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220.09 Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree

Even though the legality of drugs continues to be a matter of debate in New York, New York still has a long and aggressive list of criminal drug offenses. Lawmakers divide the charges into what they see as being the most serious offenses with the biggest possible penalties to the lowest offenses with the least potential consequences. They ban possessing drugs, selling them, and selling them on a school grounds or with the assistance of a minor child. In the middle of the pack for serious drug offenses is criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree.

The most serious drug possession offenses are possession in the first degree offenses. The least serious offenses are seventh degree offenses. While all possession charges are serious offenses, a fourth-degree possession offense is a class C felony. A conviction may result in jail and even up to 15 years in prison. On the other hand, a class C felony is an offense where the judge has more discretion than in some other, more serious felony offenses.

The elements of the offense

There isn’t one definition of just one action that constitutes possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree. Instead, the amounts of each drug you must possess to be in violation of the law depend on the type of drug. For example, for a narcotic drug or drug compound, it’s a fourth-degree offense to possess an eighth of an ounce or more of it. For methamphetamine or its compounds, you need to posses a half an ounce or more. In the case of a narcotic preparation or the compounds of a narcotic preparation, you must have two or more ounces.

There are other categories with varying amounts for stimulants, hallucinogens, methadone, ketamine and depressants. There are additional definitions for what constitutes each of these substances. You may need to refer to New York’s schedule of controlled substances in order to determine what applies in your case.

Defenses

When you’re facing a charge of possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree, there are a number of defenses that may be available to you. One of the common defenses requires the police to prove that you’re the one who controlled the substances to the point that it was legally in your possession. Depending on the nature of the circumstances, this might be an issue in your case. For example, if the drugs are found in the back seat of a car, there may be an issue as to whether the driver or the passenger is in control of the drugs.

You might also make a defense based on the element of knowledge. If some plants drugs on you, they’re not in your possession. You might also raise the defense of a violation of your constitutional rights. Law enforcement has to have a lawful reason in order to conduct a search. In some cases, they have to get a search warrant. The police may have good intentions, but if they violate your rights, you may ask the court to suppress the evidence in your case.

Drug courts

One option in the case of a fourth-degree possession charge may be to participate in one of New York’s drug courts. Drug treatment courts exist to help drug offenders tackle substance abuse problems and prevent additional offenses. In many cases, you can get a reduced charge in exchange for participation in the program. This is a good way to negotiate a reduced charge as well as find the resources that you need in order to tackle a substance abuse program. It’s important to carefully understand the terms of participation when you’re deciding whether drug court is right for you.

by Leonard on Spodek Law Group
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