Sentencing Guidelines for First Time Schedule IV Drug Offenses
New Jersey is known for its tough drug laws, and convicted offenders can face harsh criminal penalties – even when they have a clean record. In addition to a lengthy jail sentence, being convicted of a drug crime can result in hefty fines, license suspension, loss of professional certifications, and other devastating consequences. For students and teenagers, drug charges could also interfere with certain college loans.
If you or your daughter or son was arrested for Schedule IV drug crimes in Atlantic County, Cape May County, or the surrounding counties, it’s critically important to get help from a trusted defense attorney with a track record of success. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our dedicated legal team brings over 45 years of experience to every drug matter we handle. We may be able to have the charges against you or your child dismissed, negotiate a lighter sentence, help you apply for a conditional discharge, or prove that you were the victim of an illegal search and seizure. To set up a free and private legal consultation, call our Atlantic City drug lawyers at (609) 616-4956 today.
What Are Schedule IV Controlled Substances?
In 1970, Congress passed a piece of legislation called the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, which created five categories, or “Schedules,” for hundreds of different drugs. Schedules are numbered I through V, depending on the drug’s medical legitimacy and potential for addiction. Offenses involving Schedule I substances typically carry the most severe penalties, while Schedule V substances usually have the lightest penalties.
Drugs are scheduled on two levels: the federal drug schedule, which is handled by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), and the state drug schedule. New Jersey’s drug schedule is very similar to the federal schedule, with some minor variations between the two.
Schedule IV controlled dangerous substances (CDS) include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Ambien (Zolpidem)
- Ativan (Lorazepam)
- Darvon/Darvocet (Propoxyphene)
- Soma (Carisoprodol)
- Talwin (Pentazocine)
- Valium (Diazepam)
- Xanax (Alprazolam)
NJ Criminal Penalties for Sale and Possession of Schedule IV and Prescription Drugs
New Jersey’s criminal statutes do not make any special sentencing provisions for persons with otherwise clean criminal records. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-5, any defendant who is convicted of distributing, manufacturing, or dispending a Schedule IV CDS has committed a third degree crime and faces up to $25,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.
Many Schedule IV drugs are normally legal prescription medications, but can still become illegal if they aren’t prescribed directly to a patient from a qualified physician. N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10.5 criminalizes the possession or distribution of prescription drugs to anyone other than the intended patient, by anyone other than the authorized physician or pharmacist. “Pill mills,” a nickname for pharmacies and clinics which prescribe huge amounts of medication for illegitimate purposes, are a prime example of how normally-legal prescription drugs can lead to criminal charges.
Depending on the quantity of the prescription drug and whether the defendant gains financially from the exchange, charges can range from a disorderly persons (DP) offense, which is similar to a misdemeanor, to a second degree crime, or second degree felony. A DP offense can result in fines up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail, while a second degree crime involving prescription drug fraud is punishable by up to $300,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
If You Have a Clean Record, Are You Eligible for Conditional Discharge?
A clean prior record doesn’t always mean the defendant will receive a shorter sentence or a smaller fine – particularly not if the offense involved any aggravating factors, such as causing an injury, endangering a child, using a deadly weapon, or selling drugs on school property. That being said, a clean criminal history does open up the opportunity to participate in a diversion program known as conditional discharge.
Conditional discharge has three major benefits for first-time drug offenders:
- You will not be sent to prison.
- You will not receive a criminal record.
- The charges against you will be dismissed.
While you will not be incarcerated, you will be expected to comply with certain rules and prohibitions, similar to being on probation. Conditional discharge can last as long as three years, but for most people, the program ends after 12 months. During this time, your case will be suspended. If you complete all rules and requirements successfully, your drug charges will be dismissed at the end of the program.
In cases where a suspended sentence is the likely outcome, minor offenses are ineligible for Pretrial Intervention (PTI). However, if the charges involve an indictable crime (felony), and the offender is non-violent, PTI may be a possibility, depending on the circumstances.
Trust A New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or one of your loved ones was arrested for possession or distribution of Schedule IV narcotics like Ambien, Valium, or Xanax, the penalties you face could be severe. However, with representation from a skilled and knowledgeable criminal lawyer, you may be able to defeat the charges or avoid jail by applying for a conditional discharge.
To set up a free and completely confidential legal consultation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956. We handle serious drug crimes throughout the Atlantic County and Cape May County area, including Atlantic City, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, Pleasantville, Hammonton, Ocean City, Dennis Township, Wildwood, and Woodbine. Se habla español.