Prescription drug addiction is a problem all over the country, and, to crack-down on distributers of addicting prescription drugs, the recreational use of prescription drugs is also cracked-down on. This means that people who are feeding Oxycontin addictions are treated as severely under the law as those who distribute Adderall to fellow college students. While unnecessary drug use should always be avoided, not only because it is illegal, but also because of the potential health consequences, many people are still arrested and charged with crimes related to the possession and sale of prescription drugs.
If you or your child has been charged with drug crimes based on prescription drugs in South Jersey, contact an attorney. The Law Offices of John Zarych have criminal defense attorneys that are experienced in handling prescription drug charges in South Jersey. Call (609) 616-4956 for a consultation on your case.
What Conduct is Illegal in New Jersey?
In general, the possession, sale, and use of drugs is all illegal in New Jersey, as is the possession of drug paraphernalia. Depending on the specific drug and amount of drugs, the punishments and criminal citations change. Drugs are organized into various “schedules” of drugs, corresponding to their danger and criminal association. Some of these make sense, such as classifying heroin as a Schedule I drug, the most severe category of drug. Others do not make sense, such as classifying cocaine as a lower, Schedule II drug, and classifying marijuana in the highest Schedule I.
Regardless of whether a drug’s severity and danger lines up with the legal schedule classification, the punishments for possession of certain drugs is based on their schedule. That means that possession of amphetamines like Adderall without a prescription is just as severe as possession of crystal meth or PCP, since all three of them are Schedule III drugs.
Separate Offense Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10.5
Some prescription drugs are commonly traded and used by people to whom they are not prescribed. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Amphetamines, such as Adderall
- Other ADHD medication, such as Ritalin
- Barbiturates, such as phenobarbital
- Benzodiazepines, or “Benzos,” such as Valium and Xanax
- Narcotic painkillers, such as codeine, Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycontin (oxycodone)
- Tranquilizers, such as Seroquel (quetiapine)
For prescription drugs in particular, there is a separate offense under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10.5 for distributing “prescription legend” drugs. That covers any drug that would normally need a pharmacist, doctor, veterinarian, or dentist to prescribe. This offense punishes not only the possession or sale of illegal drugs, but focuses on the fact that these drugs require a license to distribute, and punishes that license violation as well.
This prescription violation, unlike the typical drug crimes which are based on weight of the drugs, deals with the number of doses. The minimum violation of § 2C:35-10.5 is for distribution of only four or fewer doses. The next level is for five to 100 doses, and the highest level is for 100 or more doses.
There is even a crime for possessing your own prescription drugs without the proper container and prescription. N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-24 makes it illegal to carry more than a ten day supply outside the original container.
Contact a Southern New Jersey Prescription Drug Charges Lawyer
In order to prove that you are committing a crime, police and prosecutors need to show that you had these drugs illegally, or with the intent to distribute them. Some of these elements can be broken by proving certain defenses.
In general, if you are charged with simple possession (without the intent to distribute drugs), it is a defense that you were carrying your own prescription medication. It is not illegal to carry your prescriptions with you, so long as they are in the original bottle and are prescribed to you. If you are possessing them with the intent to distribute them, this defense will not work.
There is a built-in defense to the prescription drug offense for “de minimis” infractions. This means that the breaking of the law was so slight that it does not count as a violation. In some cases, people give others prescription drugs, but are not selling or trading in them, such as loaning someone a Valium before a flight. If you are charged with a violation of § 2C:35-10.5, you can beat the charge by demonstrating that:
- the drugs were prescribed to you,
- you distributed no more than six doses of the drug within twenty-four hours, and
- the drugs were for the recipient’s personal use.
This means admitting to distributing the drugs, but arguing that it was not “criminal” to do so.
If you or your child has been charged with a prescription drug offense in South Jersey, contact the Law Offices of John Zarych. With over thirty years of legal experience, our attorneys know how to handle prescription drug charges for our clients. Call (609) 616-4956 for a free, no obligation consultation.