Under New York Law, it is illegal to introduce contraband into a prison or a detention facility. It is also illegal for inmates or detained individuals to obtain or possess any contraband while detailed in the detention facility. These charges are called Promotion Prison Contraband, and are located in Article 205 of the New York Penal Law.

Specifically, there are two New York Promoting Prison Contraband charges. They are:

  • Promoting Prison Contraband in the First Degree (PL 205.25);
  • Promoting Prison Contraband in the Second Degree (PL 205.20).

The difference in these charges depends on the nature of the contraband introduced or possessed inside the detention facility.

New York Promoting Prison Contraband in the First Degree

Promoting Prison Contraband in the First Degree is codified in New York Penal Law Section 205.25. A person is guilty of Promoting Prison Contraband in the First Degree when:

  1. S/he knowingly and unlawfully introduces any dangerous contraband into a detention facility; OR
  2. Being a person confined in a detention facility, he knowingly and unlawfully makes, obtains or possesses any dangerous contraband.

Therefore, both introduction of dangerous contraband into the prison and possession of the dangerous contraband are criminal offenses.

Sentencing and Penalties for Promoting Prison Contraband in the First Degree

Promoting Prison Contraband in the First Degree is a Class “D” non-violent felony. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • Up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison
  • Probation, in the event there are mitigating circumstances

New York Promoting Prison Contraband in the Second Degree

The second charge is Promotion of Prison Contraband in the Second Degree, which is codified in New York Penal Law Section 205.20. Under New York Penal Law Section 205.20, a person is guilty of promoting prison contraband in the second degree when:

  1. S/he knowingly and unlawfully introduces any contraband into a detention facility; OR
  2. Being a person confined in a detention facility, he knowingly and unlawfully makes, obtains or possesses any contraband.

Similarly to Promoting Prison Contraband in the First Degree, both the possession and the introduction of contraband into a detention facility will result in criminal charges. Importantly, the difference between the First and Second Degree charges is the nature of the contraband. First Degree requires that the contraband be “dangerous,” while Second Degree does not have that same requirement.

Sentencing and Penalties for Promoting Prison Contraband in the Second Degree

Promoting Prison Contraband in the Second Degree is a Class “A” misdemeanor. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • Up to 1 year in prison;
  • Conditional discharge (with conditions imposed by the Court);
  • Unconditional discharge;
  • Probation; OR
  • Time Served (even if minimal).

Legal Definitions Used in Promoting Prison Contraband Charge

The legal definitions used in New York Promoting Prison Contraband charges come from Penal Law Section 205.00. This is now these terms are defined for the Promotion of Prison Contraband charge.

What is a Detention Facility?

Under Penal Law Section 205.00(1), a detention facility is any place used for confinement pursuant to an order of the court of a person who is:

  • Charged with or convicted of an offense, OR
  • Charged with being or adjudicated a youthful offender, person in need of supervision or juvenile delinquent, OR
  • Held for extradition or as a material witness, OR
  • Otherwise confined pursuant to an order of a court.

What is Custody?

The term custody is defined in New York Penal Law 205.00(2) as restraint pursuant to an authorized arrest or an order of the Court.

What is Contraband?

The definition of contraband comes from New York Penal Law Section 205.00(3) and means any article or thing which a person confined in a detention facility is prohibited from obtaining or possessing by statute, rule, regulation or order.

Common Examples of Contraband include;

  • Cigarettes;
  • Cell phone;
  • Marihuana;
  • Cocaine.

What is Dangerous Contraband?

The definition of “Dangerous Contraband” comes from New York Penal Law Section 205.00(4) and means any contraband capable of such use as may endanger the safety or security of a detention facility or any person therein.The Courts have interpreted the requirement that the contraband endanger the safety or security to mean that there is a substantial probability of a major threat to the facility, or death or serious injury. 

Common Examples of Dangerous Contraband:

  • Razor Blades;
  • Knives;
  • Guns.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Promotion of Prison Contraband

The statute of limitations depends on the degree of the Promoting of Prison Contraband charge.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Promoting Prison Contraband?

  • First Degree – 5 years
  • Second Degree – 2 years

Importantly, certain time may be excluded from the time counted toward the expiration of the statute of limitations. This includes time spent outside the state or while incarcerated. Additionally, the statute of limitations does not start to run until the offense or the conspiracy to commit the offense ends.

Is the Charge of Promoting Prison Contraband Prosecuted Under State Law or Under Federal Law?

Possession of Prison Contraband can be prosecuted under both New York State criminal law and federal criminal law. The federal charge is called Providing or Possessing Contraband in Prison is codified in 18 U.S. Code § 1791. The federal charge is very similar to New York Promoting Prison Contraband charge, in that it prohibits both:

  1. Introduction of the contraband into prison, AND
  2. Possession of contraband while in prison.

Importantly, prison contraband smuggling is prosecuted under federal law in very limited situations. Specifically, the federal government has jurisdiction over prison contraband smuggling and possession cases when:

  • The prison is a Federal correctional, detention, or penal facility OR
  • Any prison, institution or facility in which persons are held in custody by direction of or pursuant to a contract or agreement with the Attorney General.

That means, the federal government does not have jurisdiction to prosecute prison contraband cases, unless the prison is a federal facility or a state facility in which federal inmates are housed.

Sentencing for Contraband Smuggling under Federal Law

Interestingly, the federal charge has different maximums based on the item being smuggled or possessed inside the prison by an inmate. The federal maximums on prison contraband smuggling are:

  • 6 months,
  • 5 years,
  • 10 years, OR
  • 20 years.

So in some situations, the federal charge has a much greater maximum than the 7 year maximum under New York State Law. Additionally, under federal law, the sentence for smuggling or possessing prison contraband, which involves a controlled substance is consecutive to:

  • Sentence for the possession of that controlled substance,
  • Sentence the inmate is serving at the time of possessing the contraband inside a facility.

Contact Top Rated Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you or your loved one has been charged with Promoting Prison Contraband, you need top rated criminal defense counsel. These charges can give you a permanent criminal record and lead to jail time. We have experience handling promoting prison contraband cases. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.