Should I plead not guilty on a possession citation?
January 23, 2009 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Citation 221.05 in NYC for possession. Should I plead not guilty, or suck this up?

I was in someone's car when they were pulled over for a minor driving violation (think not signaling, etc). The police claimed to smell marijuana and asked to search, which they then proceeded to do. They found a pipe but no marijuana. Both of us were given a citation to appear in court. I am definitely considering pleading "not guilty".

This is my first offense of any kind, ever, including parking tickets, so I'm naturally pretty upset and feeling self-righteous. However, $100 and $100 for the court date is much cheaper than hiring a lawyer. Additionally since nothing was found on my person and it was not my vehicle, I think "not guilty" might not be the worst move ever.

So Mefi, I know you are not my lawyer, or a lawyer, but surely this has happened to some of you. In particular I am concerned about my record (if I were to get caught with weed, I would not want it to be my second offense, as I feel that is my right as someone who is _not guilty_), and getting community service.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From my quick research, it appears that your first offense is this matter is a civil citation, rather than a criminal one, which means that it won't appear on you criminal record. If you get busted again, though you will have more problems.

Explanation of the penal law is here:

Also check here:

I gleaned all this from here:

Good luck!
posted by DWRoelands at 12:31 PM on January 23, 2009

If you're not guilty you should not plead guilty. If you plead not guilty, show up to court and maintain your innocence, and then get convicted you're not really any worse off then you would have been if you'd plead guilty
posted by delmoi at 12:37 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why would you plead guilty? If it was not your car and not your pipe, how can it be argued that you were in possession? Was it sitting out and obvious? When you say that the cop asked permission for the search, you imply that the request was denied but done anyway. Am I misreading your statement about that?
posted by onhazier at 12:52 PM on January 23, 2009

Both of you cannot be charged with possession of a single pipe. If one of you two would have just owned up to it during the incident, only that one would have been charged. If said friend pleads guilty you should be fine. You say not guilty. IANAL & I do not live in New York but that's how it is in my state. In fact, a friend of mine was charged when no one claimed the stuff because he was driving, and owned the car. And another time, in that same friend's car, a pipe, and two not-empty bags were found but a passenger claimed it all. Passenger received a citation and then they let friend drive home (with passenger) after breathalyzing him to discover he was .01 under the limit and saying if he were to be pulled over on the way home he'd be going to detox with a DUI. Silly cops.
posted by trueluk at 12:54 PM on January 23, 2009

"Both of you cannot be charged with possession of a single pipe."

Totally not true. Your examples are likely just incidents of the intelligent use of prosecutorial discretion... if one guy cops to owning the stuff by himself, there's no point in prosecuting all of them, as he'd likely just come in and testify for them and say it wasn't theirs.

Nebraska is very likely the same way. Let me give you an example.

Two guys driving around with 100 lbs of cocaine in the trunk of a car. Do you really think that just one of them is going to get charged with possession?
posted by toomuchpete at 1:23 PM on January 23, 2009

The police claimed to smell marijuana and asked to search, which they then proceeded to do.

Although this article is about a Washington case, you may find it interesting.
posted by terranova at 1:29 PM on January 23, 2009

The only advice you need follow is get a lawyer. I'm not your lawyer.

If you need a referral MeMail me.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:49 PM on January 23, 2009


You're close, but that example is not quite the same. How many ways can you split up 100 lbs of cocaine between two people? I don't have enough fingers to count that high. Now, how many ways can you split up a pipe between two people? Hmm, that's only one finger.

"Both of you cannot be charged with possession of a single pipe."

Ok, let me fix that: Both of you cannot be convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia for the same pipe.
posted by trueluk at 1:55 PM on January 23, 2009

follow-up from the OP "replies can also be sent privately to"
posted by jessamyn at 2:05 PM on January 23, 2009

"Ok, let me fix that: Both of you cannot be convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia for the same pipe."

"Fixed", but still not correct. Two people can, in fact, possess (within the legal meaning of the term) the same object.
posted by toomuchpete at 2:10 PM on January 23, 2009

You should GET A LAWYER. Pleading and/or being found guilty has ramifications beyond the immediate penalty. It will go on your record, and you will forever be explaining yourself on job applications, many of which ask specifically if you've ever been convicted of a drug-related offense.

I guess what I'm saying is: Don't think about the immediate $100 or $500 dollars you're going to have to shell out. Think about the long-term consequences and do whatever it takes to keep your record clean now.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:36 PM on January 23, 2009

Get a lawyer.

Obviously, you can plead "not guilty" and then find a lawyer later, but I don't know how this would effect your ability enter a diversion program (if one is available) or have it treated as an infraction instead of a crime (if such an option is available in New York.) A criminal lawyer in new york would know the answer to these questions, and more! Go find one.
posted by Happydaz at 6:33 PM on January 23, 2009

I hope you didn't talk to the police.
posted by topynate at 8:17 PM on January 23, 2009

*not legal advice or information, I'm not your lawyer nor claiming to know anything*

Seems to me like there's not enough information in your post (see questions below) for this forum to give you adequate guidance. Get a PD if you can, get a private attorney if you can afford it and don't understand exactly what your options are and what the consequences of your decision would be. Ask around about what this offense usually gets in your area.

More details:
If you qualify, the public defender is going to be an excellent option. They work many cases and will get you the same deal that a high price private attorney would - they're well practiced and know the system from experience.

If you cannot get a PD, then, if you can afford one, consider hiring a private attorney. Even though this may be more costly than accepting a penalty (criminal or civil - I don't know how that operates in your area), often there are other costs to accepting a plea bargain. Criminal convictions can impact scholarships, grants, future employment opportunities, insurance costs, and much more. Like I said, I don't know your area, but you may want to find out more about these impacts before considering whether to accept a plea bargain.

As for possession, toomuchpete is correct for many jurisdictions (don't know about yours): both of you may be found in possession and both may potentially be convicted of such. This may be illogical and/or contrary to the DA's duty to "find truth and achieve justice", but that doesn't mean it's impossible or unlikely. Some jurisdictions consider possession "ownership or control".

One potential issue you mention: you said they asked to search and then they did ... but did the driver give permission? If not, then there are potentially grounds for a suppression motion for the fruit of the search. That's something you'd probably want lawyer to deal with. Depends on where in the car it was possibly.

Also, it's unclear what you're charged with - possession of marijuana or possession of paraphernalia? Both? Something else?

Was there enough in the pipe to be considered a "usable amount" (may be a different phrase in your area)? Was there marijuana AND a pipe?

Basically, without knowing what you're charged with, more details about what the situation was, whether the search was legal and who permitted the search, and much more, you cannot get meaningfully specific advice from MeFi. That may be why people are suggesting you find a lawyer.

Best luck!
posted by unclezeb at 9:59 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

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