U.P.M., Penal Law § 221.05, was created as part of the 1977 Marihuana (that’s how they spell it) Reform Act of 1977. The effect of this section was to “de-criminalize” possession of relatively small amounts of marijuana. The term “de-criminalize” is literal – UPM is a violation under the Penal Law (PL § 10), which does not constitute a “crime” under the Penal Law (as opposed to a misdemeanor or a felony).
The text of PL § 221.05 is:
You may notice that the language of the statute does not provide a quantity to describe when someone may be found guilty of UPM, as opposed to the more serious “marihuana” offenses (those are listed in PL §§ 221.10 – 221.30; “Criminal Possession of Marihuana; 1st – 5th Degree). This is read to mean that the possession of any quantity of “marihuana” less than 25 grams (the threshold for PL § 221.10; Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree) constitutes UPM.
Subsections [a] and [b] provide for harsher sentences if the accused has been convicted of another drug offense under Article 220 of the Penal Law (“Controlled Substances Offenses”; i.e., drugs other than “marihuana”) or Article 221 (“Offenses Involving Marihuana”).
Also interesting is how marijuana is defined. The Penal Law refers to Public Health Law § 3302 for this definition:
The broad definition leaves law enforcement a lot of room for what they can get you for but, for the most part, people get UPM tickets in the Broome County area while smoking and driving – never a good idea, by the way. When they get caught for speeding and the officer detects the odor of marijuana, they’ll usually be searched and, when a bag of weed turns up, we get a call. With Binghamton University in the area, there’s also a lot of cases coming from that area, as smoking pot seems to be a national past time for some college kids.
Fortunately, getting caught with a small amount of marijuana for personal use, not packaged for resale, is not usually the end of the world. Hire a good lawyer for your case and you may have to pay a fine, do some community service, and/or receive some substance abuse education. Being convicted is a totally different story. Most people lose their job over a UPM conviction. If you are a student or prospective student, it can disqualify you from getting student loans and even get you kicked out of school. Drug charges of any caliber are no joke. Remember that it’s still the Federal Government and D.E.A. that dictate controlled substance laws. While these policies are currently being tested in several states – most recently in Colorado and Washington – there is still no move from the Presidents to stop prosecuting these cases or from Congress to modify existing codes.
Complicating the matter is a pervasive urban myth that if you get caught with under 25 grams of marijuana, you’ll get an “appearance ticket” and be on your way. As I’ve explained, in New York state U.P.M. is not a crime and, in that sense, the myth is correct. The problems arise if you do nothing about it or naively decide to represent yourself. Most people who try to represent themselves in a case like this will unknowingly make admissions of guilt or make things more difficult than they need to be in some other way. In a lot of courts, a judge won’t even allow you to proceed pro se and will direct you to seek local counsel or be given a court-appointed attorney if you qualify as an indigent.
Broome County UPM Lawyers – Law Office of Ken McCauley
If you get a UPM ticket anywhere in the Binghamton area – that includes places like Kirkwood, Chenango, Dickinson, Barker, etc. – just give us a call or fill out our “Free Consultation” form (on the right) and talk to us about your case. Chances are our fee will not be very expensive and we can handle your case the right way, eliminating any complications or loose ends. We also offer student discounts and payment plans so make sure to ask about those.