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220.45 Criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument

The state of New York has very clear laws regarding the possession of hypodermic needles and syringes. Since the possession of needles quite frequently indicates a person uses illegal drugs, the law bars unauthorized possession and sale. Conversely, legal possession of a hypodermic needle or syringe falls outside of the criminal statute detailed in section 220.45 of the penal code. 220.45 defines “Criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument.” In addition to the illegality of unlawful possession, the code also bars the unauthorized sale of sale of a hypodermic instrument.

A Misdemeanor Crime

Violations of Penal Code section 220.45 are considered Class A misdemeanors. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor in New York State could lead to a maximum prison sentence of one year in jail or three years probation. Monetary fines may be imposed. The amount of the fine could be up to $1,000 or double the amount of any gain from the crime. As with any misdemeanor or felony charge, a conviction must come from guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Quite frequently during drug arrests, a suspect faces multiple charges. In addition to possession of a hypodermic instrument, a person may be charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, disorderly conduct, and more. Multiple misdemeanors and possible felonies increase the severity of the penalties and the complexities of a potential defense strategy.

Drug Use Associated with Hypodermic Needles

The most common connection between illegal drug use and hypodermic needles would be utilizing a syringe to inject heroin. While heroin addiction does often require someone to use a hypodermic needle, other drugs do so as well. Painkillers, amphetamines, and anabolic steroids would be other drugs that sometimes require an injection delivery method. If residue from any illegal drug is found in a syringe, additional charges could – and likely would – be levied against the person in possession of the hypodermic instrument.

Possession of a Hypodermic Instrument Absent Drugs

Possession of a hypodermic instrument remains a crime even when the person possessing the needle/syringe does not also possess any illegal drugs. The penal code statute bars illegal possession of a hypodermic instrument. No mention is made that there must be illegal drugs or illegal drug residue inside the syringe. The law, however, does stipulate clear exceptions to the illegality of the possession and sale.

The Public Health Law 3381 Exemption

Those who receive their needles or syringes from a licensed health care provider or facility or pharmacy authorized to prescribe these instruments may be allowed to legally acquire an possess them. Affiliation with the state’s needle/syringe exchange program is also noted as a non-violation. The rules are detailed under Public Health Law 3381. The statute, however, only addresses the possession and acquisition of needles or syringes by persons 18 years of age or older.

Defenses to Charges

Defenses for the charges vary. Clearly, the prosecution must present clear and definitive proof the accused actually possessed or sold the hypodermic instrument is a must. When possession or sale has been established, illegality must be established. Lack of probable cause or violations of constitutional rights could lead to evidence being deemed inadmissible.

Depending on the circumstances of the case and the background of the accused, a defense attorney could also negotiate a plea bargain. Each and every individual case varies. Persons facing charges under this statute should retain the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney who handles cases of this nature.

by Leonard on Spodek Law Group
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