Legal Sanctions

Possession Of A Controlled Substance. It is a crime under federal law to knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance unless the possession is otherwise permitted by law, e.g., the controlled substance has been obtained pursuant to a valid prescription. The penalties for the conviction of the unlawful simple possession of a controlled substance, sometimes referred to as personal use amounts, are severe. The penalty for the first conviction is up to one year imprisonment, a fine of at least $1000, or both. The penalty for the second conviction is imprisonment for not less than 15 days but not more than 2 years and a fine of not less than $2,500. If there have been two or more prior convictions, the penalty is a period of imprisonment between 90 days and 3 years and a minimum fine of $5,000.

A conviction for the possession of a mixture or substance which contains a cocaine base (such as crack cocaine) is subject to even more severe penalties. The penalty for the conviction of possession of a cocaine based controlled substance is imprisonment for a period of 5 to 20 years and a fine of no less than $1,000, provided the amount exceeds 5 grams for the first conviction, 3 grams for the second conviction, and 1 gram for each subsequent conviction.

Trafficking In Controlled Substances. It is a violation of federal law to knowingly or intentionally manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance. As shown in Appendix B, penalties for trafficking in controlled substances are considerably more severe than those for the possession of a personal use amount of a controlled substance. (See Appendix B – U. S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Drugs of Abuse Publication 2005 Edition, Federal Trafficking Penalties or http://www.justice.gov/dea/agency/penalties.pdf.) Moreover, if a person 18 years or older distributes a controlled substance to a person under 21 years of age, the penalties will be doubled for a first conviction and tripled for subsequent convictions. Similarly, penalties will be doubled for a first conviction and tripled for subsequent convictions of distributing, possessing with intent to distribute, or manufacturing a controlled substance in or within 1000 feet of an elementary or secondary school, college or university, playground, or public housing facility, or within 100 feet of a youth center, public swimming pool, or video arcade facility.

The website of the Drug Enforcement Administration, http://www.justice.gov/dea/index.htm, is a useful source of information about controlled substances.

Alcohol. It is a misdemeanor to sell or give, or cause to be sold or given, any alcoholic beverage to any person under the age of 21. A person convicted of selling or giving any alcoholic beverages to someone under age may be imprisoned for up to 1 year and fined up to $1000. Further, no person under the age of 21 may possess an alcoholic beverage with the intent to consume it. The penalties for possession of an alcoholic beverage with the intent to consume it include a fine not exceeding $50, completion of an alcohol awareness program, and/or community service not to exceed thirty hours.

It is a violation of New York law for a person under 21 years of age to present written evidence of age which is false, fraudulent or not his or her own, for the purpose of purchasing or attempting to purchase any alcoholic beverage. Such conduct is subject to payment of a fine of, depending on the number of prior violations, between $50 and $700, community service, or both, and completion of an alcohol awareness program or evaluation to determine whether the person suffers from alcoholism or alcohol abuse. Using a false or fraudulent written instrument officially issued or created by a public office or governmental instrumentality (e.g., a driver’s license) to procure alcohol is also a crime. The penalties include imprisonment of up to seven years and a monetary fine.

It is unlawful to drive while intoxicated, i.e., blood alcohol content of .08 and higher, or “in an intoxicated condition.” It is also a criminal offense for anyone to operate a motor vehicle if the person’s ability to operate the vehicle is impaired by alcohol or other drugs.

A person under 21 years of age who drives a motor vehicle and whose blood alcohol content is between .02 and .07, is subject to civil sanctions of monetary penalties and fees, and revocation or suspension of his or her driver’s license.

The penalties for driving while intoxicated and driving while impaired, and the penalties for drivers who are under 21 and whose blood alcohol content is between .02 and .07, may be found in Appendix C. (See Appendix C – Drivers License Penalties.)