Not only can you face harsh penalties for the drug possession and spend weeks or months in and out of court, but you can also get a criminal record. Once you have a record, it becomes more difficult to apply to programs that may help you avoid penalties for criminal offenses, and the penalties you face may be increased at sentencing when you are convicted of a second or third offense. The Atlantic City drug possession lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain how the penalties change for repeat marijuana possession and what you can expect if you were charged with a second or third marijuana charge.

Penalties for Marijuana Possession in New Jersey

If you are arrested for marijuana possession for a first-time offense, you can face serious penalties. If you already faced one conviction for marijuana offenses, then you already know how harsh these penalties can be. Many people arrested for marijuana charges end up facing multiple arrests in a short period of time, before the first case ever goes to court. Because of this, it is vital to understand what penalties you can face for a first-time conviction before looking at multiple convictions.

Marijuana penalties change depending on the amount possessed. In New Jersey, a “small amount” is any amount equal to 50 grams or less (or 5 grams or less if you possess hashish/marijuana oil). Possession of a small amount of marijuana is a disorderly persons offense, and possession of more than a small amount is a fourth degree crime.

A disorderly persons offense for a small amount of pot can lead to up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000. A conviction for a fourth degree crime for marijuana possession can lead to up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $25,000.

How Does the Sentence Change for Multiple Marijuana Possession Convictions?

Any time you are convicted of a crime, sentencing is up to the judge. The statute gives maximum penalties, but it does not require that the judge gives such strong penalties. For instance, while possession of a small amount can come with up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000, many judges will avoid sending you to jail for low-level drug offenses.

The penalties you faced on your first time drug offense often stand as a starting point for repeat offenses, going up from there. For instance, a judge may order you to pay a fine for your first offense for a small amount, but a second or third offense may move the judge to order a maximum fine or include some term of probation or jail time.

No guidelines dictate precisely how a judge should increase the penalties for repeat offenses, but there are factors a judge looks at. First, the severity of the crime is considered. While any amount can trigger charges for a small amount of marijuana, especially small amounts like residue or shakings may be punished with light penalties. Second, the judge will consider your risk of recidivism. If you are locked up or under supervision from parole, it makes it more difficult to commit another offense. Judges may also look at past records of repeat criminal activity or probation violations to judge your risk of re-offending. Third, judges look at your cooperation. If you argued and complained to police and lied to the court, your charges may be more severe than if you cooperated with investigations and owned-up to the offense by pleading guilty.

These are just some examples of factors a court looks at when determining your sentence. It is important to talk to an attorney and seek representation during your sentencing hearing to address all potential details.

One other factor it is important to understand is that the court can take nearly any information into account when determining your sentence. If you were convicted of a prior marijuana offense, your criminal record will show this conviction, and the judge can use it in determining your sentence. However, if you are awaiting trial for multiple marijuana arrests before sentencing, the judge can still take those into account when determining your sentence, even though they have not been proven yet. A judge may wait to sentence you until those cases are taken care of so that your sentence can reflect on your criminal record as a whole. This can prevent overlapping penalties for multiple charges and help reduce your overall penalties.

Atlantic City Marijuana Possession Lawyer

If you or a loved one was charged with possessing marijuana in Atlantic City or the surrounding areas, contact The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our attorneys represent defendants whether this is their first charge, second charge, or another marijuana charge. We can fight to have your sentence reduced or beat the charges against you. For help with your case, contact our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers today at (690) 800-2942.