What Are the Penalties for New Jersey Law § 2C:35-10(a)?

New Jersey’s N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10(a) is the primary New Jersey drug possession statute. This law makes it illegal to have drugs in your possession or to use drugs without a prescription. The penalties for this crime can be severe, and the fines are often upgraded from the base penalties you can face for other similar crimes.

If you or a loved one was arrested or charged with simple drug possession in New Jersey, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our Atlantic City drug possession lawyers work to fight drug charges and get cases dropped and dismissed. For help with your case, contact our law offices today at (609) 625-3006 to schedule a free legal consultation.

New Jersey Simple Drug Possession Law

N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10(a) makes it a crime to “knowingly or purposely” have drugs in your possession – or an “analog” of a controlled substance, such as a synthetic or designer drug. Understanding the ins and outs of how the law defines “possession” is important to understand when you can be charged with this crime.

The statute specifically states that it is illegal to possess the drugs “actually or constructively.” Understanding the definitions of these two types of possession highlights what is and is not covered under this statute.

Actual Possession

Actual possession refers to when you have something on your person. Having something in your hand is the clearest example of actual possession, but actual possession does expand to things in your pockets or items stuffed down your pants or into your sock. Actual possession is also typically expanded to include things in a backpack or a purse that you are currently wearing.

Proving actual possession is usually simple because a police officer can testify that they took the items from you during a search, which is usually enough to prove that you “possessed” the drugs in question.

Constructive Possession

Constructive possession refers to when you own something and have legal “possession” over something, but you might not have it with you at the moment. Typically, you would have constructive possession over things in your house or your car, for example, whether you are there at the time or not. Many people may think that they can beat a drug possession charge if they do not actually have the drugs on them, but constructive possession rules allow police and prosecutors to expand the definition of “possession.”

To prove you constructively possessed an item, such as drugs, prosecutors must prove that you had knowledge of the item and access to the place where it was located. This kind of possession is easier to challenge, especially if the location where the items were found was a shared location, you were locked out of the location, or the items were snuck into the location without your knowledge.

Note that these are rules for possession, not ownership, so the fact that you have them with you or have access to them can be a crime even if the drugs are not “yours.”

Penalties for Drug Possession under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10(a) in New Jersey

New Jersey’s drug possession statute lays out the potential penalties you can face if you are convicted of drug possession. There are multiple subsections of the statute that lay out different penalties for different types or amounts of drugs you possessed.

Drugs are separated into “Schedules” based on the addictiveness, danger, lack of control, and lack of therapeutic use for a drug. Schedule I drugs are the “worst” drugs, but the Schedule system ranges all the way down to Schedule V drugs. Many illicit drugs are Schedule I or II drugs, and many commonly abused or misused prescription drugs are Schedule II or III.

Possession of a Schedule I, II, III, or IV drug in any amount is a third degree crime. This has the potential penalty of 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $35,000.

Possession of a Schedule V drug in any amount is a fourth degree crime. This has the potential penalty of up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $15,000.

Marijuana possession is a fourth degree crime if you have over 50 grams (or 5 grams of hashish), but it is a disorderly persons offense if you have 50 grams or less (5 grams or less of hashish). The fourth degree crime is punished with up to 18 months in prison and a fine up to $25,000, while the disorderly persons offense is punished with up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000.

Penalties for simple drug possession can be modified if you were on school property with the drugs. This includes any elementary school or high school, but it does not extend to higher education institutions. This modification also applies to school buses or any area within 1,000 feet of a school or a school bus. Under this part of the statute, any time you are not sentenced to jail for the offense, you must perform at least 100 hours of community service as part of your penalties.

Atlantic City Drug Possession Lawyer Offering Free Legal Consultations

If you were arrested for simple possession under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10(a), contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych’s Atlantic City drug possession defense lawyers today. Our attorneys fight for drug possession defendants and work to get their charges dropped and dismissed or to get charges reduced. For help with your case, contact our law offices today to schedule a free legal consultation. Our number is (609) 625-3006.