Possession of small amounts of marijuana in New York is only punishable by a ticket. If law enforcement catches you with less than twenty-five grams of marijuana, all they can do is give you a fine. If you’re caught with more than twenty-five grams, possession of marijuana is a crime in New York. While other states have moved towards legalizing marijuana use for recreational purposes, marijuana remains illegal in New York.
Your charge depends on how much you have
The seriousness of your marijuana charge depends on how much marijuana law enforcement thinks you had in your possession. Criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree is the least serious of the criminal marijuana charges. First degree is the most serious, and that covers situations where a person has more than ten pounds in their possession. Fifth degree possession occurs when a person has more than twenty-five grams but less than two ounces of marijuana.
Criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree is a class B misdemeanor under N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.10. That means you can spend up to three months in jail for the offense. You can also pay a fine of up to $500. Penalties for possession of marijuana are greater for offenses involving a larger quantity of marijuana.
It doesn’t matter if you didn’t show the marijuana to anyone, if you didn’t smoke it or even if you kept it in a locked place where children can’t access it. All law enforcement needs to be able to prove is that you had the marijuana in your control. There’s also no distinction between plants that are growing and processed marijuana that’s ready to smoke. Law enforcement determines the charges by weighing the amount of marijuana in your possession.
If you’re charged with criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree, our team of NYC criminal attorneys can help you explore your available defenses. You might be able to defend your charges on the grounds that you are able to use marijuana legally under New York’s Compassionate Care Act. This law allows trained physicians to prescribe marijuana to patients for certain medical conditions. If you have a registered card for use and you use marijuana only under regulated conditions, your use can be legal.
In addition to the Compassionate Care Act, your attorney might be able to file pretrial motions to ask the court to dismiss your charges. This can be the case if law enforcement stopped or searched your vehicle illegally. Law enforcement needs to have a legal reason to stop your vehicle. They can’t just randomly stop vehicles that look like they might contain marijuana. If law enforcement broke the law to stop and search you, the entire case might be invalid.
Law enforcement also needs a search warrant to look for marijuana in your home. There are a few exceptions, but generally the rule is that law enforcement either needs an invitation from you to search your home or they need to get a search warrant signed by a judge before they walk in your home and look. If they don’t, you can have your entire case thrown out.
Your attorney can explore other defenses with you as well. Law enforcement has to prove to the jury that you’re the one who had possession of the marijuana. If the marijuana was under a seat or in a common area, that might be hard to prove. Your attorney can help you evaluate available defenses and make a game plan for your best defense.