Remember that Marijuana is not legal to possess in New York State and that includes New York City. But after receiving a marijuana summons or even after being arrested there are ways to avoid getting a conviction. To find out how, talk with a NYC defense lawyer who handles marijuana possession cases.
While recreational marijuana is legal in some states, New York still has some of the strictest pot laws in the United States. Here in New York, while possession of small amounts of marijuana not "in public view" was "technically" decriminalized in 1977, people smoking or possessing marijuana in public view can still be charged with a crime under Penal Law 221.10 and go to jail.
Before moving forward, it is important to understand that a person caught by the cops with Marijuana in NYC can be charged one of three ways. They are listed below from best to worst:
1. The person is not arrested for possession marijuana but instead is issued a pink summons to appear in New York City Criminal Court Summons Part (SAP). This often occurs when the NYPD only charges the Penal Law 221.05 (simple possession of marijuana)
2. The person is arrested for possessing marijuana and taken to the precinct, fingerprinted and photographed and then issued a desk appearance ticket (DAT) and released. This often occurs when the person is charged with Penal Law 221.10 (marijuana burning or in open view)
3. The person is arrested for possessing marijuana and then taken to the precinct for processing (photograph and fingerprints). Then, instead of being released with a desk appearance ticket, the person is taken to Central Booking where a criminal complaint charging them with possessing marijuana under Penal Law 221.10 will be filed and the person may wait 24-48 hours before seeing a judge and being released.
It is foolish to think that the NYPD will no longer arrest people and instead hand out summonses for people caught with small amounts of marijuana, the new policy only applies to people charged with Penal Law 221.05 who are caught with marijuana AND are neither smoking it nor have it in public view. In truth, most people caught by the NYPD with small amounts of pot are either smoking it or about to smoke it. That means that the cop does not have to just issue the marijuana user a pink summons and send them on their way. Instead, the cop can arrest them.
Everyone should remember that getting caught smoking marijuana in New York City or just holding pot in public view can still result in an arrest and a trip to jail along with the potential for a criminal record.
Smoking marijuana in public in New York City under Penal Law 221.10 is a "B" misdemeanor which is a crime and punishable by up to 90 days in jail. While a jail sentence for smoking pot is unlikely, just getting arrested will mean being taken down to the local precinct in handcuffs for fingerprints and mugshots and then, if lucky, spending a few hours in a holding cell before eventually being released with a desk appearance ticket to appear at a New York City Criminal Court. In some situations, a person might be released after processing at the precinct and instead sent to Central booking where they might spend 24-48 hours in jail waiting to see a judge.
It has been widely rumored that some members of the NYPD seek out marijuana arrests towards the ends of their shifts because these arrests are often easy with cooperative (stoned) arrestees. The arrests provide the officers with a few hours of guaranteed overtime pay and even more overtime if they decide to take their marijuana prisoner to central booking after processing at the precinct.
But aside from the arrest aspects, which can range from inconvenient and embarassing (being handcuffed in public) to frightening and even dangerous (being locked in a holding tank with a dangerous violent criminal, perhaps someone on PCP), there can be severe collateral consequences that can result from a marijuana conviction. These include immigration consequences for non-citizens, financial aid consequences for college students and loss of housing consequences for those on public housing.
In any event, if you are reading this you or a loved one was probably recently caught smoking marijuana and were either arrested and issued a DAT or you were not arrested and issued a pink summons. In either case, you should consult with a New York City Defense lawyer who understand the criminal courts of New York City.
Even with just a pink ticket, having a good lawyer for your marijuana charge is important. New York may be way behind the curve of much of the country's trend toward legalization, but it does have one terrific law on the books which allows for a marijuana arrest to be kept off a person's record and any New York criminal lawyer should know about it.
The law is the "Marijuana Adjournment In Contemplation of Dismissal ("Marijuana ACD") under CPL 170.56. The Marijuana ACD is available to anyone with no prior marijuana ACD's nor controlled substance convictions. If you call a New York City lawyer and they are unfamiliar with the marijuana ACD, politely thank them for their time and call another lawyer.
Any person with no prior criminal convictions nor prior marijuana ACD's is eligible to have the judge impose the marijuana ACD without the consent of the prosecutor. The great thing about the Marijuana ACD is that there is no guilty plea entered and the individual usually only has to waive speedy trial for the duration of the ACD (usually one year"). At the end of the ACD, the charge is dismissed and sealed and the arrest records including the mugshots and the prints are destroyed. The marijuana ACD is available whether the person was arrested for penal law 221.10 or just given a summons under penal law 221.05.
Moreover, a good lawyer might be able to convince a judge to impose the marijuana ACD for less than a year. Under some circumstances, a judge might impose the ACD for a period of 30 days. That means that the marijuana charge could be dismissed and sealed and away from the prying eyes of background checks within a matter of weeks.
Another way that a lawyer might be able to get rid of the marijuana charge is through various dismissal motions including a dismissal in the interests of justice or a dismissal for the facial insufficiency of the charging document. A good New York marijuana lawyer will know about these motions
So, although New York is lagging behind the rest of the nation with the reform of its drug laws, there are several means of effectively dealing with marijuana charges here in New York to avoid a marijuana conviction. Ask your lawyer or call me at 212-786-2999 to know what you can do.