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Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (First Degree)

Although New York reformed its drug laws in 2009, many of the laws from prior to that time remain in force. Among these harsh laws is the one that address the criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree.

Possession of a high enough quantity of a controlled substance may result in devastating consequences for a person who is arrested, prosecuted and convicted of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance in New York.

Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree is a violation of Article 220.21 of the N.Y. Penal Code. A person who is knowingly and unlawfully in possession of a controlled substance may be charged under this statute, which contains two subdivisions.

Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree is charged as a Class A-I felony in New York, with penalties upon conviction of up to life in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Attorney for Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree in Manhattan

If you were arrested for criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree in Manhattan or any of the five boroughs of New York City, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Manhattan to assist you in your defense. A qualified attorney will be able to explain the drug charge and possible defenses that might apply.

At Greco Neyland, PC, we represent people arrested on felony drug charges. With Greco Neyland, PC as your advocate, you will have former prosecutors fighting on your behalf, so we know how the process works. We represent clients in Manhattan (New York County), Brooklyn (Kings County), The Bronx, and the other boroughs of New York City. Call us today at (212) 951-1300 to schedule a free consultation.


Information about Controlled Substance Possession in the First Degree in New York City


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Types of Charges for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree

N.Y. Penal Law, Part 3, Title M, Article 220.18 states that “a person is guilty of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree when he (or she) knowingly and unlawfully possesses:

  • One or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing a narcotic drug and those preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances are of an aggregate weight of eight ounces or more (N.Y. P.L. § 220.21(1)); or
  • Methadone and the methadone weighs 5,760 milligrams or more (N.Y. P.L. § 220.21(2)).

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Definitions of Terms Related to Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree

Several key terms in the law are legally defined in the statutes, including possess, knowingly, unlawfully, controlled substance, narcotic drug, and aggregate weight.

Under the law, “possess” means to have physical possession or otherwise to exercise dominion or control over tangible property (N.Y. P.L. Part 1, Title A, Article 10.00(8)).

Possession may be “actual” or “constructive.” Actual possession occurs when the police discover a weapon on a person or his or her belongings and no one else has equal access to it. Constructive possession occurs when more than one person has access to a weapon, such as a weapon in a drawer or glove box of a vehicle when more than one person has access to it.

A person “knowingly” possesses a controlled substance when that person is “aware” that he or she is in possession of a controlled substance. (N.Y. P.L. Part 1, Title B, Article 15.05(2)).

A person “unlawfully” possesses a controlled substance when that person has no legal right to possess it. (See N.Y. P.L. § 220.00(2) and N.Y. Public Health Law § 3396(1)). Under the law, with certain exceptions not applicable here, a person has no legal right to possess a controlled substance.

A “controlled substance” is defined as “any substance listed in Schedule I, II, III, IV or V of N.Y. P.H.L. § 3306 other than marijuana, but including concentrated cannabis” under § 3302(4)(a). (N.Y. P.L. § 220.00(5)).

A “narcotic drug” means “any controlled substance listed in Schedule I(b), I(c), II(b) or II(c) other than methadone.” (See N.Y. P.L. § 220.00(7) and N.Y. Public Health Law, Title 1, Article 33, § 3306).

“Aggregate weight” refers to the weight of the substance which contains the (specific controlled substance), irrespective of the amount of the (specific controlled substance) actually in the substance. (See People v Mendoza, 81 NY2d 963, 965 (1993)).


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Elements of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree

The statute defines different weights for narcotic drugs (N.Y. P.L. § 220.21(1)) and methadone (N.Y. P.L. § 220.21(2)) that must be proved beyond any reasonable doubt in order for a person to be found guilty of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree, as defined in the criminal jury instructions for each offense.

Narcotic Drugs

In order for a person to be found guilty of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree (possession of at least eight ounces of a narcotic drug) under N.Y. P.L. § 220.21(1), a judge or jury must find that a person, beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Possessed one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing (a specific narcotic drug) on or about a certain date in a specific county;
  • Knowingly and unlawfully possessed one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing (a specific narcotic drug) on or about a certain date in a specific county; and
  • That the aggregate weight of the substance was eight or more ounces or more.

N.Y. P.L. §§ 220.21(1) applies to offenses committed on or after Dec. 14, 2004.

Methadone

In order for a person to be found guilty of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree (possession of at least 5,760 milligrams of methadone) under N.Y. P.L. § 220.21(2), a judge or jury must find that a person, beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Possessed methadone on or about a certain date in a specific county;
  • Knowingly and unlawfully possessed methadone on or about a certain date in a specific county; and
  • That the methadone weighed 5,760 milligrams or more.

N.Y. P.L. §§ 220.21(2) applies to offenses committed on or after June 10, 1995.


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Penalties for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree

Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree is a Class A-I Felony in New York. According to N.Y. Penal Law, Part 2, Title E, Article 70.71(2)(b)(i) and Article 80.00(1)(c)(i), a Class A-I drug-related felony is punishable upon conviction by:

  • Eight to 20 years in prison, and/or
  • A fine of up to $100,000

If a person has a drug prior conviction, the prison sentence increases to 12 to 24 years. (N.L. P.L. § 70.71(3)(b)(i)). If a person has a prior drug conviction and a prior violent felony offense, the prison sentence increases to 15 to 30 years (N.Y. P.L. § 70.71(4)(b)(i)).


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Resources Related to Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree

New York Penal Law, Part 3, Title M, Article 220.21 — Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree — Read the New York State laws pertaining to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree.

Jury Instructions for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (First Degree) — Illegal Possession of Eight Ounces or More of Narcotic Drugs — Visit the website of the New York State Unified Court System to find the standard criminal jury instructions (CJI) for Penal Law Offenses, including criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree (illegal possession of eight ounces or more of narcotic drugs) under N.Y. P.L. § 220.21(1) committed on or after Dec. 14, 2004.

Jury Instructions for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (First Degree) — Illegal Possession of 5,760 Milligrams or More of Methadone — Visit the website of the NYSUCS to find the standard criminal jury instructions (CJI) for Penal Law Offenses, including criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree (illegal possession of 5,760 milligrams or more of methadone) under N.Y. P.L. § 220.21(2) committed on or after June 10, 1995.


Find an Attorney for Controlled Substance Possession in the First Degree in New York City

If you were arrested in New York City for criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree under N.Y. P.L. § 220.21, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the charges and your defense.

The skilled criminal defense attorneys at Greco Neyland, PC are experienced in defending all kinds of drug charges. We serve clients throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, and The Bronx.

Contact the dedicated lawyers at Greco Neyland, PC today by calling (212) 951-1300 to schedule a free consultation about your drug-related charge.

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