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Fourth Degree Criminal Marijuana Possession: New York Penal Code § 221.15

Fourth degree criminal marijuana possession is a misdemeanor in the State of New York. It is one of two marijuana possession misdemeanors. A person is guilty of this offense if they:

  1. Possessed the marijuana,
  2. Unlawfully and knowingly did so, and
  3. Had more than two ounces of the marijuana in possession.

Under New York Penal Code 220.25, if marijuana is in a vehicle and the person is in the vehicle, that constitutes possession. The exception to this rule is that if there is another person in the vehicle and the marijuana was found on that person, then that individual is deemed in possession of the marijuana. Further, if marijuana is in a room that is openly viewable, then any person in close proximity to the marijuana would be considered in possession.

Hypothetical Case

A man was driving a car and was weaving back and forth, crossing lanes at a speed much slower than the posted speed limit. Police officers signaled to the driver to pull the car over to the curb. The police proceeded to search the vehicle and found a plastic bag of marijuana in the glove compartment. It was determined by the police laboratory that the marijuana weighed seven ounces. The driver could be prosecuted for fourth degree criminal possession of marijuana because of the weight of marijuana in his possession. It was more than two ounces in weight.

Possible Defenses

Lack of probable cause. The State of New York mandates that probable cause be evident in order to conduct a legal search of an individual’s person, office, car, home, or any other location. The presence of probable cause means that law enforcement personnel had reason to believe that someone committed a crime to support a legal search. If the assumption of probable cause can be discredited, then materials confiscated during the search, such as marijuana in this case, is inadmissible as evidence in a court of law, paving the way to force the prosecuting attorney to drop the case.

The marijuana weighs less than two ounces. Unless the marijuana weighed at least two ounces, a person may not be prosecuted under New York Penal Code 221.15. If the defense can build a case that shows the amount of marijuana was less than the required two ounces, they may be able to get the charge dismissed.

Other lines of defense. Experienced defense lawyers who have dealt with a wide range of drug-related cases may be able to apply other defensive tactics to force a dismissal or reduction in the charge.

Possible Sentence

In determining an appropriate sentence, the judge will take into consideration the person’s background and any criminal history. If a person has no prior criminal history, the judge may choose to be more lenient toward the convicted person.

Imprisonment. Fourth degree criminal marijuana possession is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, the maximum possible sentence is one year in jail.

Probation. A person convicted of fourth degree criminal marijuana possession may also be penalized with up to three years of probation during which the convicted must report regularly to their probation officer and avoid known criminals who may have a bad influence on the person. If the probation rules are not followed, the convicted may spend additional time behind bars.

NY Penal Code § 221.15: Fourth degree criminal marijuana possession

To recap, a person is guilty of fourth degree criminal marijuana possession when that person unlawfully and knowingly has marijuana or marijuana preparations, mixtures, compounds, or substances in their possession that is more than two ounces in weight in aggregate.

Lawyer to Defend Against the Charge of Fourth Degree Criminal Marijuana Possession

While unlawfully and knowingly possessing marijuana in small amounts is a violation and not a crime, possessing marijuana in quantities that are at least two ounces in aggregate weight is a misdemeanor that will lead to substantial penalties. To defend against the charge of fourth degree criminal marijuana possession effectively, seeking legal assistance from a qualified defense attorney is strongly advised.

The Barry C. Weiss P.C. law firm has stringently defended individuals charged with fourth degree criminal marijuana possession and more serious drug crimes. Moreover, Elliot Adler PC law firm ardently defends clients accused of controlled substance crimes in the State of New York. The Elliot Adler PC law firm has a highly qualified defense attorney team that has successfully defended against all types of marijuana and drug-related offenses, such as the possession, manufacture or sale of controlled substances such as marijuana, Vicodin, LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine, OxyContin, crack, PCP, and heroin.

We can be reached at (212) 785-1300 or 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. First degree criminal possession of a controlled substance: § 220.21
  2. Fifth degree criminal sale of a controlled substance: § 220.31
  3. Fourth degree criminal sale of marijuana: § 221.40
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