New Jersey and the United States in general is in the midst of a heroin epidemic. Despite the fact that heroin represents a public health crisis, New Jersey and many states have attempted to address the problem through aggressive police tactics. While these tactics can create the perception that high-profile drug busts alone can fix the problem, the reality on the ground is that far more often police arrest casual users or mistakenly arrest their friends, family members, and others as collateral damage. Aggressive police tactics can result in the arrest of people merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If you have been charged with possession of heroin in Atlantic City or elsewhere in New Jersey, you could face serious criminal consequences. The Atlantic City heroin possession lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can fight to protect you from unfounded drug and heroin charges.
Heroin Possession Laws in Atlantic County, NJ
In NJ, there are two major laws that deal with illegal possession of illicit drugs like heroin. The first is the “simple possession” statute under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10, which makes it illegal to possess heroin for personal use. The second statute is the “possession with intent to distribute” (PWID) statute under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-5, which makes it illegal to possess heroin with the intent to give it to someone else or sell it.
The simple possession statute makes it a crime to have drugs in your possession. “Possession” under this law can include “actual possession” where police find you with drugs in your hands, pockets, or bags on your person, or “constructive possession” where police find drugs on your property, such as in your car or home.
If there is evidence that you have the drugs in your possession to transport them or sell them to someone else, you will be charged with PWID, which carries higher penalties. Police see the following as evidence that you have the intent to distribute the drugs in your possession:
- Possession of large quantities of heroin
- Possession of heroin in individual bags or vials for distribution
- Possession of large amounts of cash
- Possession of scales or devices used to weigh and separate drugs for sale
- Possession of a gun
- Possession of multiple cell phones or pagers to contact buyers or distributors
Alternatively, you could face these increased charges if the government proves you had the intent to manufacture or dispense the drugs rather than “distribute” them.
To charge you with these crimes, police must confirm that the drugs you possessed were actually heroin. If your drugs contained amounts of fentanyl or other drugs used to cut the heroin, you can also be charged with possession of those drugs. If the items you possessed were not actually drugs, you can still be charged with possessing a simulated or counterfeit drug.
What Penalties Can I Face for Heroin Possession in NJ?
Like most other “hard drugs,” the possession of heroin carries strict penalties in New Jersey under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10. Even for possession of small quantities of heroin, you can face charges for a third degree crime. A third degree crime is New Jersey’s version of a third degree felony, and a third degree crime conviction in New Jersey can usually lead to a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years and criminal fines up to $15,000. However, the fine for drug possession is increased to a maximum of $35,000.
Possession with the intent to distribute is charged as either a third, second, or first degree crime depending on the amount you possessed. Possession with the intent to distribute the following quantities of drugs is charged as the level of crime listed for each amount:
- Less than one half ounce of heroin leads to a third degree crime with 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $75,000.
- One half ounce or more of heroin, but under 5 ounces, leads to a second degree crime with 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
- 5 ounces or more of heroin leads to a first degree crime with 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $500,000. This prison time must include a period without parole eligibility.
Can I Face Heroin Charges for Prescription Pills?
The use of prescription painkillers, such as Oxycodone and other opiate-based pills, is often closely associated with heroin use or dependence. In fact, while there are key differences in potency and method of administration, both popular painkillers and heroin are opiates. Thus, many people wonder if they can be held liable for possession of heroin derivatives and opiate-based prescription drugs.
Whether you can face charges for possessing prescription opiates is a question that frequently turns on whether you have a valid doctor’s prescription. If you possess prescription pills or heroin analogs without authorization by a qualified medical professional, criminal penalties can apply.
There is no prescription for heroin itself, so having a prescription will never protect you from heroin charges. However, many heroin derivatives are common prescription drugs which you can lawfully possess with a valid prescription. If you possess these drugs without a prescription or you possess them for illegal sale or distribution, you will usually face charges for illegal prescription drug possession rather than heroin possession charges.
How Can an Atlantic City Heroin Charges Defense Lawyer Fight Possession Charges?
When you are charged with a crime, the prosecution must prove each and every material element of a charge “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This does not mean that the jury needs to be 100% certain that you committed a crime, but it does require certainty that is quite definite. Thus, your criminal defense lawyer will focus on looking for mistakes in evidence collection, coerced confessions, and problems with lab testing of drugs. Alternatively, he or she may look to call into question the truth of the testimony presented by the arresting officer. Other evidence, such as video from security cameras, may challenge the charges against you.
Call Our Atlantic City Heroin Possession Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
To schedule a free consultation on your heroin charges, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s Atlantic City heroin possession defense attorneys today at (609) 616-4956. Our attorneys may be able to take your case and fight to have charged dropped and dismissed.