There are numerous laws and offenses that surround illicit drugs and controlled substances. While distributing or dealing drugs is, of course, highly illegal, it is also a criminal offense just to have drugs in your possession. While drug dealers are often charged with possession, recreational users can also face severe charges for having drugs. If this is your first time facing drug possession charges, you may be confused about how penalties will be assessed.
The penalties for a first-time offender charged with drug possession will vary depending on what kind of drugs were found in your possession. Drugs and controlled substances are classified by Schedule. These classifications include Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V controlled substances. There are other penalties for unlawfully possessing prescription drugs or even fake or counterfeit drugs. A first-time drug possession offender in New Jersey could face up to 18 months in prison, or 3 to 5 years for more dangerous drugs. You may also pay up $15,000 in fines.
If you or a loved one is currently facing drug possession charges as a first-time offender, contact an attorney immediately. Our Atlantic City drug possession defense lawyers can help you understand the nature of your charges and penalties and fight to clear your name. Schedule a private, free legal consultation at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956 today.
First-Time Drug Possession Charges for Schedule I Through V Controlled Substances in New Jersey
When most people think about drugs and charges for drug-related offenses, they probably think of illicit or illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, or marijuana. These drugs, along with many others, fall somewhere on the drug Schedules. In general, more addictive and dangerous drugs with fewer legitimate medical purposes will be classified closer to Schedule I, the most serious class.
Anyone found in possession of any Schedule I, II, III, or IV drug may be charged with a third-degree crime in New Jersey. Possession of a Schedule V drug, which is less serious than the other Schedules, may be charged as a fourth-degree crime.
Marijuana has been the topic of growing debate in recent years and the laws surrounding criminal marijuana charges tend to be in flux. As of 2021, you may be charged with a fourth-degree crime for possession of at least 6 grams of marijuana or 17 grams of hashish. However, According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10(3)(b)(i), the smell of marijuana is not enough for the police to search you. Additionally, you will not be arrested for mere possession of marijuana unless you are also committing another crime.
Possession is a somewhat lesser charge compared to other more serious drug-related offenses. Third-degree crimes may be punished by at least 3 years in prison but no more than 5 years. Fourth-degree crimes are punishable by up to 18 months in prison. As a first-time offender, it may be easier to get prosecutors to agree to a plea deal in which you have some charges dropped or reduced, and you serve a lighter sentence. Speak to our South Jersey drug possession defense attorney for more information.
Possession of a Counterfeit Controlled Substance in New Jersey
Not only can possession of illicit controlled substances be criminally charged in New Jersey, but you may also be charged for possession of fake or counterfeit controlled substances. In most cases, these charges apply to drug dealers selling counterfeit drugs as if they were the real thing to unsuspecting buyers. If you are facing charges relating to the possession of an imitation controlled substance, speak to our New Jersey drug possession defense attorneys now.
Possession of an imitation controlled substance can be charged as a third-degree crime in New Jersey. It is not a defense to these charges that you did not know the drugs were counterfeit. Charges may be based on numerous factors, including how the substance was packaged, how it was distributed, and the overall physical appearance of the imitation drugs. You may also face fines of up to $200,000.
As a first-time offender, your charges will probably not look any different than the charges a repeat offender would face. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-11, there are no increased charges or penalties for repeat counterfeit drug offenders. However, you may have a better shot at convincing a prosecutor to downgrade your charges or dismiss them as part of a plea bargain. A clean criminal history can be a strong mitigating factor and help you avoid more severe penalties.
First-Time Possession of Certain Prescription Drugs in New Jersey
Doctors often provide prescription drugs to patients in need of medical treatment. Common prescription drugs include pain relievers, blood pressure medication, and anti-depressants, just to name a few. Under the care of a trained and licensed medical professional, these drugs can help patients recover from illness or cope with uncomfortable symptoms. However, in the wrong hands, they can be abused.
Your charges will be based on the amount of the prescription drug in your possession. Possessing four doses or fewer without a valid prescription may be a disorderly persons offense. Possessing five or more doses may be a fourth-degree crime. The law does not differentiate between first-time and repeat offenders. However, a first-time offender will be a in a better position to negotiate with prosecutors.
Your charges may be downgraded to a de minimis infraction if you can show that you obtained no more than 6 doses within 24 hours, that the drugs had lawfully been prescribed to the person who gave them to you, and that you had the drugs only for personal use. De minimis infractions are very minor and may be dismissed under certain conditions. Call our Wildwood drug possession attorneys today to discuss your case.
Defenses to Drug Possession Charges in New Jersey
To be charged with drug possession, a defendant usually must be aware they have control over the illicit substance. Having control does not necessarily mean having the drugs on your person. It can mean having them stored somewhere that you can easily access and control. For example, stashing drugs in your car, gym locker, or office desk may result in possession charges.
You may defend yourself against these charges by arguing that you did not know about the drugs. It is not uncommon for people who buy and sell drugs to store them secretly. Sometimes, they keep their drugs at someone else’s home without the other person’s knowledge. If this sounds similar to your situation, you may fight your charges.
You can also fight drug possession charges by proving you had a prescription for the drugs or were otherwise lawfully provided with the drugs. Certain prescription drugs can be extremely dangerous and addictive, so you should always hang on to your prescription information as proof you are authorized to have those medications. Call our Brigantine drug possession attorneys to discuss potential defense strategies for your case.
Call Our New Jersey Drug Possession Defense Lawyers for Advice
If you have been charged with drug possession or a related offense, you need to contact an attorney right away for help. Our New Jersey drug possession lawyers can help you fight your charges or, at the very least, have them reduced. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956 today for a free consultation.