New Jersey takes drug possession crimes very seriously. If you have been arrested in South Jersey for drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia, you may be wondering what exactly New Jersey’s drug crimes are.
If you were charged with simple drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia, this guide may help answer some of your questions.
New Jersey Drug Crimes
New Jersey’s drug possession crime is found in N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10. Unlike the drug offenses of some other states, New Jersey’s statute prohibits not only possession, but also being under the influence of drugs, or failing to turn drugs over to the police. That means that if you are caught having just ingested drugs, but do not have any on your person, you can still be charged. While most of these are crimes with severe penalties, some types of possession are disorderly persons offenses, similar to misdemeanors. More on this will be discussed below.
Drug paraphernalia is covered under N.J.S.A. § 2C:32-2. Both the use and possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia are illegal, but they are classified as a disorderly persons offense. N.J.S.A. § 2C:32-1 defines drug paraphernalia very broadly. It includes any equipment used for drugs in any way, whether it be growing, storing, weighing, hiding, packaging, or using. There are specific pieces of paraphernalia listed, such as bongs, pipes, balloons, etc. In proving that the item is indeed paraphernalia, evidence regarding its typical use, drug residue, the intent of the possessor, and more.
The possession of marijuana is included in the general drug possession offense. There are two different gradings for marijuana possession, which depend on how much marijuana is possessed. The more severe offense is for more than fifty grams of marijuana or more than five grams of hashish. The less severe offense is for possession of fifty grams or less of marijuana, or five grams or less of hashish.
When the statute says “marijuana,” it means any part of the plant, or anything made from the plant. That includes things like extracts, edibles, pills, or the leaves themselves. When the statute says “hashish” it specifically refers to marijuana resin or anything made out of the resin. Since hashish is more concentrated than the plant material, the threshold for enhanced penalties is lower.
The more severe crime, possession of over fifty grams (or ten grams of hashish), is a “fourth degree crime” in New Jersey. This is punishable by up to eighteen months in prison and up to $25,000 in fines – higher than the typical $10,000 fines for fourth degree crimes. The less severe crime, for less than fifty grams (or five grams of hashish) is a “disorderly persons offense.” That means that it has potential penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
There is a separate offense for synthetic marijuana in New Jersey. Since synthetic marijuana does not fit in any of the lists of drugs (see below), this separate offense covers its possession. More than one ounce of synthetic marijuana is a second degree crime, punishable by five to ten years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines. Less than one ounce of synthetic marijuana is a third degree crime, punishable by three to five years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
Other drugs, as is the case in most states and at the federal level, are organized into “schedules.” Drugs in Schedule I are considered the most dangerous and harmful drugs, Schedule II, III, and IV are also treated as quite dangerous. Possession of any drug, Schedule I-IV, is a third degree crime, punishable by three to five years in prison and a fine up to $35,000 – more than the $15,000 fine typical for third degree crimes. Possession of a Schedule V drug, though, is treated as a less severe fourth degree crime, punishable by up to eighteen months in jail and a $25,000 fine – greater than the $10,000 fine typical of fourth degree crimes.
The New Jersey drug schedules are actually found in the Food and Drug section of New Jersey’s statutes, in N.J.S.A. § 24:21-5 through § 24:21-9, starting with Schedule I and ending with Schedule V. Some examples of drugs in the top schedules are as follows:
- Marijuana (but see the special rules for marijuana crimes)
- Psilocybin (the drug in hallucinogenic mushrooms)
- MDA, MMDA, and MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly, and similar drugs)
- Opium and other opiates
- Cocaine (powder and crack)
- Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth)
- PCP (Angel Dust)
- Amphetamines (such as Adderall)
Beyond these, most drugs listed are obscure chemical compounds, especially in the lower schedules. If you have questions about a particular drug, consult your attorney. Most prescription drugs are also illegal to possess unless they are prescribed to you and kept in the original bottle. There can even be charges for people who have their own prescription in more than a ten day amount in a container other than the original bottle.
If you have been charged with drug possession in Southern Jersey and need an experienced criminal defense attorney, call the Law Offices of John Zarych. Our lawyers can help with charges for possession of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and even prescription drugs. If you would like to schedule a consultation, call (609) 616-4956.