Queens County Bar Association
Martindale Hubbell - Distinguished 2023

What Charges and Penalties Can I Face if I Am Arrested for Possession of Marijuana?

In New York, if you have a small quantity of marijuana, the charges and penalties depend on whether you are in public or not. If it’s nonpublic, in other words, if it’s not being smoked or visible to the police or to the public, then the charge is called Unlawful Possession of Marijuana. This is a non-criminal charge. It’s not finger printable, you cannot get a jail sentence for it, and it does not give you a criminal record. The only penalty is a fine, which ranges from $100 to $250. If you were in a public place, then the charge for a small quantity of marijuana would be Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the 5th degree. That is a misdemeanor, and it does give you a criminal record for the rest of your life if you do get convicted. Because of this, there is a very important distinction between marijuana in a public place or in a private place.

You should know that the police will often go to rather extreme methods to claim that the marijuana is in a public place. Marijuana hidden in the car that the officer would literally have to lean in the car to see might be what the police considers a public place. So the distinction is a very important one and is often worth litigating

How Does the Amount Of Marijuana Enhance Or Aggravate Charges Or Penalties?

Marijuana is just like other substances—the more of it you have, the more serious a charge it is. Common possession of marijuana in the 5th degree is any quantity, and that’s what’s called a B misdemeanor. It’s only punishable by up to 90 days in jail, but again it gives a criminal conviction, which is permanent. The next level would be if you have more than 2 ounces of marijuana, then it becomes a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail. Criminal possession in the 3rd degree is an E felony, and that’s if you have more than 8 ounces of marijuana. An E felony is punishable by up to 4 years in jail. If you have more than 16 ounces of marijuana, then it becomes a D felony punishable by up to 7 years in jail. The most serious charge is Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the 1st degree, which is a class C felony and is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

Most times, marijuana cases will not involve sentences that long, but in a large-possession case, a judge can give you a sentence of up to 15 years in jail, so it’s something to take very seriously.

What Are The Charges And Penalties Associated With Sale Of Marijuana Offenses?

Charges involving the sale of marijuana are a bit more serious. If you sell any amount of marijuana, no matter how small, it’s still a B misdemeanor. If you allegedly sell marijuana again, for a total amount of more than 25 grams, that’s considered an E felony. It keeps going up—in other words, the more you sell, the higher the penalty. Sale generally has higher penalties than possession of marijuana.

Are There Any Charges Associated With Drug Paraphernalia In New York?

There are no charges associated with drug paraphernalia relating to marijuana in New York. Unlike controlled substances, where if you have paraphernalia like hypodermic needles or scales that’s a crime, but there are no paraphernalia charges associated with marijuana use.

How Would A Marijuana Charge Turn Into A Federal offense In New York?

The penalties for marijuana-related charges are very similar in the federal system. They are actually a little bit more severe, but it’s really very rare that you will see people charged with marijuana charges in the federal courts. They will generally turn that over to the state and let the state handle that. Because of this, federal marijuana cases are really not something that we see very much.

For more information on Marijuana Charges In New York, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (718) 793-5700 today.

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