Sentencing is not nearly as straightforward as people tend to think it is, especially for drug offenses. Many assume that for every crime, there is a specific punishment. However, the reality is that prison sentences and other penalties exist on a range. Where your sentence ultimately falls within a given range is influenced by the details surrounding your case, including your status as a first-time offender.
Drug charges will differ based on the Schedule of drugs involved. Drugs are categorized in Schedules I through V and are grouped based on their potential for abuse, medical uses, and overall level of risk. Schedule IV drugs are the second least dangerous and are often met with more lenient penalties compared to other Schedules. While charges and penalties will vary, your status as a first-time offender may be leveraged to get you a lighter sentence.
Our drug crime defense attorneys have experience handling all levels of drug charges, including those for Schedule IV drugs. Call our team at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for help. We offer free case reviews and can help you defend your rights.
Ordinary Sentencing for First-Time Schedule IV Drug Offenders in New Jersey
The standard terms for sentencing drug offenders, including first-time offenders, can be found under The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. Numerous drug offenses within the Code may apply depending on how your alleged crime happened. Common charges include possession, manufacture, and distribution of controlled substances. The charges often apply to people who are making, dealing, or simply having drugs. Schedule IV drugs tend to have a lower potential for abuse and more accepted medical uses. Schedule IV drugs include, but are not limited to, the following:
Many Schedule IV drugs can be obtained via a valid prescription from a doctor. If you have any prescription medications, our Wildwood, NJ drug crimes defense attorneys can tell you if they are Schedule IV controlled substances.
Possession charges can be found under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10, which contains provisions for various drug Schedules, including Schedule IV. Possession is defined as knowingly obtaining or having control over a dangerous controlled substance unless the substance was obtained via a legal and valid prescription. For possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance, you could be guilty of a third-degree crime and sentenced to at least 3 years but no more than 5 years in prison.
Charges for manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing can be assessed under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-5. This offense involves producing or manufacturing controlled substances, selling them, or otherwise distributing them to others. This charge typically applies to dealers rather than actual users. You could be charged with a third-degree crime for producing Schedule IV drugs and face a similar sentence to that for possession.
Possible Sentencing for First Time Schedule IV Drug Offenders in New Jersey
If the drugs involved in either of these offenses fall under Schedule IV, the charges may be for third-degree crimes. Such a crime may be punished by at least 3 years or up to 5 years in prison. As a first-time offender, the judge may impose a sentence on the lower end of this range. However, the judge may also consider numerous aggravating and mitigating factors when deciding your sentence.
The judge can weigh mitigating and aggravating factors when deciding your sentence. Mitigating factors may make the judge inclined to impose a more lenient sentence, but aggravating factors might call for a harsher punishment. Mitigating factors might include the volume of drugs involved if it was small, a lack of violence involved in the crime, and your clean criminal record as a first-time offender. We must use these factors to convince the judge that your sentence should be 3 years, not 5.
We can also advocate for alternative sentencing options if they are available. Schedule IV drug offenses are relatively minor compared to other, more serious drug crimes. The minor nature of your offense combined with your first-time offender status might make you eligible for probation. On probation, you serve your sentence at home while abiding by certain conditions imposed by the court. You might have to attend drug treatment courses, check in with a probation officer, hold down a job, and steer clear of criminal trouble, but you will not be in prison.
Numerous drug offenses could involve Schedule IV drugs, making your charges and possible sentences unpredictable. Our Ocean County, NJ drug crime defense lawyers can help you highlight your mitigating factors while downplaying any aggravating circumstances.
Special Probation in New Jersey for First-Time Schedule IV Drug Offenders
Many defendants of drug offenses are afforded unique sentencing opportunities. Special probation is sometimes offered to defendants who meet specific criteria. Special probation is not available to all defendants, but as a first-time offender charged with Schedule IV drug offenses, you might be able to take advantage of the opportunity with the help of an attorney. Our New Jersey drug crime defense lawyers can assist.
Special probation is reserved for defendants with serious drug dependency issues whose conviction makes them ineligible for regular probation. There are numerous requirements and criteria for special probation under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-14. Drugs must play a significant role in the commission of the crime. An eligible defendant must be dependent on drugs under the influence of drugs when the crime occurred.
One important eligibility requirement is that you must not have been previously convicted of two or more first or second-degree crimes. As a first-time offender, you may be eligible for special probation. The program offers drug and alcohol treatment and lasts for five years. If you successfully complete the special probation program, the court may expunge your criminal record, allowing you to start over with a clean slate.
Plea Deal Negotiations for First-Time Schedule IV Drug Offenders in New Jersey
With your first-time offender status and the fact that Schedule IV drug offenses are relatively less severe than other drug offenses, you might have more bargaining power in plea deal negotiations. A plea deal is an agreement between prosecutors and the defendant. The prosecutors will reduce your charges and penalties, and you agree to plead guilty, waiving your trial rights.
Our New Jersey drug crime defense attorneys can use your first-time offender status to argue for a more generous plea deal. Many drug offenses are “victimless,” meaning that the defendant’s actions directly harm nobody. For example, drug possession is a victimless crime. A non-violent crime related to Schedule IV drugs may be negotiated down to something with little to no jail time. Prosecutors might be more willing to cooperate if they know you have no criminal record.
Call Our New Jersey Drug Crime Defense Attorneys
If you are charged with your very first offense for a Schedule IV drug offense, call our Cape May drug crime defense attorneys now. The lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych offer free case reviews to help you get started. Call us at (609) 616-4956.