It is often difficult to understand drug charges because there are so many different classifications of controlled substances. Some drugs are incredibly addictive and dangerous, but others have legitimate medical uses and can be helpful under the proper circumstances. If you have illegal drugs in your possession, you may be facing stiff criminal penalties.
Drug possession is a very common drug charge. Although being charged with any crime is scary, drug possession is a non-violent offense that might be downgraded if you play your cards right. If you are convicted of your first-ever charge for drug possession, you might have unique opportunities that would be otherwise unavailable for repeat offenders.
Being convicted of drug possession charges might feel overwhelming and frightening. Our Atlantic City drug possession defense attorneys can help you fight for the fairest sentence possible or alternative sentencing that might help you avoid incarceration. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free case review.
Standard Penalties for First-Time Drug Possession Offenders in New Jersey
Although there may be various alternative avenues for first-time drug offenders, you must consider the standard penalties that are ordinarily imposed. Alternative sentencing is not guaranteed even if you are eligible.
Standard penalties for drug possession charges can be found under N.J.S.A § 2C:35-10. According to New Jersey law, the penalties for a drug possession conviction will change depending on what kind of drugs were involved in the alleged offense.
Drugs and controlled substances are grouped into five different “Schedules.” Schedule I contains the most addictive and dangerous substances with little to no “legitimate” medical purpose. Schedule V, in contrast, contains drugs that are dangerous if misused but might have beneficial medical uses when prescribed by a doctor and used in the right dosages. Schedules II, III, and IV all fall somewhere in the middle.
The least severe charge for drug possession is for a fourth-degree crime, and this tends to apply more often to Schedule V controlled substances than other Schedules. A fourth-degree crime may be punished by no more than 18 months in prison. Possession of any other Schedule I through IV drugs is charged as a third-degree crime. A third-degree crime may be met with at least 3 years in prison but no more than 5.
Depending on the details of your case, you could instead be charged with possession with intent to distribute (PWID). This is a more serious charge applied to people suspected of dealing drugs. The charges and penalties for PWID offenses tend to be higher, even for controlled substances from less severe Schedules.
Marijuana is tricky when it comes to possession. Marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized in many different places. In New Jersey, marijuana is legal for medical and recreational use in certain quantities. However, the State of New Jersey still applies criminal charges to certain marijuana-related drug offenses, like possession with intent to deliver. If you have 50 grams or less of marijuana, you can be charged with a disorderly persons offense, which is a minor charge that comes with less than 1 year of jail time. Our Brigantine drug possession defense lawyers can help you argue for a fair sentence after conviction.
Opportunities for Probation for Drug Possession Convictions with No Prior Criminal History in New Jersey
Probation is a sentencing option where a convicted defendant can serve their sentence from home rather than prison. However, probation is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Courts attach numerous restrictions and rules to probation that convicted defendants must abide by or face additional consequences. Probation is not available in every case, but it tends to be available for first-time, non-violent offenders. Our Brooklawn, NJ drug possession defense attorneys can help you argue for probation if you are convicted of drug possession and have no criminal history.
Probation is often preferred at sentencing because you do not have to serve your sentence from behind bars. However, you must abide by certain conditions imposed by the court. Maintaining a job, avoiding crime, performing community service, and attending drug treatment and education courses are all common probation terms.
If you are placed on probation, you will be assigned a probation officer whose job is to keep you in check. Failure to meet with your probation officer, or if the officer catches you breaking the rules of your probation, could lead to being re-arrested and sent back to court. The judge might then add more restrictive terms to your probation, extend your probation, or revoke your probation and send you to prison.
Drug Court for First-Time Drug Possession Convictions in New Jersey
Drug Court is a program in New Jersey designed for first-time, non-violent drug offenders who have serious addiction problems. Drug Court focuses more on rehabilitation to prevent future re-offending rather than punishment. If you are eligible, our New Jersey drug possession defense attorneys can argue for your admission to Drug Court.
To get into Drug Court, your offense must be non-violent, and you typically must be a first-time offender. The key requirement for drug court is addiction. Defendants eligible for drug court have moderate to severe drug dependency problems and need intense treatment. There are multiple phases of the Drug Court program, and you are required to undergo treatment and regular drug testing.
If you complete the program, you might be able to have your conviction expunged, and you can start over with a clean slate. However, not every drug court participant is eligible for expungement. Talk to our Cape May drug possession defense attorneys about getting into the program and how it could work for you.
Pretrial Intervention for a First-Time Drug Possession Conviction in New Jersey
Another program designed for first-time offenders is New Jersey’s Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI). This program allows defendants to avoid convictions for their first offense. You must apply to the program, and acceptance is not guaranteed. Generally, you must not have any criminal history or have ever participated in another diversionary program before. You must also be charged with a crime rather than a disorderly persons offense.
The judge could suspend legal proceedings against you for up to 36 months in the program. During this time, you must abide by the program’s requirements. Requirements can include paying penalties, random drug testing, community service, drug treatment, mental health assessments, and more. If you comply with all the program’s requirements, the charges against you could be dismissed, and you would avoid a conviction. Failure to complete the program would result in your charges being reinstated.
Upon completion of PTI, there is no record of a conviction. However, you can petition to expunge the records of your arrest and criminal complaint. Speak to our South Jersey drug possession defense attorneys about applying to the PTI program.
Call Our New Jersey Drug Possession Defense Lawyers for Help
If you are facing drug possession charges, being a first-time offender can work in your favor. Our Wildwood, NJ drug possession defense attorneys can help you fight your charges and advocate for more lenient penalties. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 and ask about a free case evaluation.