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Possession of marijuana in the state of New York can be somewhat confusing for residents. New York City may be a bit more tolerant with possession than what is the case in other localities. A person arrested on Long Island cannot very well expect the same exact treatment as would be the case in New York City. Different local regulations are in place.
Additionally, the amount of marijuana found on the person at the time of arrest factors into the charges to be filed. A small amount of marijuana may be easy to defend in court. An amount that reached “intent to distribute” levels, of course, would be a far more serious crime. Such a crime would require an equally more serious approach to defense.
Levels of Crimes in New York State
The state of New York does not look at marijuana as harshly as it does other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. As previously noted, how much the person possesses and whether there is intent to sell factor into the charges and penalties, possession of drug paraphernalia such as bongs, vaporizers, glass pipes, can be used against you. With possession, a person can be charged with a violation, a misdemeanor, or a felony. The specific laws and penalties related to possession of marijuana are found in the New York Criminal Code.
Marijuana Possession and Violations
A violation in New York state is, in essence, an infraction not related to a traffic incident. The maximum penalty imposed cannot exceed 15 days. Marijuana possession-related violations are clearly defined in the penal code as possessing 25 grams or less on one’s person. The first offense is a fine of $100. Those convicted of a second and third offense find their fine increases to $200 and $250.
These fines are the maximum amount allowed by law. An attorney could negotiate a potentially lower amount. Fines, however, might not be the thing to worry the most about. With a third offense, the most ominous part would be the potential for a maximum sentence of up to 15 days in jail. Hiring experienced counsel when faced with possible jail time would be in the best interest of the defendant.
The possibility exists to seal non-criminal violations one year after the actual conviction. Additionally, more serious possession of marijuana convictions could be sealed three years after conviction provided the amount was less than 7/8’s of an ounce. Sealing a conviction is a bit like an expungement in the sense the records can never be seen by anyone. Once a conviction record is sealed, the incident is more easily put in the past.
While the average person may only be looking at violations, others may be looking at more onerous possession charges.
Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession
Marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor B or a misdemeanor A. A misdemeanor B entails possession of more than 25 grams of marijuana or any amount in public view. This charge comes with a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum jail sentence of three months. With a misdemeanor A, the amount must be more than two ounces up to eight ounces. A possible one-year jail term and a maximum $1,000 fine hang over the head of a defendant. Additionally, a misdemeanor conviction means a criminal record that might never be shaken for the rest of the person’s life.
When facing misdemeanor charges, retaining a qualified defense counsel might be the only way to reduce the disastrous impact of harsh sentencing. Predicting how a judge or district attorney will act cannot be done. However, it is safe to say qualified representation would be in the best interests of the defendant.
Felony Marijuana Possession
At the felony level, a defendant looks at much more serious penalties. The chances of doing time in jail increase an, in some instances, may be totally unavoidable.
Felony penalties do not go easy on defendants. Possession of 8 ounces to 16 ounces is a Class E Felony and presents a maximum fine of $5,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 4 years. Possession of 16 ounces to 10 pounds is a Class D Felony and presents a maximum fine of $5,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 7 years. Possession of any amount over 10 pounds is a Class C Felony. The maximum fine of $15,000 also comes with a potential maximum prison term of 15 years.
Those convicted of marijuana possession felonies for a second time face mandatory prison time.
The Best Attorney and the Best Defense
Those arrested on marijuana possession charges in Long Island or elsewhere in New York state positively must hire the best attorney to represent them in court. This is true even when the charge is a “mere” violation.
Finding oneself in legal trouble is always a serious matter. So be very serious when it comes to hiring the best possible criminal defense attorney.