New York Marijuana Possession

For almost 4 decades in New York the possession of small amounts of marijuana has not been a crime, but a violation. You can have less than 25 grams of marijuana and not be charged with a crime. Instead you would be issued a ticket. Despite that, over 50,000 people are arrested each year for criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree, the lowest level criminal charge for marijuana possession. For years criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree has been the most common arrest charge in New York. Thousands more are arrested for the other 4 marijuana possession charges. Many people feel that marijuana use should be legal, not just for medicinal purposes but also for recreational purposes. For this reason oftentimes when people are arrested for marijuana possession they do not believe it is a big deal. While it is true that the law regards marijuana possession as a less serious offense compared to possession of a controlled substance such as cocaine or heroin, if you are arrested for marijuana possession you should still take it very seriously particularly if you have more than a small amount. Possession of 8 ounces or more of marijuana is a felony. If convicted, you could end up in prison for several years. If you have been arrested and charged with marijuana possession, you should take the situation very seriously and immediately contact an experienced New York marijuana possession lawyer who understands how New York marijuana laws work and who will aggressively defend you against these charges. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have decades of experience representing clients who have been charged with drug crimes and other serious crimes such as assault, domestic violence and sex crimes. Find out what we can do for you by contacting us to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

Marijuana possession offenses

New York Penal law includes a total of 6 possession of marijuana charges. One is a violation, 2 are misdemeanors, and 3 are felonies.

  • Unlawful possession of marijuana involves knowingly and unlawfully possessing marijuana. It is a violation. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.05. The threshold amount that will take unlawful possession of marijuana to misdemeanor criminal possession of marijuana is 25 grams.
  • Criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree involves knowingly and unlawfully possessing marijuana in a public place and burning it or displaying it in public view. Even if the amount you have is 25 grams or less, if it is in public view you will be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a violation. You will also face this charge if you have more than 25 grams of marijuana regardless of whether or not you burn or display it in public view. It is a class B misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.10
  • Criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree. You will face this charge if you have more than 2 ounces or marijuana. It is a class A misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.15
  • Criminal possession of marijuana in the third degree. You will face this charge if you have more than 8 ounces or marijuana. It is a class E felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.20
  • Criminal possession of marijuana in the second degree. You will face this charge if you have at more than 16 ounces or marijuana. It is a class D felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.25
  • Criminal possession of marijuana in the first degree. This is the most serious marijuana charge. It involves having more than 10 pounds of marijuana. It is a class C felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.30
Sale of marijuana offenses

If you possess what law enforcement determines to be a large enough amount of marijuana such that they conclude that it is likely not for personal use but for distribution, you may end up being charged with a sale of marijuana offense. According to New York law, the term "sell" does not only mean exchange marijuana for money. It also means exchanging marijuana for something else, disposing of it to another person, or giving it away. In addition, it means offering to or agreeing to sell. Therefore, in order to be charged with a sale of marijuana offense, it is not necessary for law enforcement or other witnesses to observe you exchange marijuana for money or something else. Other circumstances, such as the amount of marijuana you have, could lead law enforcement to the conclusion that you intend to sell. Penalties for marijuana sale offenses are harsher than penalties for marijuana possession offenses.

  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the fifth degree involves giving away 2 grams or less of marijuana or one marijuana "joint." It is a class B misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.35
  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the fourth degree involves selling 25 grams or less of marijuana. It is a class A misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.40
  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the third degree involves selling more than 25 grams of marijuana. It is a class E felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.45
  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the second degree involves selling more than 4 ounces of marijuana. You will also face this charge if you sell marijuana to someone who is less than 18 years old. It is a class D felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.50
  • Criminal sale of marijuana in the first degree involves selling more than 16 ounces of marijuana. It is a class C felony. N.Y. Pen. Law § 221.55
Penalties for marijuana offenses

The sentence for a marijuana drug crime conviction varies based on the classification of the drug crime, with the maximum sentence being up to 15 years in prison. The other penalties for drug possession convictions include:

  • Violation. Unlawful possession of marijuana is not a crime but a violation. It carries a penalty of a fine of up to $100. For a second conviction for this offense within the prior 3 years, the fine will be up to $200. For a third offense, the fine will be up to $250 or up to 15 days in jail.
  • Class B misdemeanor. The maximum possible sentence is up to 3 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
  • Class A misdemeanor. The maximum possible sentence is 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Class E felony. The maximum possible sentence is 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Class D felony. The maximum possible sentence is 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Class C felony . The maximum possible sentence is 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

If you commit a marijuana crime and you also have a substance abuse problem, you may be eligible for an alternative sentencing program. After you are arraigned for a B,C, D or E drug crime charge you can request an evaluation that will determine if you have a alcohol or drug abuse problem. You can then also request a hearing to find out if the judge will give you the option of going to Drug Treatment Court. If the court finds that you have a substance abuse problem, that this problem was a contributing factor to your criminal activity, and that you are likely to benefit from the Drug Treatment Court program, the court may offer you the option of going to Drug Treatment Court. If you accept the offer, plead guilty to the criminal charges and successfully complete the program, then this will impact the disposition of the criminal case against you. The judge may reduce the criminal charges against you or even dismissing them.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

While possessing marijuana for your own personal use may seem like a minor offense, you could end up spending a significant amount of time in prison if convicted of a marijuana possession crime. Because of the potential consequences, you should immediately contact an attorney who has experience defending those accused of marijuana possession. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been accused of marijuana possession, marijuana distribution, drug possession, and other drug crimes. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of drug crimes in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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