask the judge to throw out the evidence against you. If the police can’t tell the jury that you had a controlled substance, there’s no case. This is a great way to defend yourself if the police acted unlawfully.
Proving every element
When you go to trial, it’s up to law enforcement to prove the charges against you. That means they have to show that you knew you possessed the drugs. If someone else threw the drugs in your yard as they ran from the police, you didn’t knowingly possess the drugs. If your relative put the drugs in your purse as a prank, you didn’t knowingly possess the drugs.
The police also have to prove that the substance is controlled. That means they should test the substance and have a report to show the jury. They also have to prove that you didn’t have a lawful right to possess the drugs. That could be an issue if you’re charged with possessing a prescription drug.
Explore all of your options
A first-degree controlled substance possession charge can be devastating. It’s important that you explore all of the defenses available to you. A strong defense can save you from years in prison and a life changing criminal history.
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