New Jersey takes drug possession crimes very seriously. If you have been arrested in Vineland 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.
Possession Charges are Often Accompanies by Other Drug-Related Charges
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.
Possession of Prescribed Drugs in Vineland, NJ 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.
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.
How “Schedules” of Drugs Work in Vineland, NJ
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:
- 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 Vineland and need an experienced criminal defense attorney, call the Law Offices of John Zarych. Our lawyers can help with charges for possession of heroin, cocaine, MDMA, and even prescription drugs. If you would like to schedule a consultation, call (609) 616-4956.