Criminal Sale and Unlawful Possession of Prescription Depressants: NY Penal Law Article 220 Crimes

Depressants, if properly utilized and prescribed by a mental health professional or other physician, can be invaluable. However, just as beneficial these medicines are, they can be equally destructive if abused or misused. For these and other reasons, if you are arrested for and charged in New York – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland and the Hudson Valley - with any degree of either Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance or Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance for knowingly and unlawfully possessing depressant based prescription drugs such as Diazepam and Pentobarbital or selling, distributing or trafficking depressants including Alprazolam or Sertaline, the consequences are grave. Whether through public campaigns warning of the dangers, the police or your criminal defense lawyer, it is critical to understand the direct and collateral consequences of immersing yourself in the illegal prescription medicine trade, sale and possession of Valium, Nembutal, Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Zoloft and all other Depressants. Call them by their street names - Nebbies, Benzos, Downers, Zanbars, Abbots – or by their brand names, but whatever you do, make sure that you know what to expect and how to defend yourself upon a misdemeanor or felony arrest for violating a section of New York Penal Law Article 220.

NY Penal Law Article 220: Crimes for Unlawful Possession and Sale of Depressants

One thing that you must firmly understand is that there is no amount too small that would allow you to avoid arrest or prosecution in New York for knowingly and unlawfully possessing a depressant whether it is a medicine given to you by another person or a prescription drug bought from a third party at on the street. While there is certainly a difference between felony arrests and convictions and those that are misdemeanors, know that misdemeanors are indelible, aka, permanent, convictions as well. As such, if you are stopped in a car, arrested after jumping a turnstile, or you are detained for some other reason, if the police find Valium, Klonopin, Zoloft, Ativan or any other depressant drug, your baseline offense is Seventh Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance. Similarly, if the prescription drug or other controlled substance is defined as a dangerous depressant, not merely a depressant, the same charge of New York Penal Law 220.03 is applicable. Dangerous depressants include Quaaludes, PCP/Angel Dust, Vernol, Brevital, Mebaral, Luminal, Amobarbital, Doriden, Nembutal and Seconal. If convicted, the potential sentences can be as significant as one year in jail or three years probation. The outcome would not change if you were carted off to Central Booking in Manhattan or Brooklyn or you were issued a Desk Appearance Ticket in the Bronx or Queens. You, and your criminal lawyer, would encounter the same legal issues, exposure and charge.

NY Penal Law Article 220: Felonies for Criminal Possession of Depressants

Excluding offenses involving “heavy” trafficking and distribution of depressants and other prescription medications, there are many other dangerous felonies that the District Attorney can prosecute. These prescription drug offenses and depressant possession crimes range from class “D” to class “B felonies. Each of these crimes have a presumptive and otherwise mandatory one year minimum sentence upon conviction. Depending on the degree of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance you are arrested for and convicted of, the potential maximum sentences are two and one half, five and nine years in prison.

The most serious of these possession crimes for depressant prescription drugs and medications is Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance pursuant to New York Penal Law 220.16. More specifically, while most depressants do not qualify for prosecution pursuant to Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, unlawful possession of Phencyclidine, aka, PCP or Angel Dust, violates New York Penal Law 220.16(13) if the weight of the drug is 1250 milligrams or more. That said, in terms of prescription medicines and drugs, PCP has not been given out by pharmacists or prescribed by doctors in quite a long time. Regardless, a conviction for this crime is punishable by a presumptive one year in prison and as much as nine years incarceration.

  • NY Penal Law 220.16: Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance

The more likely crime you would face post arrest for knowingly and unlawfully possessing a depressant is the felony offense of Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, New York Penal Law 220.09. Again, these depressants include Valium, Klonopin, Zoloft, Ativan and other prescription drugs and medicines. If you have on your person, or the police and prosecutors can otherwise establish constructive possession, a dangerous depressant weighing ten ounces or more, expect to find yourself charged with violating New York Penal Law 220.09(8). If the drug is a dangerous depressant, the general statute remains the same, but you and your criminal defense attorney will find yourselves defending against the crime of New York Penal Law 220.09(9). Lastly, if the substance is PCP, more accurately called phencyclidine, weighing two fifty milligrams or more, then the controlled substance offense is New York Penal Law 220.09(11).

Only slightly less frightening than Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance’s potential nine years in prison, New York Penal Law 220.09 has a minimum one year term of incarceration “upstate” and five times that as a maximum sentence.

  • NY Penal Law 220.09: Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance

Probably the most common felony possession crime beyond misdemeanor arrests where a prescription depressant is unlawfully possessed for personal use, a conviction for New York Penal Law 220.06, Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, carries the same minimum as the other possession crimes with a maximum of two and one half years in prison. Life altering, career destroying and permanent criminal record creating, know that even if you have merely one or two pills of Valium, Klonopin, Ativan or Zoloft, if prosecutors believe and can ultimately prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to sell the controlled substance, expect to that you will find yourself battling the charge of New York Penal Law 220.06(1) with your attorney. Simply, this crime involves the knowing and unlawful possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell the same. Advertise these prescription drugs and medicines on on Craigslist or Reddit, don’t be shock when a Grand Jury votes an indictment of this class “D” felony.

Less common, and again not a prescription drug, if you unlawfully and knowingly possess phencyclidine and said phencyclidine weighs fifty milligrams or more, you will find yourself before a criminal court judge charged with New York Penal Law 220.06(3).

Unlawful possession of a depressants in New York is a serious crime. At a minimum, the police will arrest and District Attorney prosecute you for a misdemeanor crime. If you have the intent to sell your Ativan or Zoloft, even if you have few pills, prosecutors will ratchet up your crime of the felony of 220.06(1). Whether the felony crime you face is Fifth or Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, you and your criminal defense attorney have a long road ahead to avoid incarceration on these prescription drug crimes. From prison to post release supervision and probation to an indelible criminal record, criminal and illegal possession of prescription medications is no trivial matter.

NY Penal Law Article 220: Felonies for Criminal Sale of Depressants

Ativan, Zoloft, Valium and Klonopin are not cocaine or heroin, but the illegal sale of these prescription drugs is a felony every – single – time. Sell one pill. You have violated New York Penal Law 220.31, Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree. Sell a second pill or a dozen more to another person, you again have violated New York Penal Law 220.31. Compounding matters, a judge can sentence you on theses crime, punishable by a presumptive minimum of one year and a maximum of two and one half years, consecutively. Even more serious than the class “D” felony of Fifth Degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance, the District Attorney can also prosecute you for violating Fourth Degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance, New York Penal Law 220.34. A class “C” felony, you are guilty of New York Penal Law 220.34(7) if you sell the same one or two pills of Ativan or Zoloft and you do so on school grounds or New York Penal Law 220.34(2) if the aggregate weight of the depressants are ten ounces or more.

  • NY Penal Law 220.31: Fifth Degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance
  • NY Penal Law 220.34: Fourth Degree Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance

Like their class “C” sibling charges of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fourth Degree, New York Penal Law 220.34 has a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

NY Penal Law Article 220: Defenses for Criminal Sale of Depressants

The magnitude and potential devastation caused by an arrest, investigation, indictment or conviction for either Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance or Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance cannot be understated. Whether you are a college student unlawfully possessing Zoloft, a physician illegally moving Ativan, or even a substance abuser who merely sells a depressant to feed his or her habit, there are consequences for your actions – alleged or not – that can haunt you forever.

Can you argue you really are a user of depressants instead of a seller? Can your criminal lawyer somehow mitigate or challenge your accused conduct of intending to sell depressants to simple and personal possession of these prescription druges? Will the District Attorney then drop your crime from New York Penal Law 220.06, a felony, to New York Penal Law 220.03, a misdemeanor? Regardless of your intent, can the NYPD or other police department secure enough evidence to establish your actual possession, and, even if they can, can you challenge the prosecution by arguing an illegal search and seizure? Too many defenses to generically identify, what about drug treatment court, diversion or, some alternative to incarceration and a life altering criminal record?

Whatever your defense and however you intend on implementing it, it is in your best interest to neither wait nor delay. Circle the wagons. Collect the evidence. Get treatment should you need it. The decisions you make now can and will impact your life forever.

Let the New York criminal lawyers at Crotty Saland PC utilize their years of experience in New York’s criminal courts as both Manhattan prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys to formulate your strongest defense. Fear, ignorance and paralysis is no substitute for knowledge, experience and advocacy.

Call the New York criminal lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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