Criminal Possession in the Seventh Degree of a Controlled Substance: New York Penal Code § 220.03

Criminal possession in the seventh degree of a controlled substance, as a misdemeanor, is one of the lesser drug crimes. This crime is committed when a person knowingly and unlawfully has in their possession a controlled substance, but not in a quantity that warrants a felony drug possession charge.

Hypothetical Case

Suppose an adult man injected himself with heroin, leaving only a trace of the controlled substance in a hypodermic needle. The amount of heroin remaining in the hypodermic needle was not enough to warrant a felony drug possession charge, but is enough to warrant charges of criminal possession in the seventh degree of a controlled substance.

In another example, suppose several adults were in a house getting high on cocaine and marijuana. Eventually, one of the guests had a seizure and became unconscious. Emergency paramedics and the police arrived after someone called 911. The police detected remnants of cocaine on the kitchen table but could not arrest the homeowner because, even though the homeowner possessed cocaine, he could not be prosecuted because the police were at the home answering a medical emergency.

Possible Defenses

Lawful possession of a controlled substance. If a person is lawfully entitled to have a controlled substance in his or her possession as provided for in New York Public Health Law § 3381, then that person cannot be found guilty of criminal possession in the seventh degree of a controlled substance.

Seeking medical assistance for someone who had a medical emergency. There is a carve-out in the law that excludes an individual from prosecution if they sought medical help for someone who had overdosed or had some type of life-threatening medical emergency, and authorities were present by reason of the medical emergency when the controlled substance was discovered. This exclusion is provided for in Section 220.78.

Other lines of defense. An astute defense attorney will apply sections of the law after analyzing the details of a case and understanding how they can be used in the client’s favor. After careful consideration of the circumstantial evidence and the facts of the incident, a competent and experienced defense attorney will forge a plan to convince the court that either a lesser charge is warranted or the charge should be dropped altogether.

Possible Sentence

Imprisonment. A person convicted of criminal possession in the seventh degree of a controlled substance faces a Class A misdemeanor penalty. The maximum jail time is one year. If the convicted has no prior criminal history, the sentence could be less severe than if the convicted had a prior criminal history. Besides the presence or absence of a prior criminal history, the overseeing judge will consider the details of the crime and the background of the convicted person to determine a sentence that fits the crime.

Probation. The judge’s sentence might include a three-year probationary period.

Monetary fine. A monetary fine may also be charged on top of or in lieu of imprisonment and/or probation.

NY Penal Code § 220.03: criminal possession in the seventh degree of a controlled substance

To reiterate, criminal possession in the seventh degree of a controlled substance is when a culpable person unlawfully and knowingly is in possession of a controlled substance. However, that person is not in violation of Section 220.03 when the controlled substance is a trace amount in or on a hypodermic syringe or needle and that hypodermic syringe or needle was legally obtained in compliance with Section 3381 of the public health law. Also, if the person sought medical help in response to an alcohol or drug overdose or any life-threatening medical emergency, and traces of the controlled substance were discovered incidental to the emergency response by the police, that person cannot be prosecuted as provided for in Penal Code Section 220.78.

Criminal Possession in the Seventh Degree of a Controlled Substance Lawyer

Even though criminal possession in the seventh degree of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor, the prospect of jail time and having a drug offense permanently on your record is an undesirable outcome. There are several defensive tactics that a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can parlay into a viable answer to the charge of criminal possession in the seventh degree of a controlled substance. If you are charged with criminal possession in the seventh degree of a controlled substance, it is extremely important that you immediately seek legal guidance from a proven attorney firm, successful in defending individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony controlled substance crimes.

Elliott Adler PC is a highly-respected and staunch law firm that has successfully defended clients accused of misdemeanor and felony controlled substance or drug crimes in the state of New York, representing clients against charges of drug possession, manufacturing and distribution offenses. The Elliot Adler PC attorney firm is a strong ally of people facing charges of criminal possession in the seventh degree of a controlled substance.

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. Fourth degree criminal selling of a controlled substance: § 220.34
  2. Criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument: § 220.45
  3. Criminal injection of a narcotic drug: § 220.48