People who become addicted to heroin often turn to it when an opioid prescription has expired or has become too expensive. The two substances have similar effects, since heroin is, in fact, an opiate. Heroin possession, though, carries greater legal consequences than opioid possession. If you have been charged with it, you must understand the penalties you could face if convicted.
New York’s possession penalties
New York recognizes five different controlled substance schedules, which classify drugs based on their likelihood of abuse and accepted medical use. Substances under Schedule I – which includes heroin – carry the highest risk of addiction. These substances also lack any benefits that may make them suitable for medical use.
If police arrest you for heroin possession, you will face charges corresponding to those for Schedule I substances. Your specific penalties, though, will depend on the quantity of the substance on your person. While possession of a small amount of heroin qualifies as a misdemeanor, carrying any more than 500 milligrams is a felony. For a felony offense, you will face a mandatory minimum sentence if convicted. Your case may qualify for alternative sentencing – which may involve the mandatory attendance of a treatment program – though this possibility depends on the nature of your offense.
Establishing your defense
For your charges to lead to conviction, a prosecutor must weigh whether they meet four criteria, beyond a reasonable doubt. They must prove that:
- The substance qualified as a controlled substance under state law
- You possessed the substance
- Your possession of the substance was knowing
- Your possession of the substance was unlawful
In establishing your defense, you must consider whether the prosecutor can prove each point. While they may be able to, there might also be mitigating factors affecting your case. Either way, you will want to take every step possible to avoid serious penalties. A criminal defense attorney can help you fight for an outcome that reflects your case and circumstances.