New Jersey, like many states, has harsh penalties for drug offenses. On many of its drug possession crimes, New Jersey actually increased its fines beyond the limit for other, similarly serious crimes.
If you are facing charges for simple possession, no matter what drug, how much, or how serious the charge is, you should consult a lawyer. The penalties associated with drug crimes could involve jail or prison time, and extremely high fines. The lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych practice in Ocean County, defending clients from drug charges. We also offer our clients free, confidential consultations.
New Jersey Drug Crimes Defined
In New Jersey, it is illegal to possess drugs without a prescription. For drugs that do not get prescriptions, like heroin, cocaine, and crystal meth, any possession is a crime. Even if you have prescription drugs, but no prescription, you can still face fines and jail time. If you or your child was charged with drug possession, it is important to talk to a lawyer about the charges.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10 is the main drug possession statute. This makes it illegal to possess, use, or be under the influence of drugs. The severity of the crime changes depending on the type of drug you possess and New Jersey’s view of how bad the drug is. New Jersey groups its drugs into different “schedules,” numbered I through V, with I being the most severe. These groupings are listed in N.J.S.A. § 24:21-5 through § 24:21-9.
The following are some examples of drugs that fit into the highest schedules:
MDA, MDMA, and MMDA (Ecstasy, Molly, and other drugs)
Psilocybin (the active drug in mushrooms)
Opium and its derivatives
Crystal Meth (methamphetamines)
Other amphetamines (like Adderall)
While some of these may be commonly available and legal with a prescription, they are illegal without a prescription.
Marijuana possession is treated separately. Though marijuana is technically a Schedule I drug, it is treated separately from other Schedule I drugs. Synthetic marijuana is not listed on the drug schedules at all. Instead, it is punished under separates sections: N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-5.3b and c.
Punishments for Drug Crimes in New Jersey
The degree of crime and the potential fines and sentence shift for drug offenses. Depending on the Schedule and amount of the drug, the crime becomes worse.
In general, possession of a Schedule I-IV drug is a third degree crime. Third degree crimes have three to five years prison sentences. For these drug crimes, there are also fines up to $35,000. Possession of a Schedule V drug is a fourth degree crime, punished by up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $15,000. Usually, these crimes have $15,000 and $10,000 fines, respectively. For these drug crimes, though, New Jersey, increased the fines.
For marijuana possession, the grade of the crime changes based on the weight possessed. Possessing 50 grams or less of marijuana (or five grams or less of hashish) is a “disorderly persons offense.” These are punishable by up to six months in jail, and a $1,000 fine. Possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana (or five grams of hashish) is a fourth degree crime, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
Possession of less than one ounce of synthetic marijuana is a fourth degree crime. This holds up to18 month prison sentences and fines up to $1,000. More than one ounce is a third degree crime, punishable by three to five years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
It is possible with many of these crimes to get little to no prison time. For instance, fourth degree crimes have “up to 18 months” in prison. A judge could order less than 18 months or no jail time. These kinds of flexible sentences are where an attorney’s experience and negotiation skills can help reduce sentences or drop charges.
Drug possession on school property unique penalties. When the judge does not order jail time, he must order 100 hours of community service instead. This applies to any drug. The statute includes school busses, school board property, and anywhere within 1,000 feet of a school for these purposes. The “school” must be an elementary or secondary school – so colleges do not count.
Talk to a New Jersey Drug Defense Lawyer Today
The attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych have experience helping clients fight drug charges in Ocean County. We practice throughout New Jersey to help our clients get charges dropped and stay out of jail. For a free consultation with our lawyers, call us today at (609) 616-4956.