It may seem insane that being arrested for having a small amount of marijuana could possibly affect the rest of your life, but the reality is that even a minor charge can cost thousands of dollars and also land you behind bars for months. Fortunately, there are programs to help those who are facing a minor possession charge. However, even if you do not qualify for one of the diversionary programs in New Jersey, an experienced criminal attorney may be able to have your charges lowered or even dismissed.
If your son or daughter has been charged with possession of marijuana in New Jersey, we encourage you to call our law offices at (609) 616-4956 to start discussing your family’s legal options in a free, completely confidential legal consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys have more than 45 years of combined experience handling marijuana charges on behalf of adults and juveniles in Atlantic County, Cape May County, and Ocean County. Se habla español.
New Jersey’s Criminal Penalties for Simple Possession of Marijuana
Even though possessing a small amount of marijuana of 50 grams or less is considered a disorderly persons offenses per N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(4), the penalties can be rather severe. While several states have legalized recreational marijuana, and other such as New Jersey have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, N.J.S.A. 2C35-10(a)(4) still provides that it is “unlawful for any person, knowingly or purposely, to obtain, or to possess, actually or constructively, a controlled dangerous substance…[and that] (4) Possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana, including any adulterants or dilutants, or five grams or less of hashish is a disorderly person.” This offense is sometimes referred to as simple possession of marijuana.
While disorderly persons offenses are considered relatively minor and apply to charges involving a small amount of drugs (including marijuana), simple assault, and petty theft, just as some examples. While these are some of the most minor crimes, the municipal judge can impose a variety of sanctions including monetary fines, jail time, community service, suspension of driving privileges, and probation.
- Monetary fines and court costs – the municipal judge can impose monetary fines of up to $1,000 to any person who is found guilty of possessing 50 grams or less of marijuana. In addition, the judge may impose certain mandatory state assessments.
- Jail – If you are convicted of possessing 50 grams or less of marijuana under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(4) can be subject to up to a six (6) month sentence in county jail.
- Community Service – In certain cases, the judge can impose community service as part of their sentence. In addition, if you are arrested within 1,000 feet of a school for possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana, you will be required to serve a mandatory 100 hours of community service.
- Probation – In addition to jail sentences, a municipal judge can impose probation on a person who is found guilty of possessing 50 grams or less of marijuana. This may include regular drug testing, court appearances, as well as mandatory counseling.
However, while these penalties may be burdensome, one of the most burdensome results of being convicted of even a minor offense such as this is that you will have a criminal record that can make it more difficult to apply for jobs, housing, and school. If you are facing a charge of possessing marijuana it is crucial to have an experienced attorney at your side.
Conditional Dismissal Programs may Help First-Time Offenders
Even though possession charges may be minor, they can have a substantial impact on your life. First-time offenders may qualify for a diversionary program that is available in New Jersey courts.
Under the law, a defendant who is charged with a petty disorderly persons offense or a disorderly persons offense may apply to enter into the conditional dismissal program, provided that the person:
- has not been previously convicted of any petty disorderly persons offense, disorderly persons offense or crime and
- has not previously participated in the conditional discharge, conditional dismissal, or PTI programs.
The effect of having a conditional dismissal of possessing 50 grams or less of marijuana is that that a dismissal is that if you meet all the application and statutory requirements the court can choose not to enter a judgment, but instead place you under a probation “monitoring” status for one year. If you complete the program without being convicted of any petty disorderly persons offenses or disorderly persons offenses at the end of the probationary period the court can dismiss the charges against you and remove you from probationary supervision. Additionally, a person who has had charges dismissed pursuant to a conditional discharge program or a conditional dismissal may apply to have their record expunged six months after the entry of the order program of conditional discharge or conditional dismissal may apply for an expungement six months after the entry of the order. This may be very advantageous for those who are applying for jobs, loans, and school programs. However, while this program is available, it is crucial to have an attorney by your side to ensure that your application is properly filed, and who is prepared to challenge any objections asserted by the prosecutor.
Call Our New Jersey Defense Attorneys if You Were Charged with Drug Possession
If you or someone you love has been charged with marijuana possession in Atlantic City or the surrounding area, it’s critically important to take immediate legal action. Call the marijuana lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 right away for a free and confidential consultation. You or your loved one may be able to avoid jail and a criminal record through one of the programs discussed in this guide. Our line is always open for your call, including nights, weekends, and holidays.