New Jersey has some of the toughest drug laws in the nation. Possession of illegal drugs can result in substantial time behind bars and large fines, depending upon the amount, type of drugs involved as well as your previous criminal history.
Possession of drug paraphernalia in New Jersey is also an offense as is possessing prescription drugs that have not been legally prescribed to you.
The following describes the drugs that law enforcement officers commonly come across and their related penalties.
Although some people feel marijuana will inevitably be legalized, it is still considered a controlled substance and is illegal to possess in New Jersey, even with the passage of the state’s medical marijuana law, which has yet to be put into operation.
Possession of up to 50 grams of marijuana is considered a disorderly persons offense, carrying a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to 6 months in prison.
Possession of 50 grams or more elevates the offense to a crime of the fourth degree with a maximum prison time of 18 months and a fine of up to $25,000.
In addition, a conviction can lead to loss of your driver’s license from 6 months to 2 years.
If the subject amount is small and this is your initial offense and you have no other criminal record, you may be eligible for a conditional discharge. This means that your case is continued, or placed on hold, but you will be subjected to drug testing on a regular basis and you will be required to meet with a probation or supervising officer. Upon completion of all conditions of the program, your criminal charge may be dismissed and you can apply to have your arrest record expunged.
Possession of several ounces of marijuana may demonstrate an intent to distribute, which carries much harsher penalties.
Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Speed, LSD, Psilocybin, Ecstasy, Meth
Possession of any of these narcotics is a crime of the third degree, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines ranging from $15,000 to $35,000 depending on the type of drug.
You may also have your driver’s license suspended for 6 months to two years. If the drugs are found in your car, you could also have your vehicle confiscated.
The penalties are much harsher if this is a second or subsequent offense.
The list of prescription drugs is too numerous to list, but you cannot possess a prescription medication that has not been prescribed to you. If you cannot prove the drug is yours, you can be charged with illegal possession.
Some common prescription drugs that police routinely confiscate from offenders include the following:
Unlawful possession of prescription drugs, without an intent to distribute, can be considered a third degree crime with up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $25,000. You can also expect probable suspension of your driving privileges for up to 2 years.
If you are a first offender, you may be eligible for the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program. This is a diversionary program which can result in the dismissal of the charges. You have to report to a probation officer and are subject to random urine monitoring. Additional conditions including but not limited to community service and drug treatment can also be imposed.
Drug paraphernalia possession is illegal in New Jersey. This includes such devices as bongs, pipes, or spoons. Even a household item that is used to inhale or administer the drug can be considered as drug paraphernalia.
Possession of these items can result in prison time up to 6 months and a fine of $1000. You may lose your driver’s license for 6 months up to 2 years.
Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer can assess your case and explore any possible defenses.
One of the more common defenses is that the police conducted an illegal search of you or your property. If the police show up at your home with a search warrant, it must be validly attested to and describe with particularity the places to be searched and the items to be seized. This means that if the warrant only permits a search of your garage, they cannot enter your house and seize anything there and use it as evidence of a crime against you without probable cause. If the police have a warrant to search your property, you should cooperate with the police. Your lawyer will raise any legal issues regarding the validity of the search warrant at the appropriate time in court.
However, if during their search the police observe illegal drugs in plain view, they can seize the items and use that evidence against you.
Should your car be stopped, the police must have had probable cause to search your car. If there is a lack of probable cause, a judge may sustain a motion to suppress any evidence found during the unlawful search.
Further, the state must prove the drugs were in your possession. If they are found in a common area or vehicle that is used by other people, they may not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were in possession of the drugs.
There are other defenses that a qualified criminal defense attorney can discuss with you as they apply to your particular case.
Many times an offender may give a statement to police or volunteer information that is misconstrued or twisted in a way that incriminates the offender or is considered a confession.
To prevent this, it is important not to volunteer any information to law enforcement or a prosecuting attorney, even if you are promised leniency, immediate release or the dropping of all criminal charges.
If police or a representative asks you to make a statement, refuse and ask to speak to an attorney who will represent your interests. The police must cease from asking you any further questions.
Also, do not speak to any other inmate or talk on the phone about the facts of your case. Police often have their own agents in detention or holding cells who will attempt to get you to talk about your case. There are inmates who may use your “confession” or other information to get themselves a plea bargain by claiming that you confessed to a crime.
Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are charged with a drug related crime, it is essential that you retain an experience criminal defense lawyer to protect your interests. Crimes of the fourth or third degree carry substantial prison time. A conviction can make it difficult for you to find employment, keep your present job, obtain credit or student loans, affect your application to college, and prevent you from owning or possessing firearms. It can also cause you to lose your professional license or to obtain one.
If you are not a citizen, a conviction can subject you to deportation.
A criminal defense lawyer may be able to plea bargain a serious charge to a lesser offense and save you considerable jail time or even gain a dismissal of the charges by demonstrating weaknesses in the state’s case against you or by having evidence thrown out.
Your future can be seriously undermined by a drug conviction. Professional legal representation is a necessity in these cases.