Marijuana possession laws in New Jersey may be moving toward change, but possession of marijuana will always be illegal for minors.  New Jersey’s possession laws do not have any special rules for minors like underage drinking laws, and the statute applies equally to adults and minors.  However, the juvenile justice system handles underage drug possession charges.  If you or your child has been charged with a drug possession crime as a minor, talk to the Atlantic City juvenile defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today for a free consultation on your case.

Underage Marijuana Offenses in New Jersey

New Jersey’s drug possession crimes apply the same definition equally to adults and juveniles.  While the crime of marijuana possession might have the same definition, its penalties are vastly different for juveniles.

Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10, it is illegal to possess any marijuana without a prescription.  This includes marijuana in any form, such as leaves, oil, resin (hashish), or edibles.  If you possess less than 50 grams (or 5 grams of hashish), it is considered a “small amount” of marijuana.  For adults, this carries lesser penalties because the offense is as a disorderly persons offense instead of a fourth degree crime.

This is the standard offense for “simple” drug possession (a.k.a. possession for personal use).  If you give marijuana to someone else or are arrested for selling or delivering marijuana, you could face more severe charges for possession with the intent to deliver (PWID).  This is the same crime used for drug dealers, producers, manufacturers, and traffickers.  This is a more severe crime, charged as anywhere between a fourth degree crime and a first degree crime, depending on the amount you have.

When you are charged with possession, the government needs to prove that you knowingly possessed the drugs.  If you sincerely didn’t know you had marijuana, they may not be able to go through with the charges.  However, excuses that you were holding it for a friend or don’t know how it got in your backpack are often difficult to prove.  Still, if you were with others when marijuana was in a shared location, it may be more difficult for the government to prove you knew the marijuana was there or that you had access to the shared location.

With PWID charges where there is no evidence that you actually delivered drugs, prosecutors need to prove that you had the intent to deliver the drugs.  They may use evidence that you had large amounts of cash, scales to weigh drugs, or individual-sized baggies as evidence that you were dealing.

Juvenile Penalties for Drug Possession

When you are charged with a crime and you are under 18 years old, you do not go through the same criminal justice system as adults.  Juvenile charges, even drug charges, typically end in the minor being “adjudicated delinquent” rather than “found guilty,” and the offenses are not considered “crimes” in most juvenile cases.  For rather severe cases, you may be tried as an adult, especially if you are close to 18 years old.  Marijuana charges are common among teens, and courts and prosecutors are used to dealing with these kinds of charges.

When your case goes before a juvenile court, you may have the opportunity to challenge the charges against you in an “adjudication hearing.”  You have the right to an attorney during these hearings, which take the place of a “trial.”  If you lose the case, the judge will adjudicate you delinquent and decide what penalties you should face.  If your attorney can get the charges dismissed, you may be able to beat the charges and move on with your life.

If you are adjudicated delinquent, you will not usually face time in an adult jail.  Minors are often sentenced to time in a juvenile detention facility instead of a jail.  In many cases, especially cases for small amounts of marijuana, judges will place juvenile offenders on juvenile probation instead of sentencing them to confinement.

When you are placed on probation, you are required to check in with your juvenile probation officer (JPO), follow the rules the judge sets, and remain free from other offenses.  If you commit another offense while you are on probation, your probation might be revoked.  This could send you to a detention facility and bring additional charges and penalties.  Many of the terms of probation, especially for drug possession cases, require random and scheduled drug testing.  Your JPO typically does these tests.  You may also be placed on GPS monitoring and face other supervision rules.

You can remain on juvenile probation into adulthood, especially if you were close to 18 when the charges were filed.  You need to continue to serve the terms of probation until you complete them, which could be after you are already an adult.  However, additional charges you face after turning 18 are adult charges, which could send you to jail rather than the juvenile justice system.

Atlantic City Defense Attorney for Underage Marijuana Possession Charges

If you or your child was charged with juvenile marijuana possession offenses, talk to the Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.  Our attorneys have decades of experience in criminal law and have represented multiple juveniles in their cases.  For help with your case, contact our law offices today to schedule a free consultation.