Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance (7th Degree) - 220.03
Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree is one of the more commonly charged Desk Appearance Ticket matters. This charge is an A misdemeanor and it comes in a variety of "flavors" in terms of how the case will be perceived by the District Attorney's Office. It is tempting to assume that because you got a DAT that this 220.03 case is going to be "nothing" or that your 220.03 case will be treated exactly the same as someone else's 220.03 case.
And yet, 220.03 cases can be perceived by the DA's Office as more or less serious because there are a variety of circumstances and a variety of substances that could be in play. Being in possession of a single Xanax pill at a concert, for example, may well be perceived differently from being in possession of powder cocaine in a context where the Government believes you have information about the person who they think you bought it from. Different substances will sometimes draw different approaches and different circumstances will draw different approaches. The world of 220.03 cases is certainly not a one size fits all world.
Many 220.03 cases involve issues related to search and seizure. Often there will be claims by the police (disputed by the accused) that substances were found in cars "in plain view". Similarly, people who are stopped on the street will often have a different explanation from the police for the circumstances of their stop and how they were searched. These sorts of issues, implicating the Fourth Amendment, are serious legal issues that merit exploring with your lawyer.
Should you choose to undertake to press these important Constitutional issues in Criminal Court, and should your lawyer be successful, there could be grave consequences to the Government's case. Nevertheless, pressing such issues should never be undertaken lightly, given the stakes, and given that the law in this area is not as favorable to the citizen as most people assume. The decision to press search and seizure issues in a possession case such as 220.03 should only be made after close and careful consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can provide an honest assessment of the realities in play as well as provide a thorough analysis of the law.
In addition, there are potential collateral consequences to 220.03 accusations in the employment, student loan, and immigration contexts. Some of these consequences could still be in play even if the case could be settled in criminal court with a non-criminal violation or even ACD. Sometimes, in fact, the ACD, normally a sort of holy grail in the criminal justice system marketplace, can actually create more problems than it solves.
This means that if you have been accused of 220.03 and you have a DAT, you should not be lulled into assumptions that it is "nothing" or believe the nice police officer who arrested you who is willing to engage in the unauthorized practice of law by giving you happy legal advice. In the end, managed properly, this problem is likely to be a manageable one to be sure. But it is a problem worth paying attention to and solving well so that it doesn't become something that interferes with your life at a most inopportune time, long after you have forgotten about the criminal case.
We have handled countless 220.03 matters in our more than 20 years practicing criminal defense in New York City.
BY: DON A. MURRAY, ESQ.
Don Murray is one of the founding partners of Shalley & Murray, a New York criminal defense law firm with offices in New York City and Westchester County. Mr. Murray is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He has been practicing criminal defense in New York for more than 20 years. Any questions or comments about this article or seeking representation on a Desk Appearance Ticket can be directed to him directly at 347-674-1549.