Sentencing Guidelines for First Time Schedule III Drug Offenses

The sale, possession, distribution, or manufacture of Schedule III drugs is a felony in New Jersey.  If you are convicted, you could face incarceration, huge fines, suspension of your driver’s license, and the creation of a permanent criminal record – even if you have never been convicted of a crime before.  If you are enrolled in college or plan on becoming enrolled, you could also risk losing eligibility for certain student loans.

While first-time drug offenders face serious criminal penalties, having skilled representation in the courtroom can help increase the likelihood of being admitted into a diversionary program like Pretrial Intervention (PTI), which gives people with clean records a chance to erase their mistakes and avoid incarceration.  At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our knowledgeable team of criminal defense lawyers brings more than four decades of experience to handling drug crimes in Atlantic County and Cape May County.  To start discussing your case in a free, completely private legal consultation, call our law offices at (609) 616-4956 today.  Se habla español.

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What is a Schedule III Drug, or CDS (Controlled Dangerous Substance)?

During the 1970s, Congress passed a piece of legislation known as the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act.  In addition to the Controlled Substances Act, or the federal statute related to drug crimes, the Prevention and Control Act also created five numbered categories, known as “Schedules,” for the classification of both illegal street drugs and legal prescription medications.  Schedule I drug offenses are typically subject to the greatest penalties, while Schedule V drug offenses typically carry lesser penalties.

In addition to the federal schedule, which is sometimes updated by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), New Jersey also maintains its own schedule at the state level, codified at N.J.S.A. § 24:21-5 through N.J.S.A. § 24:21-8.1.  In particular, N.J.S.A. § 24:21-7 governs Schedule III drugs, which are referred to by New Jersey as “controlled dangerous substances” or CDS.  Under New Jersey law, Schedule III drugs include:

  • Barbiturates
  • Ketamine
  • PCP (Phencyclidine)

Other Schedule III drugs under the federal classification system include:

  • Steroids
  • Testosterone

NJ Penalties for Drug Possession and Distribution: Fines and Sentences

Most drug crimes relate either to simple possession, which is the possession of CDS for personal use, or possession with intent to deliver (PWID).  Other, less commonly charged offenses include trafficking, manufacture, and the sale or possession of paraphernalia.  Possession can be “actual,” which means the defendant allegedly had drugs on his or her person, or “constructive,” which means the defendant was in a position to exert control over drugs at a nearby location.

Possession of CDS is governed by N.J.S.A. § 2C-35:10, which makes possession of any Schedule III drug a third degree crime, equivalent to a third degree felony.  While state law permits a maximum fine of up to $35,000 and a maximum prison sentence of up to five years in prison for this offense, it is often possible for non-violent offenders with otherwise clean records to participate in diversionary programs, such as PTI, which is described in the following section.

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The manufacture and distribution of drugs are addressed in a separate statute, N.J.S.A. § 2C-35:5.  With some exceptions, producing, selling, or otherwise distributing Schedule III CDS is a third degree crime, subject to a fine of up to $25,000 and a prison term of three to five years.

One of these exceptions is phencyclidine, or PCP.  The way a charge of selling or manufacturing PCP is categorized depends on the quantity of PCP involved, as follows:

  • 10 grams or more
    • Grading – First degree crime
    • Fine – Up to $500,000
    • Sentence – Up to 20 years, with a minimum prison term between one-third and one-half the sentence ordered by the court with no possibility of parole
  • Less than 10 grams
    • Grading – Second degree crime
    • Fine – Up to $150,000
    • Sentence – Up to 10 years

Who Qualifies for PTI (Pretrial Intervention)? Why Participate?

Pretrial Intervention is a diversionary program which places an emphasis on rehabilitation instead of punishment.  If you are accepted into PTI, your sentence will be suspended while you work to complete the program, which is similar to probation.  You must follow certain rules for the duration of the program, which typically lasts anywhere from one to three years, such as abstaining from drug use and performing community service.

If you are able to complete the program successfully, there can be enormous benefits.  Not only will you avoid going to prison, there will also be no record of your conviction, which will make your life easier when it comes to applying for jobs, loans, and professional licenses and certifications.

PTI guidelines vary from county to county, but generally speaking, the program:

  • Is intended for adult residents of New Jersey.
  • Is intended for indictable crimes (felonies).
  • Does not accept offenders who have already participated in diversionary programs in the past.
    • People who are currently on probation or parole are generally excluded, but may be approved with authorization from the prosecutor.

If you were arrested for the sale or possession of Schedule III CDS in Atlantic County, Cape May County, or the surrounding area, turn to the experienced drug crime lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych for aggressive legal representation.  Call us at (609) 616-4956 today to set up your free consultation.