Third Degree Criminal Marijuana Possession: New York Penal Code § 221.20

Some people consider possession of marijuana a simple infraction, especially when compared to possession of other controlled substances such as cocaine and heroin. However, unlawfully and knowingly having more than eight ounces of marijuana is a serious offense. Third degree criminal marijuana possession is a Class E felony in the State of New York. A person is guilty of this crime if they:

  1. Possessed marijuana or substances, mixtures, compounds, or preparations containing it,
  2. Knowingly and unlawfully did so, and
  3. Had more than eight ounces of marijuana or substances, mixtures, compounds, or preparations containing it.
Hypothetical Case

A man was arrested for assaulting police officers, and was being controlled and detained when a plastic bag was discovered in his jacket pocket. The bag was found to have contained ten ounces of marijuana. The man was charged with third degree criminal possession of marijuana.

Possible Defenses

Lack of probable cause. The State of New York requires that probable cause be present to conduct a legal search of an individual’s person, car, office, home, or any other property. Probable cause was present when law enforcement personnel had reason to believe that someone had committed a crime. If the assumption of probable cause can be disproved, then materials taken during the search, such as marijuana in this case, is inadmissible as evidence, opening the door to forcing the prosecuting attorney to drop the charge.

The marijuana weighs less than eight ounces. Unless the marijuana weighed at least eight ounces, a person may not be prosecuted under New York Penal Code 221.20. If the defense can build a case that shows the amount of marijuana was less than the requisite eight ounces, they may be able to get the charge of third degree criminal possession of marijuana dropped.

Other lines of defense. Knowledgeable defense lawyers who have dealt with a variety of drug-related cases may be able to use 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 decide to exercise leniency toward the convicted person.

Imprisonment. Third degree criminal marijuana possession is a Class E felony. If convicted, the maximum possible sentence is four years of imprisonment.

Probation. A person convicted of third degree criminal marijuana possession may also be penalized with up to five years of probation during which the convicted must report regularly to their probation officer and avoid known criminals who may influence the convicted person to commit more crimes. If the probation rules are not followed, the convicted may spend additional time in prison.

Monetary Fine. The judge may also add a monetary fine for conviction of third degree criminal marijuana possession as part of the sentence.

NY Penal Code § 221.20: Third degree criminal marijuana possession

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

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

While knowingly and unlawfully possessing marijuana in small amounts is a violation and not a crime, possessing marijuana in quantities that are at least eight ounces in aggregate weight is a felony that, if a conviction is obtained, will carry a substantial penalty. To effectively defend against a prosecution for third degree criminal marijuana possession, you should obtain legal counsel immediately so you can protect your interests as much as possible.

The Elliott Adler PC law firm has stridently defended individuals prosecuted for third degree criminal marijuana possession and even more serious drug crimes. Also, Elliot Adler PC law firm proactively defends clients accused of controlled substance crimes in the State of New York. The Elliot Adler PC law firm has a highly skilled and educated defense attorney team that has successfully advocated for clients against all types of marijuana and drug-related offenses, such as the possession, sale or manufacture of controlled substances such as marijuana, OxyContin, crack, Vicodin, LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP, and heroin.

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. Third degree criminal possession of a controlled substance: § 220.16
  2. Third degree criminal sale of a controlled substance: § 220.39
  3. Third degree criminal sale of marijuana: § 221.45