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New York Drug Distribution,Trafficking, and Manufacturing Laws

New York has been known as having among the toughest drug laws in America as it not only classifies well known substances like heroin and cocaine, but also the compounds to manufacture them. New York's drug laws are also complex and convoluted as there are half a dozen different classes of felonies for drug possession alone.

When it comes to the sale of a controlled substance, there are five different degrees or categories. For fifth-degree sale of a controlled substance (the least of this offense), the prosecution must prove the unlawful sale of a controlled substance with knowledge that it is a controlled substance. The prosecution must also prove the specific intent to transfer the substance and the present ability to do so. That said, for all degrees of the offense, the prosecution need not prove the defendant's knowledge of the specific quantity of controlled substance sold. Nor is the defendant's physical possession of the controlled substance or actual delivery required to secure a conviction. Simply making an offer or agreement to sell may be sufficient to prove his or her intent and present ability to commit the offense.

Penalties and Sentences

New York classifies all convictions for the sale of a controlled substance as felonies. The convictions range in level from fifth-degree, which is punishable by 1 to 2.5 years in prison for first-time offenders) to first-degree which is punishable by:

  • A minimum of 8 to 20 years in prison for non-major drug traffickers, followed by a 5-year period of post-release supervision; or
  • At least 12 to 20 years in prison for second felony drug offenders; or
  • At least 15 years in prison with a maximum term of life imprisonment for major drug traffickers.

Fines imposed on felony offenders range from a minimum of $5,000 or double the defendant's gain from commission of the sale, to $100,000 for persons convicted of either first-degree sale of a controlled substance or operating as a major drug trafficker.

New York Drug Distribution, Trafficking, and Manufacturing Laws At A Glance

The chart below contains some additional information on New York's drug laws.


See above, usually a felony


Defenses to drug charges can include:

  • Lack of intent
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Possession for personal use
  • Entrapment
  • Infancy (for persons less than 16 years old)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

New York Drug Distribution, Trafficking, and Manufacturing Laws: Related Resources

Click on the links below to learn more about related drug laws in New York:

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New York's drug laws are complicated and can carry heavy penalties. Fortunately, there are criminal defense attorneys who specialize in New York's drug laws who can not only explain the laws to you but also evaluate the evidence in your case and advocate on your behalf during plea negotiations or trial. Reach out to an experienced attorney near you today and receive a free initial review of the facts of your case.

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