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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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New York PL 220 Criminal Possession of Controlled Substance in Fourth Degree

By Spodek Law Group | July 11, 2016
(Last Updated On: October 15, 2023)

Last Updated on: 15th October 2023, 12:52 pm

New York PL 220 Criminal Possession of Controlled Substance in Fourth Degree – A Helpful Guide for the Average Person

New York Penal Law 220.09, also known as Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fourth Degree, is a statute that makes it illegal to possess certain amounts of controlled substances like cocaine, heroin, LSD, and others. This article will explain the law in simple terms, so the average person can understand what’s illegal and what isn’t.

What Substances Are Covered?

The main substances covered by PL 220.09 are[1]:

  • Narcotic drugs – like heroin or cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Narcotic preparations – mixtures with a narcotic drug
  • Stimulants – like amphetamines
  • Hallucinogens – like LSD
  • Methadone
  • Ketamine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB)

To break the law, you need to possess at least a certain amount of these drugs. The weight required depends on the type of drug[2]. For example, you need:

  • 1/8 ounce of a narcotic like heroin
  • 1/2 ounce of methamphetamine
  • 2 ounces of a narcotic preparation

So if you have less than those amounts, it’s not considered a crime under this statute.

What Are Some Common Defenses?

There are a few legal defenses that can help fight a 4th degree criminal possession charge[5]:

  • Illegal search – If the police find drugs through an illegal search, that evidence can’t be used. This could lead to dropped or reduced charges.
  • No knowledge – If you didn’t know the drugs were there, you can’t be found guilty of possessing them knowingly. For example, if they were hidden in your car without your knowledge.
  • Misidentified substance – The substance may not actually be an illegal drug after scientific testing. This could invalidate the charges.
  • Too little weight – If the seized drugs weigh less than the required amount, the 4th degree charge could get reduced to a lower offense or dismissed entirely.

What If Drugs Were Found In My Car?

Under New York law, drugs found in a car are “presumptive evidence” that everyone inside possessed them[1]. But this presumption can be challenged in court with evidence that the drugs actually belonged to just one person. So don’t assume you’ll automatically be convicted if drugs are found in your vehicle.


I hope this overview helps explain the basic elements of New York’s 4th degree criminal possession law. While these cases are serious, there are often good defenses worth exploring. So don’t assume that the charges alone guarantee a conviction or severe penalties. With an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side, you may well be able to get charges reduced or dismissed, or a better outcome than you expect. Just make sure to get legal help right away if you or a loved one is charged under this statute.

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