New York

New York drug possession laws have historically been some of the toughest in the country. Below is an outline of some of the charges and penalties for criminal drug possession in New York State.

What is a Controlled Substance (Drug) under New York Law?

Controlled substances can be both illegal drugs like heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine and some controlled substances are prescription medication like Vicodin, OxyContin, Ambien and Ritalin. Possession alone of illegal substances is a crime in itself. The possession of legally controlled substances (prescription drugs) is a criminal offense if you don’t have a legal prescription to possess or take them.

Whatever the seriousness of the drug charges you are facing, it is important to find the right help in protecting your rights in court. You need to speak with an aggressive and experienced defense attorney who will protect your rights  and provide the best possible options and legal advice available.

New York State Drug Laws

Being caught with illegal controlled substances (drugs) or legal substances without prescription could result in jail time, fines and probation, if you are convicted of the charges.

How is Possession Defined in Drug Possession Charges?

In presumption of possession, it is presumed that everyone inside the car or a room knows of the presence of such illegal drug or controlled substance and are therefore in violation of the law.

For example, anyone in a car with drugs could be charged. If during a vehicle search, the police officer discovers illegal or controlled substances, the presumption would be that everyone inside and riding the vehicle knew of its presence and may be therefore charged with illegal possession of illegal drugs.

Every person found inside a room (or a house) or within a close proximity (could be different room in the same house) of compound or mixture of illegal drugs or marijuana, unless it is a public place, maybe charged with illegal possession of drugs.

The presence of a narcotic drug, narcotic preparation, marihuana or phencyclidine in open view in a room, other than a public place, under circumstances evincing an intent to unlawfully mix, compound, package or otherwise prepare for sale such controlled substance is presumptive evidence of knowing possession thereof by each and every person in close proximity to such controlled substance at the time such controlled substance was found.

Marijuana Possession

While New York state has made efforts to decriminalize marijuana possession in small amounts on the state and local level, there are still many serious criminal offenses on the books for pot possession. See our full page on NY Marijuana laws for more details. 

Ecstasy Possession

Possession of ecstasy (molly, MDMA, X) depends on the quantity.

Quantity Class Charge Penalty
Under 25mg Class A Misdemeanor Criminal Possession 7th Degree Up to 1 year in Jail
25mg – 5g Class C Felony Criminal Possession 4th Degree Up to 5 years in Jail
5g-25g Class B Felony Criminal Possession 3rd Degree Up to 9 years in Jail
Over 25g Class A-II Felony Criminal Possession 2nd Degree Up to 14 years in Jail


Methamphetamine Possession

See our full page on meth charges in New York.

Use of a child to commit a controlled substance offense.

“A  person  is  guilty  of  use  of  a child to commit a controlled substance offense when, being eighteen years old  or  more,  he  or  she commits a felony sale or felony attempted sale of a controlled substance in  violation of this article and, as part of that criminal transaction, knowingly uses  a  child  to  effectuate  such  felony  sale  or  felony attempted sale of such controlled substance.”

(NY PL 220.28)

Criminal sale of a controlled substance 1st – 5th degree

Criminal Sale of controlled substance charges are considered in four degrees depending on the kind of substance, location it was discovered, the amount it is discovered in and the number of times the offender has been charged, fined and punished for the violation of the laws under the same article).

Selling of:

  • narcotic preparation
  • depressants (and its variations)
  • concentrated cannabis
  • phenycyclide
  • methadone
  • ketamine
  • stimulant, hallucinogen, lysergic

is punishable and further aggravated when it is knowingly and unlawfully sold on school grounds, grounds of a child day care or educational facility.

(NY PL 220.31-43)

Criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument.

“A person is guilty of criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument when he knowingly and unlawfully possesses or sells a hypodermic syringe or hypodermic needle.

Criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument is a class A misdemeanor.

(NY PL 220.45)

Criminal injection of a narcotic drug

Injecting a narcotic drug is itself a felony criminal charge under New York Law.

“A person is guilty of criminal injection of a narcotic drug when he knowingly and unlawfully possesses a narcotic drug and he intentionally injects by means of a hypodermic syringe or hypodermic needle all or any portion of that drug into the body of another person with the latter`s consent.

Criminal injection of a narcotic drug is a class E felony.

(NY PL 220.46)

Criminal possession of precursors of controlled substances

Precursors are chemical substances or compound manufactured primarily for the purpose of producing a controlled substance. Which means that having the ingredients to make certain drugs can be a crime in itself, under New York law.

For instance, Acetic anhydride, which is used in the production of cellulose acetate, colourings, flavourings or medicines (aspirin), is also a key chemical to produce heroin.

“A person is guilty of criminal sale of a prescription for a controlled substance when, being a practitioner, he knowingly and unlawfully sells a prescription for a controlled substance. For the purposes of this section, a person sells a prescription for a controlled substance unlawfully when he does so other than in good faith in the course of his professional practice.”

(NY PL 220.60)