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What is a drug schedule, and how does it affect possession charges?

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Someone could be charged with drug possession if there are illicit drugs physically on their person, they were dealing or manufacturing drugs or they had drug paraphernalia. Depending on a few factors, a defendant convicted of drug possession in New York could be sentenced to a minimum of 15 days in prison with less than $250 in fines to over 20 years incarcerated with $100,000 in fines.

One of the factors considered when sentencing a defendant is the amount of an illicit substance they had in their possession. Another factor that’s considered is the type of drug, or where it falls on the “schedule” of illegal substances according to its value and use. Here’s what you should know:

5 kinds of drug schedules

A schedule is a classification of drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. Each schedule determines the legal status, medical use, intensity of the drug and its ability to cause addiction and abuse. In other words, a schedule determines whether a drug could be sold in stores, prescribed or used by doctors or illegal to have in any form. Here’s what you should know about each:

  • Schedule V: Most of these drugs are sold in stores and have a low potential for abuse, such as cough drops and cold medicine. 
  • Schedule IV: These drugs have a higher chance of addiction than Schedule V drugs, but still very low. These drugs may include Valium, Xanax and Ambien. They can be bought in stores and prescribed by doctors. 
  • Schedule III: Drugs with a higher chance of causing addiction and dependence are considered Schedule III and may include steroids and testosterone. They may be prescribed or used in hospitals. 
  • Schedule II: Cocaine, PCP and morphine are classified as second to the highest drug schedule because of their high potential for abuse and very few medical uses. 
  • Schedule I: These drugs have the highest known ability to cause physical and mental dependency and addiction with no medical uses. Schedule I drugs may include LSD, heroin and peyote. 

When creating a legal defense, it may be important to understand each distinct drug schedule and how they may affect your criminal case. 


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