Passion, Knowledge & Experience
Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (CPCS) is – in my view – one of the more difficult crimes to be charged with. The least serious version of the charge is CPCS 7th (Class A misdemeanor), and here is the text of the statute:
P.L. 220.03: A person is guilty of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree when he knowingly and unlawfully possesses a controlled substance. Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree is a class A misdemeanor.
This is the crime that people are charged with when their drug use starts to become visible. Their family is probably already trying to intervene, but can’t seem to help. Contact with law enforcement often starts with a vehicle stop, and illegal drugs are found during a search.
This is a difficult crime to be charged with, in part, because the courts (in Monroe County particularly) have become focused on treatment rather than punishment. The reality is that this is a very good thing for defendants as a whole, and these judges have probably saved lives because of their focus on treatment. The focus on treatment, however, comes with a counterbalance – if the defendant doesn’t comply with treatment, their punishment is typically straight time in jail rather than a lighter sentence typically offered to first-time offenders. Why? “Because,” the reasoning goes, “If the defendant has such a problem that he/she can’t get off drugs while in treatment, we can incarcerate him/her and break the addiction by cutting off the drugs.”
The focus on treatment is so great that in some Rochester-area courts, a misdemeanor charge of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, which carries a potential jail sentence of up to one year, can be Adjourned in Contemplation of Dismissal if the person successfully completes treatment. That is a truly amazing policy choice – the court recognizes the addiction, provides a real solution, and gives the defendant a chance to avoid a criminal conviction. Unfortunately, not every client can make it through treatment. Heroin, in particular, takes such a strong hold on people that even if they can let go for a period of time, it’s incredibly difficult for them to stay clean.
CPCS 7th is the only section of NYS Penal Code Article 220: Controlled Substance Offenses, which is a misdemeanor. Every other offense is a felony, and those cases are heard in County Court. Every County Court in New York State has a Drug Treatment Part, and that is an alternative to incarceration for many offenders. Drug Treatment Court is no walk in the park, and the downside risk of failing at it is a term of incarceration in state prison, so talk to your lawyer about whether you are really ready for that kind of option. If you have been charged with a drug crime in in or near Rochester, Geneseo, or Canandaigua, Contact us at (585) 485-0025 for a free telephone consultation and case evaluation.