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At one time, cocaine was deemed a “party drug” for the wealthy. Cocaine was even believed not to be addictive, something everyone knows is inaccurate. Over the past several decades, opinions on cocaine have changed. Unlike marijuana laws, the state of New York has not softened possession laws for those caught with cocaine on their person.
Under federal law, cocaine remains a Schedule II drug and the penalties for illegal possession of street cocaine or crack can be severe. New York may have reduced its previously harsh sentencing laws, but in no way do the statutes allow anyone convicted of cocaine possession to get off easily.
Misdemeanor for Cocaine Possession
Small amounts of marijuana can be charged as non-traffic infractions under the category of violations. Such is not the case with cocaine. The lowest charge a person may face would be “criminal possession of controlled substance in the seventh degree.”
This particular statute is very broad and covers a lot of different drugs. As far as cocaine possession is concerned, anything less than 500 mg would fall under the category of a misdemeanor charge.
While a misdemeanor charge is less serious than a felony, misdemeanor charges should not be taken lightly. Once convicted of a misdemeanor, the charges remain on a person’s record for life. A skilled attorney could work not only at a not guilty verdict based on the circumstances of the case but could try and get the charged dismissed or withdrawn. Of course, those would be the best case scenarios.
This charge falls under the category of a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties for a conviction include a jail sentence of up to one year or three years probation. A maximum fine of $1,000 could be imposed. A defense attorney could negotiate penalties far less severe than the maximum depending on the case.
Those arrested for possession of 500 mg or more of cocaine end up in much direr legal jeopardy.
Felony Possession of Cocaine in New York
Once the amount of cocaine of a cocaine mixture reaches 500 mg and beyond, the levied charges are felonies. The more one has on his or her person, the more severe the charges become. And the words “cocaine mixture” should not be overlooked. The possession does not need to be pure cocaine or an overwhelming purity concentration. Even if a minute amount of cocaine is mixed with something intended to cut its purity, it is the total milligrams that count.
Again, the law in New York can be very strict against those who are arrested for possession of cocaine. Criminal possession of controlled substance in the fifth, fourth, and third degree are considered Class D, C, and B non-violent felonies. The maximum penalties for these three categories of felonies are 2.5, 5.5, and 9 years in prison respectively. The milligrams and ounces of cocaine determine the particular degree.
Once the amount of cocaine reaches four ounces, the charge becomes an A2 felony of second degree possession. The maximum sentence here would be 10 years. At eight ounces, the charge becomes an A1 felony of first degree possession. The maximum sentence may reach 20 years in prison.
A second conviction brings forth mandatory sentencing guidelines, making things even more difficult for the defendant.
Defense Issues to Consider
A talented defense lawyer can approach criminal proceedings in a number of different ways. An attorney could question whether probable cause truly existed when the defendant was searched and arrested. The issue of entrapment may come into play if the defendant was arrested as part of a sting. The evidence can be examined to determine if the weight/amount truly matches the charges being filed.
A case could potentially be thrown out of court depending on the nature of the arrest. Such would likely be the case if the police required a search warrant but did not have one or the officers engaged in entrapment.
The attorney for the defendant can also work towards a plea bargain agreement or, in the event of a guilty verdict, attempt to reduce the sentencing to a fair level. Previous convictions and other matters play a role in sentencing. A defense attorney could highlight a lack of prior trouble with the law or other mitigating circumstances.
Regardless of the situation, retaining the best defense counsel must be a defendant’s top priority.