The criminal charge of maintaining a fortified home or fortified premises may, on its face, seem like an odd charge to face in New Jersey. People may think that they certainly have the right to lock their doors and protect themselves from trespassers and other intruders. However, the truth is that Maintaining a Fortified Home is a charge that is routinely added on in addition to drug manufacturing charges. Police and the District Attorney will frequently charge individuals with multiple crimes to increase the likelihood that the individual will engage and agree to a plea bargain.

With police and prosecutors willing to engage in aggressive tactics to secure convictions and guilty pleas, it is essential for individuals accused of serious crimes to have legal representation. The strategic and aggressive lawyers of the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can provide guidance and representation for people facing criminal charges in Atlantic City, Cape May, and throughout South Jersey. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation call (609) 616-4956 or contact us online today.

How Is the Criminal Charge of Maintaining a Fortified Presence Defined Under New Jersey Law?

The crime of maintaining fortified premises is defined under NJSA 2C:35-4.1c. The statute states:

Any person who fortifies or maintains in a fortified condition a structure for the manufacture, distribution, dispensing or possession or control with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, controlled dangerous substances is guilty of a crime of the third degree. A structure has been fortified if steel doors, wooden planking, cross bars, alarm systems, dogs, lookouts or any other means are employed to prevent, impede, delay or provide warning of the entry into a structure or any part of a structure by law enforcement officers. 

Thus, under this law, it is illegal to have certain security measures when you are charged with using your home or another structure as part of an operation involving controlled dangerous substances (CDS) – drugs like marijuana, heroin, methamphetamines, and others. While the statute lists an array of measures that can constitute a “fortified structure” the law also contains a catch-all provision. This provision can allow charges of this type to be advanced any time a measure prevents, slows, or provides advance warning of entry into the structure or any room or part of the structure by police or other law enforcement officers.

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What Does a Prosecutor Need to Prove to Secure a Conviction Under 2C:35-4.1c

Generally, there are two main elements to the crime that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction under this statute. However, these two principle elements also contain certain more nuanced elements that must also be shown to exist.

The first element that the state must prove is that “the defendant knowingly  fortified a structure, or maintained a structure in a fortified condition.” A structure includes most buildings that people would consider to be a structure including a house, warehouse, or room in a building, hotel room, or apartment building. However, the term is more expansive and can also include a ship, vessel, or airplane. Knowingly fortifying a structure means that the charged individual “is aware that his/her conduct is of that nature or that such circumstances exist or if he/she is aware of a high probability of their existence.” Knowledge does not need to be conclusively proven by the state. Rather, the state can rely on reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the surrounding facts and circumstances.

Second, the state must prove that the fortifications were constructed or maintained knowing that they were to be used for a location where the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled dangerous substance or analogs of a controlled drug. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt two things to satisfy this element. First, it must prove that a controlled dangerous substance or analog existed on the premises. Once this has been established the prosecution must then prove that the defendant intended to manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess  with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense the illegal drug.

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Work with an Atlantic City Criminal Defense Lawyer when Facing Criminal Charges

As a third degree crime, fortifying a structure can result in serious penalties including a prison sentence and financial consequences. Due to the nature of this charge, additional drug-related crimes are also typically charged carrying additional penalties. If you are facing serious criminal charges, don’t face the experienced prosecutor alone. Work with the aggressive and strategic criminal defense attorneys of the Law Firm of John J. Zarych. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation call (609) 616-4956 or contact us online today.