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New York Drug Possession Laws

Although New York drug possession laws divide controlled-substance and marijuana-related offenses into two separate groups, the elements of the offenses are essentially the same. In order to obtain a conviction for possession of a controlled substance or marijuana, prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that:

  1. The substance was a controlled substance;
  2. The defendant possessed the substance;
  3. His or her possession was knowing; and
  4. The possession was unlawful.

The defendant's possession of the illegal drug may be physical or it can also be "constructive," that is, the defendant had control over the person or place where the drugs were found. Constructive possession can be proved even if the defendant is not physically present at the time the drugs are found.

New York Drug Possession Laws At A Glance

The chart below contains some additional information on New York's drug possession laws.

Penalties and Sentences

A defendant convicted of a class A-1 felony (possession of 8 or more ounces of substances containing a narcotic drug or 5,760 milligrams of methadone) may be sentenced to a term of 8 to 20 years imprisonment or a fine of $100,000.

Convictions of class B to class E felonies range from sentences of a minimum of one year to a maximum of 1.5 to 9 years or fines ranging from $15,000 to $30,000 for class B and class C felonies.

Unlawful possession of marijuana is a violation and is subject to imprisonment of no more than 15 days or a fine in an amount less than $250.


Defenses to drug possession charges can include:

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Temporary and lawful possession
  • Prescription medicine
  • Insufficient quantity
  • Infancy (for persons less than 16 years old)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Additional Resources For New York Drug Possession Laws

For more information on drug-related laws in New York, click on the links below:

Get Professional Legal Help With Your New York Drug Possession Charges

If you're facing drug possession charges in New York, it's important to remember that you're presumed innocent. The outcome of your case will ultimately come down to the evidence admitted at trial and, when it comes to taking on the prosecution's case against you, there's no better ally than an experienced New York criminal defense attorney who specializes in drug cases. 

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