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New York Drug Distribution,Trafficking, and Manufacturing Laws

Overview of New York Drug Distribution and Trafficking Laws

Article 220 of the New York Penal Code enumerates offenses related to the possession, sale and manufacture of controlled substances. The law criminalizes the sale of controlled substances falling into the following seven categories: narcotic drugs, narcotic preparations, hallucinogens, hallucinogenic substances, stimulants, dangerous depressants, and depressants. The specific controlled substances prohibited by the law are listed in New York Public Health Law.

New York has long been known as having among the toughest drug laws in America. New York classifies well known substances like heroin and cocaine, as well as the compounds used to manufacture them.

In 1973, New York passed the toughest laws of its kind in all the United States. The penalty for selling two ounces (57 g) or more of heroin, morphine, opium, cocaine, or cannabis (or possessing four ounces (113 g) or more of the same substances), was a minimum of 15 years to life in prison, and a maximum of 25 years to life in prison. In 2009 the mandatory minimum sentences were removed from the law.

Based on this legislative history, New York's drug laws are complex, even convoluted. There are half a dozen different classes of felonies laid out for drug possession alone. It's imperative to consult an experienced New York drug crime attorney if you are charged with a drug offense.

New York generally treats the sale of drugs as a graver offense than mere possession. There are five degrees of sale of a controlled substance. Factors that affect the seriousness of a conviction for the sale of a controlled substance include the type of substance sold, the quantity of the substance, the purity of the substance, whether the sale took place in or near school grounds, and whether the defendant was formerly convicted of an Article 220 offense.

To prove a defendant guilty of fifth-degree sale of a controlled substance - the least of such offenses - the prosecution must prove the unlawful sale of a controlled substance by the defendant with knowledge that the substance sold was a controlled substance. In addition, the prosecution must prove the defendant's specific intent to transfer the substance that was the subject of the offer or agreement, and his or her present ability to do so. This specific intent may be proved by circumstances such as the terms of the offer, prior drug dealing by the defendant, his or her effort to obtain drugs, and, if the transfer was aborted, the reason it did not occur.

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.

New York Drug Sale Example

New York also criminalizes the knowing and unlawful sale of a controlled substance to a child less than 17 years of age or to any person in or near school grounds, a school bus, child daycare center or education facility - including sidewalks, streets, parking lots, parks, playgrounds, stores and restaurants within 1,000 feet of such property - as well as the knowing and unlawful sale of a prescription for a controlled substance by a practitioner other than in good faith in the course of his professional practice. 

Understandably, the state regards "operating as a major drug trafficker" as an even graver crime. Section 220.77 of the Penal Code identifies three types of persons as major traffickers: (1) one who acts as a director of a controlled substance organization during any one-year period, wherein the organization sells at least one controlled substance and the proceeds from the sale(s) total $75,000 or more; (2) a profiteer who knowingly and unlawfully sells a narcotic drug at least once within six months and yields a profit of $75,000 or more; and (3) a profiteer who knowingly and unlawfully possesses a narcotic drug and intends to sell the same at least once within six months, which drug(s) have a total value of $75,000 or more.


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

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 - punishable by 1 to 2.5 years in prison for first-time offenders - to first-degree - 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.

Again, New York's drug laws are intricately written and requires intensive legal research. Contacting a New York drug crime attorney is your best course of action, as well as conducting exhaustive legal research to verify where you fall under the statute.

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