If you are reading this blog, you may be one of the many people under the impression that smoking and possessing marijuana in New York City is now legal. Or, perhaps you’ve been issued a summons accusing you of doing so. First of all, marijuana possession is still illegal in New York City and State, and such will be the case unless and until the legislature acts to amend the law.
What has changed however, is the New York Police Department’s approach to marijuana arrests. In short, you can absolutely still be charged with a crime if caught smoking or possessing marijuana in public. The NYPD, however, has announced that it will cease making full-blown arrests and instead will issue summonses in these cases with limited exceptions (if the person they stop is on probation or parole, has outstanding warrants or a history of violence, or is in violation of another law (ie, DWI drugs).
A summons is a pink ticket handed to you by a police officer which can charge you with a crime or a violation. If you receive one, it means you have been commanded to answer misdemeanor and/or violation charges in a Court of law. Failure to abide by the summons and appear in Court can and will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. So you (or a lawyer who can go on your behalf – see below) must answer the ticket personally.
The decision to issue summonses as opposed to put arrestees through the system comes on the heels of Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance announcing that his office will now declining to prosecute (“DP”) low-level marijuana possession cases. This means that most folks who are caught smoking/possessing weed in Manhattan can expect to go to summons Court only. As it were, the Queens DA has indicated he is not as eager to DP cases and will enforce the law as long as it is still on the books.
So what should you do now if you’re unfortunate enough to be issued a summons to answer a marijuana charge? You should contact us immediately. There are a number of things we can do to help. For example: let’s say you were visiting New York on the day you were issued the summons and will no longer be in the City on the day of the scheduled Court date? Luckily, our attorneys can appear on your behalf, armed with the proper documentation which we can prepare for you and which authorizes us to dispose of the case without you being present. Likewise, if you reside in New York, can’t miss work, or simply want to avoid having to go to the Criminal Courthouse altogether, you should contact us immediately The worst thing you can do is nothing.