How is Drug Distribution Defined and Penalized in NJ?

Drug charges are regarded as some of the most commonly charged criminal offenses across the country. Drug distribution is one of many serious offenses related to controlled substances, and the penalties might be quite harsh.

Exactly what constitutes the distribution of drugs can be hard to pin down, as the definition of distribution is somewhat broad. Distribution might involve delivering drugs to someone who plans to use them. It might also involve delivering drugs to other distributors in a larger drug ring. Charges for distribution can be severe. The nature of your potential penalties may change depending on what kind of drugs are allegedly involved. Charges as serious as first-degree crimes may be on the table. Our team can work with you to determine the best defense strategy for your case.

Contact our Atlantic City drug distribution defense lawyers for a free evaluation of your case and charges by calling the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.

When a Person May Be Charged with Drug Distribution in NJ

The offense of drug distribution might sound self-explanatory, but it can be more complex than many people realize. According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-5(a)(1), it is illegal to manufacture, possess, distribute, or dispense controlled dangerous substances or substance analogs. It may also be a crime to have controlled substances with the intent to distribute – a crime commonly called possession with the intent to distribute (PWID) – without actually distributing anything.

Charges for drug distribution might come up in a number of different circumstances. One of the more common reasons behind drug distribution charges is drug dealing. Drug dealers are often involved in small, local distribution networks. Many dealers work completely alone and distribute in only a few neighborhoods. Even small-time dealers may face serious charges for distribution.

Distribution charges can change depending on the people involved and where the distribution occurs. For example, when dealers distribute drugs to minors, they often face increased charges and penalties. Even dealing drugs in the vicinity of schools or public playgrounds might land you in bigger trouble.

It is also important to note that distributing does not always mean selling. You do not have to exchange drugs for money or favors to be charged. Simply giving drugs away, like at a party, might lead to criminal charges.

What Constitutes the Distribution of Drugs in NJ

To understand when and how a defendant may be charged with drug distribution, our NJ drug distribution defense lawyers must understand how the law defines distribution. The statute N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-2 not only defines what it means to distribute drugs but also various other methods of providing controlled substances to others.

The statute makes important distinctions between several ways drugs can be distributed. First, drugs may be “dispensed” by a licensed practitioner, like a doctor to a patient. Drugs can be “administered” in the same way. It is important to note that prescribing controlled substances is not legally considered distribution.

Under the law, “distribute” means to provide a controlled substance in some way other than administering or dispensing it as a licensed professional would. In short, if you provide drugs or controlled substances to someone else without the proper legal authority to do so, you might be looking at drug distribution charges.

Distribution charges tend to apply only to controlled substances. Many over-the-counter medicines are not classified as controlled substances, and you can exchange them with others. Giving your friend mild painkillers for a headache is not considered illegal distribution. However, suppose you have much stronger painkillers that can only be obtained through a valid prescription, and those painkillers are classified as controlled substances. In that case, you should not provide them to anyone.

How Serious Are Charges for Drug Distribution in NJ?

Penalties for drug distribution charges can be severe. Often, the exact nature of a defendant’s potential sentence depends on what kind of controlled substances were allegedly being distributed and their quantities. Controlled substances are divided into different Schedules based on their severity. Schedule I drugs, the most serious classification, often leads to the harshest penalties.

The distribution of drugs including heroin, cocaine, and MDMA may be met with charges for a first-degree crime. According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-6(a)(1), such an offense may be punished by at least 10 years in prison but no more than 20 years. Not only that, but charges for distribution may include a minimum term of at least one-third and up to one-half the total sentence imposed. You might also be fined up to $500,000.

You might also be charged with a first-degree crime if you are charged in relation to leading a narcotics trafficking network under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-3. According to the law, a narcotics trafficking ring involves a leader conspiring with at least two others to unlawfully distribute certain controlled substances.

For leading a narcotics trafficking ring, you may face life in prison. Not only that, but you would not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years. You might also be fined up to $750,000.

How to Fight Charges for Drug Distribution in NJ

Fighting these types of charges can be tricky. Usually, when people are charged, the police and prosecutors have seized the drugs that were allegedly being distributed. Refuting this kind of evidence can be hard, but it is not impossible.

A good place to start is the legality of the police officers’ search and seizure of the drugs. If the seizure was unlawful, we can work to suppress the evidence of the drugs and have them excluded from the case. If this happens, the prosecutor’s case against you might quickly fall apart, as the drugs are the lynchpin holding the case together.

We might also argue that the alleged drugs are not what the prosecutor claims them to be. Normally, controlled substances are chemically tested to identify them scientifically. If testing was not done, or we have reason to suspect testing was flawed, we can argue that the jury should not trust the drugs.

Still, you might have had the controlled substances in question under a valid prescription. If you no longer have a copy of your prescription, we can reach out to your doctor for confirmation that the drugs were, in fact, lawfully prescribed.

Speak to Our NJ Drug Distribution Defense Lawyers for Help Immediately

Contact our NJ criminal defense lawyers for a free evaluation of your case and charges by calling the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.

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