Drug charges are extremely serious in the state of New Jersey. They can leave violators in prison for five to ten years on many convictions, with fines up to $200,000 – above the usual fines for similarly classified crimes. In addition to these drug crimes, there are other crimes aimed specifically at prescription drugs.
Many of these charges are unfairly organized and classified. They often treat drugs that are not particularly harmful and are usually taken recreationally the same way as more dangerous, addicting drugs. Regardless of the prescription your drug charge is based on, or the circumstances surrounding your charge, you should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to handle prescription drug charges. The Law Offices of John Zarych has attorneys with real experience in defending against prescription drug charges in Atlantic County. Call (609) 616-4956 for a consultation.
What Constitutes Prescription Drug Possession in Atlantic County?
There are a few different drug crimes in New Jersey. There is one statute for general drug possession or use. There is another for distribution and manufacture. Marijuana has its own separate law, as does synthetic marijuana. These general drug laws cover crimes associated with any controlled substances listed on New Jersey’s drug “schedules.” These are drug classification charts based on danger of a drug, its addictive nature, and its ability to be used medicinally. More severe drugs with worse addictions and less medical value are in the highest schedule, Schedule I. The drugs go down to Schedule V. Some examples include heroin and marijuana in Schedule I, cocaine in Schedule II, and crystal meth and Adderall in Schedule III.
Some of these do not make much sense, though. Treating a commonly-used medicine like Adderall with the same severe punishments associated with a dangerous, highly addictive drug like crystal meth does not seem fair. Regardless, drugs are classified as they are, and their penalties scale depending on that classification, not upon the rest of society’s perceptions of the drug. These penalties also scale depending on the weight of the drugs involved..
There are separate statutes in New Jersey for distribution of prescription drugs. These punish the distribution element, since you usually need a license in order to distribute prescription drugs. These are called “prescription legend drugs,” and you must be a pharmacist, doctor, dentist, or vet to distribute these drugs. This statute, N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10.5, does not double-up on punishing prescription drug distribution; the standard drug possession crime covers distribution of drugs, but this statute is separate and distinct in that it punishes the fact that they were distributed without a license.
There is another crime aimed specifically at prescription drug possession, and it can even target people who are carrying their own prescribed medication. N.J.S.A. § 2C:25-24 specifically punishes people who are caught with more than a ten-day supply of their own prescription medication if they have it outside the original bottle. This means that if it is in your pocket or a clear baggie, even if you do have a prescription for it, you can be charged. It will not extend, though, to something like a pill organizer, since that usually only holds a seven-day supply.
The Penalties for Illegal Possession of Prescription Drugs in Atlantic City
The penalties for illegal possession of prescription drugs will vary depending on what kind of drugs were in your possession and how many doses you had. Both illicit and prescription drugs are categorized under New Jersey’s drug schedule. Drugs will fall under Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V depending on how dangerous the drug is and whether it has any accepted medical uses. While all prescription drugs obviously have accepted medical uses, some are still very dangerous if used incorrectly or abused. To determine what penalties you may face, call our Atlantic City illegal possession of prescription drugs attorney.
Illegal possession of a Schedule I, II, III, or IV prescription drug is a third-degree crime. Such a violation carries a penalty of up to $35,000 and a prison term of 3 to 5 years. The illegal possession of a Schedule V prescription drug is a fourth-degree crime that carries a prison term of no more than 18 months and a maximum fine of $15,000. However, the number of doses in your possession will also influence the severity of your charges.
Under certain circumstances, your penalties and charges may be upgraded to something harsher. Penalties will increase if the defendant is illegally in possession of prescription drugs on or near a school zone. Penalties will also increase if you intended to sell or distribute the drugs in your possession. Illegal possession with the intent to distribute fewer than four doses of a drug may result in only a disorderly person charge. However, if you are in illegal possession of 100 or more doses of a prescription drug with the intent to distribute, you may be guilty of a second-degree crime and may face between 5 and 10 years in prison. Our Atlantic City illegal possession of prescription drugs attorney can help you.
Defenses to Prescription Drug Possession in Atlantic City
While possessing drugs is illegal, it is not illegal to have your own medication that was prescribed to you by a doctor. Because of this, as long as you follow the rule that you carry your meds in your original prescription bottle, you cannot be convicted on charges of drug possession. This is only the case for simple possession, though. If, instead, you are charged with possession with intent to distribute, it does not matter if they are your prescription or not. If you are caught actually selling drugs, whether they are your own prescription or someone else’s, you can still be convicted under these statutes.
There is another defense built right into the prescription drug offense. N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10.5 creates a “de minimis” exception. This says that the violation of the law was so small that they will not count it as a violation at all. This is available in many cases and on many charges, but this statute gives specific conditions that create a de minimis exception. If you are charged with prescription drug distribution, you can defeat these charges if:
- the drugs in question are prescribed to you,
- you gave someone less than six doses in twenty-four hours,
- you gave them to someone for their own personal use.
This exemption is there to cover things like people giving their family members a Valium to take on a plane ride.
Our Atlantic City Prescription Drug Possession Defense Lawyers Can Help
If you have been arrested and charged with prescription drug offenses in Atlantic County, New Jersey, you should hire an attorney who is experienced in dealing with prescription drug charges. The Law Offices of John Zarych have experienced criminal defense attorneys who work with defendants on their prescription drug charges. Call (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation with our attorneys.