NY Criminal Defense Lawyer

Marijuana Possession


Possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in New York. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you won’t face the scrutiny of law enforcement when you are suspected of having the substance. As a matter of fact, police in NYC are frequently criticized for enforcing marijuana laws far beyond what’s considered a reasonable level, even placing people under arrest when they’ve been caught with nothing more than a joint.

It’s true that if you are caught with less than 25 grams of marijuana, you can be ticketed without being criminally charged. It’s called a “violation” and doesn’t even amount to a misdemeanor. This is true for your first offense and your second– you should be ticketed and sent on your way.

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But if you are caught with more than 25 grams or you are suspected of selling or growing marijuana, you will face more serious penalties. You could go to prison for a marijuana charge, something that seems quite severe given the general acceptance of this controlled substance.

You don’t have to have the pot on your person to be charged.

That’s right. You don’t have to be holding the marijuana to be charged with possession. It could be in your vehicle, in your home, or on the ground next to you. If you are with a friend and their pot is in the chair between you, you could be charged.

Constructive possession refers to having knowledge of the drug’s presence and having the ability to maintain control over it. Basically, if you know or should know the drug is there and you can put your hands on it, you can be charged with possession or any related charge.

A marijuana charge is not the same as a conviction—you do have options.

This may be your first criminal charge and if so, you are likely nervous about what this might mean for your future. Your stress is justified. A criminal conviction can have permanent repercussions. Far beyond the potential for jail time, you could forever have to explain your criminal conviction to future potential employers and landlords.

If this is your first charge, your chances of jail time are slim, particularly if you are just charged with marijuana possession. However, if you have a criminal record, an experienced and tenacious attorney can work to get you a favorable plea agreement with prosecutors, or even have the charges dropped altogether.

Possession charges are classified under New York law according to degree, dependent on how much marijuana you were caught with. The potential penalties and classifications for marijuana possession are listed below.

Amount Charge Classification Penalty
Less than 25 grams Unlawful Possession Violation $100 fine
25 grams- 1.9 oz. 5th Degree Possession B Misdemeanor 3 mos. jail and $500 fine
2 oz.- 7.9 oz. 4th Degree Possession A Misdemeanor 1 yr. jail and $1,000 fine
8 oz. – 15.9 oz. 3rd Degree Possession E Felony 1-4 yrs. Prison, $5,000 fines
1 lb.- 9.9 lbs. 2nd Degree Possession D Non-violent Felony 1-15 yrs. Prison,  $5,000 fines
More than 10 lbs. 1st Degree Possession C Non-violent Felony 1-15 yrs. Prison, $5,000 fines

Ref: NY State Law §221.30-45

If this is your second or greater offense of this kind, you will likely face a mandatory minimum sentence and you will be sentenced within the upper end of the range mentioned above.

Charges of distributing marijuana and even possession with intent to distribute carry far more severe sentences than possession. If you are accused of distribution, you would face Class A misdemeanor charges and a year in jail for only 24 grams of pot. If you are accused of selling an ounce, you’ll face felony charges.

The only way to know for certain what you’re up against and what your options are, is to consult with a local criminal defense attorney. Contact our offices today to discuss the case against you and how we might be able to help.