25 Sep 23

What are the penalties for drug possession in New York?

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Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 11:36 pm

What are the penalties for drug possession in New York?

Getting caught with drugs in New York can lead to some pretty serious punishments. The specific penalties you’ll face depend on a bunch of factors – like what kind of drug it is, and how much you had on you. Let’s break it down so you know what you might be looking at if you get busted.

The Basics

In New York, drug crimes are divided into degrees based on how bad the drug is and how much of it you had. The more dangerous the drug and the larger the amount, the higher the degree of crime and the worse the punishment.

There are 7 degrees of drug possession charges in New York:

  • 7th degree – Class A misdemeanor
  • 5th degree – Class D felony
  • 4th degree – Class C felony
  • 3rd degree – Class B felony
  • 2nd degree – Class A-II felony
  • 1st degree – Class A-I felony

Let’s look at each degree and what the penalties are.

7th Degree – Class A Misdemeanor

This is the lowest level drug possession charge in New York. The only drug that falls under this degree is marijuana. The penalty is a fine of up to $100.

If it’s your second offense for marijuana possession within 3 years, the fine goes up to $200. A third offense within 3 years brings a fine of up to $250 or up to 15 days in jail.

5th Degree – Class D Felony

5th degree drug possession usually applies to possession of a small amount of a controlled substance like cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine, or prescription pills obtained illegally. The amount depends on the specific drug.

Penalties for a Class D felony drug possession conviction include:

  • Up to 7 years in prison
  • Up to 5 years probation
  • Up to $5,000 fine

4th Degree – Class C Felony

4th degree drug charges relate to possession of between an eighth of an ounce and 4 ounces of substances like cocaine, meth, LSD, PCP and illegal prescription pills. Again, the specific amounts depend on the drug.

Penalties for 4th degree drug possession include:

  • 1 to 5 years in prison
  • Up to 5 years probation
  • Up to $15,000 fine

3rd Degree – Class B Felony

For 3rd degree drug possession, we’re talking about larger amounts of controlled substances – over 4 ounces of cocaine, meth, LSD, etc. Check the specific drug laws for amounts.

Penalties for 3rd degree drug possession are:

  • 1 to 9 years in prison
  • Up to $30,000 fine

2nd Degree – Class A-II Felony

2nd degree drug charges relate to possession of even larger amounts of controlled substances – over 8 ounces of cocaine, meth, LSD and the like. Again, amounts vary by drug so check the statutes.

Penalties for this class A-II felony include:

  • 3 to 8 years in prison
  • Up to $50,000 fine

1st Degree – Class A-I Felony

The most serious drug possession charge in New York is 1st degree. This applies to possession of huge quantities of controlled substances – over 16 ounces of cocaine or meth, for example.

As a Class A-I felony, 1st degree drug possession can bring:

  • 8 to 20 years in prison
  • Up to $100,000 fine

Other Factors

In addition to the type and amount of drug, there are other factors that can affect the charges and penalties for drug possession in New York:

  • Whether you have any prior drug convictions
  • If the drugs were divided up for sale
  • If you had any firearms or weapons
  • Where the drugs were found (school zones are worse)
  • Your criminal history

Because the penalties are so severe, getting experienced legal help is important if you’re facing drug charges. A local drug crimes lawyer can often negotiate reduced charges or diversion programs that minimize the penalties – especially for first-time offenders.


There are also several legal defenses that your attorney can use to fight drug possession charges, like:

  • Illegal search – if the police didn’t have a warrant or probable cause to search you
  • Entrapment – if you were pressured into committing the crime
  • Misidentified substance – if the drugs weren’t actually illegal
  • Lack of knowledge – if you didn’t know the drugs were there

An experienced drug crimes lawyer will analyze the details of your case to determine the best defense strategy.

Bottom Line

Drug possession charges should always be taken very seriously in New York. Penalties range from fines and probation to many years in state prison. Having a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side can help minimize the consequences – and in some cases even get charges reduced or dismissed.