New York, like other U.S. states and countries around the world, has a range of criminal penalties for the possession of illegal drugs classified as controlled substances in state law. The type and severity of the penalty often depend on the specific drug a person is accused of possessing as well as the amount in their possession and any previous record of convictions on the same charge. Depending on these factors, people could face felony or misdemeanor charges that carry an array of penalties, from fines to jail or prison time.
Like all states, New York sets its own penalties for drug crimes, including possession charges. This means that penalties can vary from state to state, sometimes substantially. State law governs the majority of possession cases; while federal drug charges are not uncommon, they are more frequently related to allegations of distribution or manufacturing rather than simple possession. Perhaps marijuana possession charges most strongly illustrate the ongoing debate across the country about how to handle drug cases; many states, including New York, have decriminalized marijuana possession for personal use.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in New York is a civil violation punishable with a ticket and not a criminal offense. On the other hand, possession of other substances, including cocaine, meth, psychoactive mushrooms, heroin or LSD, is considered a criminal offense. For certain small amounts, a possession charge may be a misdemeanor, but most New York drug possession charges are classified as Class D felonies.
People who are facing drug charges in New York can be at risk of a felony criminal record that could follow them for the rest of their lives as well as substantial fines and prison time. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to help people charged with drug offenses to present a strong defense before and during trial.