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220.03 Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree

Not all drug crimes in New York have the same penalties. The legislators who made New York’s drug laws say that some drug crimes are more severe than others based on the circumstances of the offense. Sale of a large amount of a drug is a serious offense, while possession of a small quantity of a drug is a less serious offense. In New York law, criminal drug possession is divided by degrees. A first-degree offense is the most serious while a seventh-degree offense is the least serious.

As the least serious of the drug possession charges, possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree is a misdemeanor. In fact, it’s the only classification of a drug possession crime that’s a misdemeanor. All of the other drug possession crimes are felonies. A violation of the seventh-degree controlled substance law is a misdemeanor.

What’s the crime?

A person commits the crime of seventh-degree possession of a controlled substance when they knowingly have a controlled substance in their possession without proper legal authority. The law goes on to say that it’s not a violation to have only a residual amount of a substance on a hypodermic needle or a syringe if it’s part of the state needle exchange program. Also, the state can’t charge a violation if it comes to law enforcement attention because a person is seeking medical care for a drug overdose.

Possession must be knowing

Possession of a drug is a crime that can’t happen accidentally. That means, if someone puts the drugs in your bag or backpack, you’re not guilty if you don’t know that they’re there. There also may be some debate as to whether the drug is actually in your possession. If there are a lot of people that the drugs might belong to, the police may not be able to prove this element of the crime.

Other available defenses

It’s up to the police to prove that the substance is illegal. They should formally test the substance rather than make assumptions. If you have a substance in your possession that isn’t a controlled substance, you haven’t broken any laws.

In addition, the police can’t violate your constitutional rights in order to find the drugs. If you don’t consent to a search, the police must get a search warrant or exercise one of the few, limited exceptions to the search warrant rule. When the police violate your constitutional rights, you can ask the court to intervene. Because the courts don’t want to reward police when they violate citizen rights, if the court agrees with you, they may throw out the evidence against you.

Drug court programs

Because criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree is a class A misdemeanor, you may qualify for participation in drug court. Drug treatment courts exist in order to help people address drug problems rather than simply getting caught breaking a law and going to jail. You may be able to get a reduction in the charges against you or avoid jail in exchange for participation in a drug court program.

Drug courts require a commitment and additional court appearances. However, in exchange, there’s a good chance that you may be able to get a reduction in your charges. You can work with your attorney in order to review the eligibility requirements to see if pursuing participation is a good choice in your case. Participation in recovery court requires a plea agreement with the state’s attorney. You should review your case for viable defenses to determine if your best option is to take your case to trial or pursue another resolution to your case.

by Leonard on Spodek Law Group
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