New York Penal Law 220.21 Explained

Criminal drug possession charges in New York City are serious criminal offences that may have life changing consequences. If found guilty of New York Penal Law 220.21, a defendant will serve significant jail time and possibly fines. In addition, a criminal record may impact certain professional license requirements and future employment opportunities. New York Penal Law 220.21 also known as criminal possession in the first degree is a serious matter that requires serious attention. Call the Kushner Law Group now for a free consultation at (718) 504-1440. We can have an excellent record of successes in defending our clients rights.

Criminal possession of a Controlled Substance in the 1st degree, or New York Penal Law 220.21, is a class A-I felony that states:

“A person is guilty of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree when he or she knowingly and unlawfully possesses: one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing a narcotic drug and said preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances are of an aggregate weight of eight ounces or more; or methadone and said methadone weighs five thousand seven hundred sixty milligrams or more.”

This means that possession of a controlled substance in the 1st degree requires the combination of an awareness that you are in possession of an illegal substance that you have no legal right to possess, and that the substance weighs more than eight ounces or is 5760 milligrams or more if it is methadone.

What the Prosecution Has to Prove

To prove someone guilty of this charge, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that:

1. On or about X date, in the county of X, the defendant, possessed one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures or substances containing X illegal substance; and
2. That the defendant did so knowingly and unlawfully; and
3. That, in the aggregate, such substance weighed 8 ounces or more; or
4. That the methadone weighed 5,760 milligrams or more
If the prosecution proves these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant will be found guilty. If the prosecution does not prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant will be found not guilty.

Possible Defenses for NY Penal Law 220.21 Violation

Defenses against 1st degree possession of a controlled substance include:

1. Demonstrating that the police did not have probable cause for their search. When the police conduct a search, they are required to have probable cause barring exigent circumstances. If one can demonstrate that the police did not have probable cause or that their probable cause was not reasonable, then it will invalidate their search as illegal and invalidate any evidence obtained in said search.
2. Demonstrating with evidence that the defendant did not knowingly possess the illegal substance. If one can prove that the defendant did not have knowledge of their possession of the illegal substance, then they cannot be liable for possession in the 1st degree.

Sentencing for NY Penal Law 220.21 Violation

In addition to sentencing guidelines, there are a few other factors that help to influence a judge in their sentencing decisions including:

1. The defendant’s personal history
2. Criminal history or lack of one
3. The details of the crime

Additionally, because criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 1st degree is a Class A-I felony, sentences can range from 8 to 20 years imprisonment on a first offense, 12 to 24 years imprisonment for second and subsequent offenses, and 15 to 30 years for repeat offenders with prior violent felony convictions.

The Kushner Law Group has had years of experience defending and protecting the rights of our clients in both New York State and the Federal courts. We have won successful results on behalf of our clients and are here to help guide you through the prosecutorial process if you have been charged with violating Penal Law 220.21 Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 1st degree. To learn more about the Kushner Law Group please go to kushlawgroup.com. Call us now for a free consultation at (718) 504-1440.


Contact us now for a free consultation. We’re here to protect and defend your rights.

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