Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Small Amounts of Marijuana Not “Dangerous Contraband” Under New York Law, Court Rules

The possession or introduction of small amounts of marijuana into a New York state prison is not punishable as a felony, the New York Court of Appeals held.
Robert Finley, a New York state prisoner, was charged with felony promoting prison contraband in the first degree after three marijuana joints were discovered in a wad of toilet paper that he threw on the ground before a “pat frisk” near A-Block at the Orleans Correctional Facility.

Kyle Salters, another state prisoner, was charged with felony attempted promoting prison contraband in the first degree after his girlfriend was caught trying to smuggle 9.3 grams of marijuana to him during visitation at the Bare Hill Correctional Facility.

Both Finley and Salters were charged with felonies on the premise that marijuana constituted “dangerous contraband” within the prison setting, based on the decision in People v. McCrae, 297 A.D.2d 878 (N.Y. App.Div.3d Dep’t 2002). Following separate jury trials, Finley and Salters were convicted as charged. They both appealed, and their appeals were consolidated.

The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest state court, reversed. The small amounts of marijuana at issue in Finley and Salters’ cases did not constitute “dangerous contraband” under Penal Law §§ 205.00(4) and 205.25(2), the Court held after a lengthy discussion. Rather, “dangerous contraband” refers to items that “will be used in a manner that is likely to cause death or other serious injury, to facilitate an escape, or to bring about other major threats to a detention facility’s institutional safety or security.”

Accordingly, the Court modified Finley and Salters’ convictions by reducing the charges to misdemeanor offenses, and remanded their cases for resentencing. See: People v. Finley, 891 N.E.2d 1165, 862 N.Y.S.2d 1 N.Y. 2008.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

People v. Finley