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With all the talk of legalization of marijuana and medical marijuana, the fact remains that it is still illegal to possess marijuana in the State of New York. Along with shoplifting (petit larceny) arrests, I receive many calls from worried parents who are not sure what to do upon finding out that their teenager is accused of possessing marijuana.

The most common marijuana offense parents call me about is Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (Sec 221.05 Penal Law), which simply states "[a] person is guilty of unlawful possession of marihuana when he [or she] knowingly and unlawfully possesses marihuana." Neither a misdemeanor nor a felony, UPM (as it is often called) is punishable by a fine of no more than $100.00 (along with a mandatory surcharge) and does not carry a potential jail sentence; this assumes that the individual has not been previously convicted for possessing marijuana.

It should be noted that Article 221 of the New York State Penal Law contains other more serious offenses involving the possession of marijuana, ranging from a class B misdemeanor (Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree – Sec. 221.10 Penal Law) to a class C felony (Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the First Degree – Sec. 221.30 Penal Law.)

Of note with regard to an Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (Sec. 221.05 Penal Law) charge is the fact that this is not an offense in which the individual will be photographed or fingerprinted by the police (assuming that this is the only offense charged.)

At first glance, since a UPM conviction does not result in a "criminal record", many parents may be tempted to simply walk into court with their child, enter a quick guilty plea to this offense, pay a fine and be on their way. However, and in most cases, this is a bad idea, as a marijuana conviction may deem an individual ineligible for federal student loans and other collateral consequences.

The good news in these situations is that being charged with Unlawful Possession of Marijuana does not automatically mean that a guilty plea is inevitable. As a former Prosecutor and Criminal Defense Attorney serving clients throughout Rockland County and the State of New York, I have helped many families and individuals face these charges and protect their or their children's future.

If you or a loved one are accused of possessing marijuana, a controlled substance or any other criminal charge, please call me at 845-638-9200 to discuss your case, the options available to you and most importantly, what I can do to help.

Brian Berkowitz, is a former prosecutor and a DWI, Criminal Defense and Traffic Ticket Attorney representing clients in Rockland County and the State of New York.

Law Office of Brian Berkowitz, 222 North Main Street, New City, NY 10956. 845-638-9200.


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Brian Berkowitz

Brian Berkowitz - Rockland County, New York Marijuana and Drug Possession Attorney

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