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new york penal code 220 60 criminal possession of precursors of


New York Penal Code 220.60 – Criminal Possession of Precursors of Controlled Substances

New York Penal Code 220.60 makes it illegal to possess certain chemicals, known as precursors, with the intent to unlawfully manufacture controlled substances. This law targets possession of ingredients used to make drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and others. Let’s break down the key aspects of this statute.

What Are Precursors?

Precursors are chemicals that can be used to manufacture illegal drugs. Common precursors include:

  • Methylamine – used to make methamphetamine
  • Phenylacetone – used to make methamphetamine
  • Ergotamine – used to make LSD
  • Piperidine – used to make fentanyl

Precursors may have legitimate uses, but become illegal when possessed alongside evidence of intent to manufacture drugs. Methylamine, for example, has industrial applications but is also essential for making meth.

Intent to Manufacture

To be convicted under NY Penal Code 220.60, the prosecution must prove you possessed precursors and intended to use them to manufacture controlled substances. Simply possessing precursors is not enough. Prosecutors often use circumstantial evidence to demonstrate intent:

  • Possessing equipment used for manufacturing drugs, like glassware
  • Possessing recipes or formulas for making controlled substances
  • Having prior drug manufacturing convictions

Lacking evidence of intent makes this a difficult charge for prosecutors to prove. But intent can be inferred from the circumstances.


To convict under 220.60, the precursors must be in your possession or control. This includes:

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  • On your person
  • In your home, car, locker, etc.
  • Being held or transported by someone under your direction

Joint possession with others can be sufficient. For example, if precursors are found in a home or storage unit you share with other people. Constructive possession applies when you have knowledge of and access to the precursors, even if not directly on your person.


Criminal possession of precursors is a class E felony, carrying:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison
  • Up to $5,000 in fines
  • Permanent criminal record

Penalties increase if convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine or possessing precursors with intent to make meth. Prior drug convictions also increase sentences.


Several legal defenses may defeat a NY Penal Code 220.60 charge:

  • No intent – Argue you possessed precursors for legitimate purposes, not to manufacture drugs.
  • No possession – Argue the precursors were not in your control or possession.
  • Illegal search – If evidence was obtained illegally, it may be excluded.
  • Misidentification – The chemicals were misidentified as drug precursors.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate the prosecution’s evidence and identify defenses to explore. They may negotiate reduced charges or dismissal of the case through plea bargaining.

Related Charges

Possessing precursors may also lead to charges like:

  • NY Penal Code 220.16 – Criminal possession of a controlled substance (for any finished drugs also possessed)
  • NY Penal Code 220.18 – Criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell
  • NY Penal Code 220.21 – Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first degree (possessing large quantities)

These may be charged alongside or instead of 220.60. The circumstances of the arrest and evidence collected will determine which charges prosecutors pursue.

Federal Charges

Possessing drug precursors may also violate federal laws like 21 U.S. Code § 841 – prohibited acts related to controlled substances. This can lead to federal criminal charges.

The outcome often depends on the quantity of precursors, intent proven, and whether state or federal authorities make the arrest. Federal charges typically result in more severe penalties.

Recent Cases

Recent NY cases involving Penal Code 220.60 charges include:

  • In 2021, a Queens man was charged with possessing precursors to make psychedelic tryptamines.[1]
  • In 2019, state police arrested two men in Albany County for possessing precursors to make methamphetamine.[2]
  • In 2018, a Syracuse man received 2 to 6 years in prison for possessing methylamine and other precursors.[3]

These cases illustrate the wide range of precursors covered under 220.60 and how intent is proven through circumstantial evidence.

Effects of Conviction

A NY Penal Code 220.60 conviction can have long-lasting effects beyond jail time. These include:

  • Permanent criminal record
  • Difficulty finding employment
  • Bars on professional licensing
  • Loss of voting rights
  • Potential for deportation for non-citizens
  • Other legal “disabilities”

The consequences emphasize the importance of retaining an experienced criminal defense lawyer if facing these charges.


New York Penal Code 220.60 serves an important public safety purpose by discouraging illegal drug manufacturing. But the broad definition of “precursors” also creates risks of innocent people being charged based on circumstantial evidence of intent. Anyone facing accusations of possessing drug precursors should exercise their right to legal defense. Knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers can often get charges reduced or dismissed when flaws exist in the prosecution’s case.


[1] DEA Announces Arrests of Two Queens Residents Charged with Possessing Chemical Precursors to Manufacture Psychedelic Tryptamines | DEA

[2] 2 charged with having meth-making materials in Albany County

[3] Syracuse man sentenced to prison for possessing precursors to make meth

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