Possession of a controlled substance in the 7th Degree is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. At the far end of the spectrum is criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 1st Degree, an A-1 felony with a penalty ranging from 8-20 years in prison.
In NYC, possession of a controlled substance under Penal Law 220.03 results when the amount is small and for personal use. For cocaine, 220.03 is usually charged in NYC when the amount is under 500 milligrams and there is no indication that the person had an intent to sell it. Otherwise, possession of cocaine in NYC can be charged as a felony and usually as possession in the 5th degree (over 500 milligrams pure weight) or possession in the 3rd degree (either as "intent to sell", or over 1/8 an ounce aggregate weight).
In NYC Penal Law 220.03 is a charge often given to the purchaser when a purchase is observed by the NYPD. (an observation sale)
From an NYC Criminal Defense lawyer's point of view, a New York possession of a controlled substance charge whether it is cocaine, heroin or another controlled substance may be incorrectly charged in a number of ways. This can lead to a possible dismissal or at least a reduction to a lesser charge without having to go to trial. A knowledgeable NYC defense lawyer-- one who is familiar with the paperwork that must accompany a drug charge--should be consulted. The NYC attorney might be able to raise a successful challenge to the sufficiency of the complaint, particularly with regards to the 'possession' element. Sometimes there are problems with the lab results or the chain of custody of the controlled substance.
Another possible challenge that a lawyer can raise is the validity of the search which led to the arrest. But, realistically, suppression hearings are a last resort since they are notoriously difficult to win and in NYC Courts, the suppression hearing would usually occur after the case has been sent out to a trial part. It is better to get the case resolved before getting to this stage.
Experienced New York Defense Lawyers would likely agree that, a better plan, particularly when the client has a minimal prior record and the charge is a misdemeanor, is to attack the sufficiency of the charging documents, to move to dismiss the interests of justice, or to negotiate an ACD under New York CPL 170.55, if the client has a minimal prior record. If the prosecutor is not in agreement with those suggestions, a plea reduction to a disorderly conduct 240.20 might be a better option than going to trial or to a suppression hearing and risk having a criminal conviction. Of course, before one makes that determination one must make sure that they review and understand all of the facts. Call 212-786-2999 if you would like to discuss a controlled substance charge.
In any event, all of the available options should be discussed and agreed upon between the lawyer and client as early in the case as possible. The key for the client is to make sure they have a lawyer that is experienced with a controlled substance charge in the New York City Criminal Courts.
On line of attack that a lawyer can use for a controlled substance case is on the sufficiency of the complaint.
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If you are charged with just simple possession of a small amount of cocaine or heroin and its your first time, there is a good chance that an experienced NYC defense lawyer will be able to arrange for an ACD. This means that the charge would be dismissed, sealed and off your record in 6 months.
If you are charged with a more serious felony cocaine or heroin possession, retaining an experienced NYC defense lawyer immediately will increase the chances that you will avoid jail or maybe even a conviction.