Criminal Possession in the First Degree of a Controlled Substance: New York Penal Code § 220.21

Criminal possession in the first degree of a controlled substance is one of several drug possession charges in the Penal Code of New York. The controlled substance does not need to be found on the person; it may be found in a location that is under a person’s control, such as their home, car or place of work. The defendant must have known the whereabouts of the controlled substance to be prosecuted under this penal code.To be charged with criminal possession in the first degree of a controlled substance, the person must unlawfully and knowingly have controlled substances in their possession meeting the criteria below:

  1. At least eight ounces of narcotics; or
  2. At least 5,760 milligrams of methadone.

This section of the law assumes that the intent of possessing a large amount of narcotics or methadone is not for personal use but for sale. As such, this Class A-1 felony is treated more harshly than the other controlled substance possession crimes.

Hypothetical Case

Suppose the police received information from a person’s neighbors that he allegedly had cocaine in his car. Police officers observed the person changing lanes without signaling while driving on a New York freeway. They called for backup and followed the car. The officers pulled the car over when backup officers joined them in the pursuit. Upon pat-searching the person, the police found a packet of cocaine taped to the inside of the person’s leg. If the amount of cocaine found on the person was greater than eight ounces, that person could be prosecuted for criminal possession in the first degree of a controlled substance.

Possible Defenses

Lack of probable cause. Probable cause is required in New York before a search may be conducted. Authorities must have reason to believe that a person has violated the law or committed a crime to infer probable cause. If the methods used by the police officers in the above case were in violation of the person’s rights or if probable cause was not evident, then any drugs found while enforcing the law would not be admitted as evidence in the courts. In the example above, probable cause was predicated on the tips provided by the man’s neighbors which led to police following the person’s automobile.

Quantity of controlled substance is insufficient. If the defendant can prove that the weight of the controlled substance was less than that specified under this law, then the judge would need to reconsider which code to apply.

No knowledge of the controlled substance. The prosecuting attorney must provide evidence that shows the defendant was aware of the controlled substance’s existence. If the defendant can prove that he had no knowledge of the controlled substance’s existence, then the prosecuting attorney’s case may be compromised.

Other lines of defense. Through careful examination of the incident and the evidence, a knowledgeable and experienced defense attorney may be able to find other legal avenues to defend the client.

Possible Sentence

Imprisonment. A person convicted of criminal possession in the first degree of a controlled substance faces a Class A-I felony penalty of imprisonment for life.

Monetary fine. In addition to the prison sentence, the convicted person may have to pay up to $100,000.

NY Penal Code § 220.21: Criminal Possession in the First Degree of a Controlled Substance

Criminal possession in the first degree of a controlled substance is when a person unlawfully and knowingly possesses:

  1. At least eight ounces of substances, mixtures, compounds, or preparations that contain a narcotic drug; or
  2. At least 5,760 milligrams of methadone.
Criminal Possession in the First Degree of a Controlled Substance Lawyer

Criminal possession in the first degree of a controlled substance is a Class A-1 felony. If you are charged with possessing a controlled substance, you must contact a well-qualified defense lawyer immediately to avert imprisonment and expensive fines.

Elliott Adler PC is a skilled defense attorney firm that will strongly represent individuals charged with controlled substance and drug offenses. The Elliot Adler PC law firm has successfully defended clients accused of misdemeanor and felony controlled substance and drug crimes in New York. The firm develops effective defense cases to counter attack charges of drug possession, manufacturing and distribution. The Elliot Adler PC attorney firm has successfully advocated on behalf of clients who have been accused of possession of marijuana, cocaine, crack, and other drugs, as well as other drug crimes.

We can be reached at (212) 785-1300 or http://www.newyorkcriminallawyer24-7.com to schedule a no-obligation, free legal consultative meeting to evaluate your case.

Related Offenses

For additional information, refer to the following sections of the New York Penal Code:

  1. Operating as a major trafficker: § 220.77
  2. Criminal sale in the first degree of a controlled substance: § 220.43