Drug-related offenses are not taken lightly by the authorities of New Jersey. Depending on what kind of drug, otherwise known as a controlled substance, you had, the charges and the penalties will be different. Additionally, what you were doing with the controlled substance will affect the outcome of your case. Simply possessing a controlled substance is one thing, but if the police suspect you intended to sell them the charges and penalties will change. There are many different types of drugs or controlled substances that are illegal to possess or distribute in New Jersey, including cocaine. Controlled substances are classified into five different schedules of drugs, with each schedule carrying different consequences.
Possession of cocaine in New Jersey must be taken very seriously and the case diligently handled with the utmost care. Continue reading from our Atlantic City cocaine possession defense lawyers to learn how cocaine possession is treated by law enforcement and the courts in New Jersey and the penalties you might face.
Drug Classifications in New Jersey
In New Jersey and the State of New Jersey, drugs and controlled substances are divided into five different categories or “schedules,” with Schedule V being the least dangerous and Schedule I being the most dangerous. Controlled substances are classified based on factors such as their risk for abuse and dependency and whether they have any other valid medical use. Cocaine is currently a schedule two controlled substance under N.J.S.A. § 24:21-7.
A Schedule I controlled substance is one which has an extremely high potential for abuse and dependency but has no valid medical use. These are the most dangerous drugs and will be treated the most harshly by law enforcement and prosecutors. Schedule II drugs are similar to Schedule I drugs because they also have a high potential for abuse and dependency, but Schedule II drugs have an accepted medical use. Although cocaine is dangerously addictive, it actually has a very limited use as a local anesthetic for certain ear, nose, and throat surgeries. The use of cocaine for a legitimate medical purpose is highly restricted due its highly addictive and dangerous nature.
Schedules III through V contain somewhat less-dangerous controlled substances that have increasingly valid and useful medical purposes. The controlled substances in these categories tend to be less addictive and their effects less dangerous on the human mind and body. Their medical uses are also somewhat less restricted and more common.
Different Types of Cocaine Possession in New Jersey
Drug possession is exactly what it sounds like. When a person has knowingly and purposely obtained an illegal drug or controlled substance, they may be charged with possession. Possession means that the defendant had control over the drug but does not necessarily mean that the drugs were on the defendant’s person. For example, if you keep cocaine in your vehicle, you may be charged with possession even though you were not inside your vehicle at the time of arrest. Nonetheless, you had control over the movement of the drugs.
Possession of a Schedule II drug or controlled substance is classified as a third-degree crime in New Jersey. Third degree crimes carry prison terms of 3 to 5 years. If a defendant is convicted of cocaine possession while in a restricted zone, usually on or near a school zone, they must complete 100 hours of community service in addition to any jail time.
Elements of a Drug Possession Charge
To be charged with a crime, law enforcement and prosecutors must prove two important elements: the defendant’s criminal intent and the criminal act. To put it simply, they must prove the defendant intended to commit a crime and that the crime did in fact happen. This may seem confusing because simply possessing cocaine may not appear to be a criminal act. According to New Jersey law, possession is itself a criminal action. A defendant does not need to do anything with the cocaine in order to be charged. Simply intentionally having control of the drugs is sufficient.
Possession with the Intent to Distribute
Intentional possession of cocaine may lead to criminal charges, but if you also intended to sell or distribute the cocaine, the charges may be upgraded and you will face additional penalties. See below for penalties for possession with the intent to distribute. This not only applies to cocaine, but any other substance a dealer may try to pass off as cocaine. Possessing an imitation controlled substance and passing it off as cocaine may also lead to possession charges. This statute primarily targets drug dealers who sell fake drugs as if they were the real thing. A defendant may still be charged with possession, but of an imitation controlled substance. The imitation substance must be of a similar appearance to the real thing and may be packaged in a similar manner.
Even though the drugs in your possession were fake, you will still be charged as if the drugs were the real thing. Defendants charged with possession of an imitation controlled substance face third-degree crime charges and a fine of up to $200,000.
Penalties for Possession of Cocaine in New Jersey
The typical sentence for a defendant convicted of possession of cocaine is 3 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $35,000. This is the typical sentence for an ordinary charge for a third-degree crime. However, depending on your circumstances you may be subjected to an extended sentence.
A defendant convicted of manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with the intent to distribute cocaine may face additional sentencing. A defendant may also face additional sentencing if they maintain a facility for producing dangerous controlled substances, employ a minor in the distributing of controlled substances, lead a drug trafficking network, distribute controlled substances on or near school property, and they have been convicted before of manufacturing, distributing, or possession with intent to distribute a dangerous controlled substance. The extended sentencing terms may increase the prison sentence to 5 to 10 years.
Contact Our Cocaine Possession Lawyer in New Jersey for a Free Consultation
If you have been charged with possession of cocaine in New Jersey, it is best that you hire an Atlantic City criminal defense attorney to handle your case. Police and the courts treat drug offenses very seriously. An experienced attorney will help you throughout your case while protecting your rights and working toward the best possible outcome. Schedule a free consultation with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956.