Fri 16 Dec, 2022 Criminal Defense

How Long Do You Go to Jail for Drug Possession in New York?

The amount of jail time for drug possession in New York will depend on how much drugs you possessed and whether you have a criminal record. I’m going to go through common drug charges and discuss how long you go to jail for those drug crimes in New York. 

As I talk about typical sentences for drug crimes in New York, I’m going to assume, for argument’s sake, that the person doesn’t have a good case and wants to take a plea. Obviously, if a person has a good defense, then they shouldn’t be getting any sort of sentence for drug possession since they aren’t guilty. 

Marijuana is Different

To be clear, I am going to discuss drugs other than marijuana. Although it is still a crime to possess very large quantities of marijuana, you can now legally possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana for personal use, which is truly a lot of marijuana for personal use. If you are charged with a crime for possessing marijuana, you will have possessed a lot of marijuana—on the level of being a dealer or trafficker. In that situation, some of what I will discuss during the felony drug possession section will apply. Otherwise, my discussion focuses on other drugs, like heroin, cocaine, LSD, etc.

Misdemeanor Drug Possession

Typically, a misdemeanor drug crime is charged when you possess a small quantity of drugs for personal use.  

If you are charged with misdemeanor drug, usually your lawyer can work out a deal that results in you not getting a criminal record and not going to jail. This is assuming that you don’t have a criminal record and aren’t charged with other crimes on top of a drug misdemeanor.

The outcome of your case is typically not dependent on the sort of drug you possess. In other words, if you possess cocaine, LSD, heroin, etc., your outcome will likely be the same, assuming the quantity of drugs was for personal use. Prosecutors typically don’t prosecute LSD more seriously than cocaine, for example. That said, I have noticed recently that prosecutors are especially concerned about fentanyl because it is so deadly and is often mixed in with heroin without the purchaser knowing. Usually, people charged with simple possession will not have worse legal outcomes for possessing fentanyl, but dealers of fentanyl facing felony drug charges may have a tough time getting the prosecution to reduce the charges.

Felony Drug Possession

If you are charged with a felony drug crime, you either allegedly sold a controlled substance or possessed a controlled substance in enough quantity that the prosecution can charge you with a felony. Felony drug charges exist in a very wide range of severity, so the answer to how long you go to jail for felony drug possession in New York will be very dependent on the severity of your specific charge. Obviously, the more drugs you possess, the more severe the felony you will face.

Because of the wide range of drug felonies, the jail time you face for felony drug possession can vary from no jail time at all to years in prison.

That said, even with serious drug felonies, if you have never been in trouble with the law before, you can at least reasonably have hope that your defense lawyer can work out a deal where you don’t go to prison, even though technically you could go to prison for years.

Since drugs are not violent in nature, prosecutors and judges will oftentimes give a person a second chance before sending them to prison. Now, that doesn’t mean a person facing a serious drug felony will not get a criminal record, but they can at least have hope that they will not go to prison.

On the other hand, if you are charged with a low-level felony drug crime, and it is your first arrest, it’s possible that your attorney could work out a deal where you don’t go to prison, and you also don’t get a permanent criminal record. You can most likely avoid prison and a criminal record in situations where you possessed a small amount of a controlled substance or were caught selling a small quantity of drugs. 

For instance, say you are at a concert and are caught selling ecstasy to an undercover officer. You are searched, but the police don’t find a ton of ecstasy on you. In that situation, if you have never been in legal trouble before, it’s possible that you could avoid both prison and getting a criminal record. Of course, the outcome of any case always depends on the particulars, but in general, if you are arrested for possessing or selling drugs for the first time, you can reasonably hope for a great outcome.

Drug Court

Oftentimes people who are charged with drug crimes are dealing with serious substance abuse issues, and they need help to stop their dependency on drugs.

Luckily, New York has many systems in place to help people with substance abuse issues, and court is no exception. New York has drug court, which provides substance abuse treatment for people who are charged with drug crimes and need treatment. Oftentimes, when a person participates in drug court, they can get their case dismissed if their treatment is successfully completed. Treatment is typically 1-2 years and can be either in-patient or outpatient, depending on the severity of the substance abuse.

One advantage of drug court is that, oftentimes, people who have lengthy records can still get into drug court and not have to go to prison. Also, people who are charged with other crimes—like grand larceny—can often get into drug court because substance abuse is the underlying issue that causes the person to steal. 

Many people have entered drug court and have successfully turned their lives around.

Need Help? Contact Me Today

If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, contact me for a free consultation. I can assess your case to determine the best path forward.