Charges for simple possession of drugs are probably one of the most commonly charged drug offenses in New Jersey. However, despite the relative commonality of the charge, that does not mean that harsh and life-altering consequences are absent. In fact, aside from the formal consequences of drug possession charges, they may also make the individual ineligible for federal college loans and reduce employment prospects.
The nature of drug possession charges can be a bit unpredictable. Your charges may vary depending on what kind of drugs were allegedly involved. Drugs are generally grouped into Schedules numbered I through V. The most serious drugs fall under Schedule I and can carry extremely harsh punishments. Even small quantities of controlled substances can lead to severe repercussions.
If you are facing drug possession and other drug-related charges, do not face the criminal litigation process or its potential consequences alone. Our simple drug possession defense attorneys have more than 40 years of combined experience defending against a broad array range of drug crimes. The Atlantic City defense lawyers for drug possession charges of the Law Offices of John J. Zarych fight strategically and aggressively to protect your rights and defend against the charges you face.
What Are the Consequences for Possession Of Drugs In New Jersey?
Possession of heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, ecstasy, meth, or any other Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS) is categorized as a crime handled in the Superior Court. The criminal statute N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10 addresses the possession of other narcotics and controlled dangerous substances. In general, simple possession of most hard drugs can result in a three-to-five-year prison sentence. Charges can also be advanced against an individual possessing prescription drugs without a doctor’s authorization. In addition to potential prison time, a conviction of any drug crime can affect your ability to find work or obtain housing in the future. Some drug convictions can make it impossible to receive federal student loans if you are a college student.
As discussed above, drugs are classified under Schedules. There are five different Schedules, with Schedule I being the most severe and Schedule V being the least. Your charges and penalties for criminal possession may be greater if you allegedly possessed Schedule I controlled substances. Common Schedule I drugs include heroin, acid, mescaline, and peyote. Although marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized in some places, it is still a Schedule I drug in New Jersey. However, the issue of drug charges for marijuana is a very hot topic within the legal community, and the way the State of New Jersey handles marijuana-related drug cases may change. Our Atlantic City defense lawyers for drug possession charges can help you fight your charges and any other offenses you might be charged with.
Criminal Charges Commonly Associated with Drug Possession in Atlantic City
Simple possession charges are typically considered a lower-level drug offense. While the penalties for simple possession are certainly very serious, other charges are often treated more harshly. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you might be charged with possession with the intent to distribute (PWID).
According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-5, this offense applies in cases where a defendant is alleged to not only have had possession of certain controlled substances, but law enforcement and prosecutors believe the defendant intended to sell or distribute the drugs as well. Because this offense carries an additional element of distribution, penalties tend to be more severe. Depending on the type of controlled substance in question and possibly its quantity, a defendant may be charged with a fourth, third, or second-degree crime for possession with intent to distribute.
Possession charges are sometimes related to larger criminal drug rings or networks. Being the leader of such a network is punished very severely. According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-3, the leader of a narcotics network may be charged with a first-degree crime, the highest degree possible, and possibly sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole after 25 years. An investigation for simple possession charges could uncover a much more serious narcotics distribution network. The closer you are to the top of such a network, the more dire your case is. However, it might be possible to negotiate with prosecutors for a reduced sentence if you can provide information about other network leaders.
Weapons charges are practically expected when dealing with drug crimes. Drug buyers and dealers tend to carry weapons as tools of self-defense. The drug trade is not exactly the safest industry, and people who work within the drug trade often carry firearms or other weapons “just in case.” Weapons charges are separate from drug offenses and may be charged independently. However, the presence of drugs could lead to upgraded weapons charges and more severe penalties. Talk to our Atlantic City defense lawyers for drug possession charges about your case as soon as possible.
Charges for Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance in Atlantic City
Drug crimes are taken so seriously in Atlantic City that merely possessing drugs will be charged as a criminal offense. The crime of possession can be found under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10 and contains the charges for possession of Schedule II drugs in addition to other Schedules. Controlled substances that are frequently part of Schedule II drug offenses include cocaine, meth, oxy, and fentanyl, among others. If you are arrested for possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, you should call our Atlantic City drug crime attorneys immediately.
Schedule II controlled substances can be found under N.J.S.A. 24:21-6. The statute contains a description of drugs and controlled substances that fit into Schedule II:
- Drugs with a high potential for abuse.
- Drugs with a currently accepted medical use in the United States. That medical use may come with serious restrictions.
- Drugs that could lead to psychic or physical dependency or addiction when abused.
The statute also includes a list of drugs classified as Schedule II:
- Cocaine (crack and powder)
- Oxycodone and oxycontin
The average person might not know exactly where certain controlled substances land on the drug Schedules. You could be in possession of a Schedule II drug that you thought was something less serious. If you are arrested for possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, call our Atlantic City drug crime defense lawyers for help.
Under the law, it is illegal to knowingly possess a controlled substance unless it was obtained through a valid prescription. A defendant charged with this offense in relation to a Schedule II controlled substance will face charges for a third-degree crime. To be found guilty, the prosecutors do not have to establish that you were actually using the drug or were under its influence when you were arrested. However, if prosecutors can prove you were using the drug, that may be sufficient to convict.
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-6, a person convicted of a third-degree crime may be sentenced to a term in state prison for at least 3 years but no more than 5 years. They may also face a fine of up to $35,000. For help fighting your charges, call our Atlantic City drug crimes lawyers.
Defenses Against Simple Possession Charges Your Attorney May Invoke
You might be charged with drug crimes related to a possession of a controlled substance, but that does not mean those charges will stick. There are numerous ways you can defend yourself against your criminal charges. Having an experienced attorney by your side will only improve your odds of success.
To be convicted, the prosecution must not only prove that you were in possession or control of the drugs but that you knew you were in possession of controlled substances. This means that only defendants who knew the drugs were in their possession or control can be charged. If you did not even know they were in your possession, you might have a defense. For example, if someone else, unbeknownst to you, stashed drugs in your car or even slipped them into your bag or purse, you might have a defense.
Although the penalties for drug possession are varied, so are the arguments that we can present on your behalf. Depending on your situation, our lawyers may be able to convince the prosecution to drop or reduce the charges against you. We can do this by challenging the prosecution on each and every material element of the case. Here are a few questions we may ask in the preparation of your defense:
- Were you stopped and/or searched for a valid reason?
- What was the intended use of the drug?
- Was any other drug paraphernalia found?
- Who was actually in control of the property on which the drug was found?
- Was the marijuana plant weighed accurately?
- Was the substance tested and identified?
- Was the chain of custody maintained?
These represent only a few of the areas your criminal defense attorney will inquire into. The best possible defense will depend on the unique details surrounding your case, and your defense must be tailored to your individual needs. Keep in mind that there might not be a perfect defense that gets you off the hook for all your charges. In many cases, defense attorneys can get some charges reduced or dismissed but not others. Your lawyer can review your case and help you figure out the best possible outcomes for your situation. Our criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to providing robust and strategic defenses for all charges faced.
Challenging the Evidence in Atlantic City Drug Possession Cases
While it is true that no two cases are alike, and therefore no two defense strategies should be exactly the same, certain defense tactics are almost always worth exploring. One such method is challenging the evidence against you and attempting to have it suppressed. This tactic is essential in many drug-related cases because prosecutors’ cases are severely weakened if evidence of the drugs themselves can be suppressed.
Motions to suppress typically happen before your trial begins. Defense attorneys file this pre-trial motion after the discovery process, where they have had a chance to review the evidence collected by prosecutors. Our Atlantic City defense attorneys for drug possession charges can determine if key pieces of evidence were unlawfully obtained and therefore inadmissible in court.
Unlawfully obtained evidence is typically any evidence that was seized in violation of a defendant’s rights. This most often involves your Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, although other rights could be implicated too. Faulty, invalid, or absent search warrants are common culprits in cases of unlawful evidence. Similarly, a violation of your rights during police interrogation could render any incriminating information provided to the police tainted and inadmissible.
It is crucial that we attempt to have any evidence of the drugs suppressed in drug possession cases. Without evidence of drugs, it is very hard for prosecutors to make drug possession charges stick, and we may have a chance of getting your charges dropped or dismissed. Our New Jersey defense attorneys for drug possession charges can help you challenge the evidence in your case.
Alternative Sentences to Incarceration for Drug Possession in Atlantic City
A defendant charged with drug possession could be eligible for alternative sentencing options. First-time offenders facing fewer, less serious charges have a better chance of securing alternative sentencing opportunities. However, our Atlantic City defense lawyers for drug possession charges can help you determine what kind of sentencing options or programs you might be eligible for.
Probation is a relatively common sentencing option for many low-level convicted offenders. Probation allows defendants to serve their sentence from home while complying with conditions and restrictions imposed by the court. Defendants charged with non-violent drug offenses like simple possession may be eligible for probation.
Drug Court is a program designed for drug offenders who have very serious addiction problems. The program is often open to first-time, non-violent offenders and is not intended for casual users and dealers. Drug Court is meant to help offenders overcome addiction. If you are charged with possession and have significant addiction issues, you might benefit from Drug Court.
Pre-Trial Intervention is another program meant for first-time offenders and allows them to expunge their charges from their record upon successfully completing the program. Typically, defendants must plead guilty to get into the program, but their guilty plea is set aside and not formally entered. If the defendant succeeds, the guilty plea is thrown out, and the charges dismissed. If the defendant fails the program, the guilty plea is entered, and the defendant is sentenced.
How an Atlantic City Drug Possession Attorney Can Help You
Having an attorney by your side when facing charges for drug possession can only help your case. The criminal justice process is extremely complex and can take a long time before finally coming to an end. There are numerous stages and phases throughout the process in which you must appear in front of a judge or communicate with the prosecutors, all before ever getting to a trial.
An attorney also puts you in a better bargaining position if you are interested in negotiating a plea agreement. Most cases do not even make it to a full trial and instead end with a plea agreement. You would plead guilty, and the prosecutor would reduce your charges in exchange for your plea. This way, you both avoid a trial, and you get a lighter sentence.
Our Atlantic City Drug Possession Defense Attorneys Can Help
If you have been arrested for possession of drugs of any type, don’t delay in contacting our skilled Atlantic City drug possession defense attorneys to protect your rights and freedom. For a free case review, call the Law Firm of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4934. We are available seven days a week, including holidays.