Experienced New Jersey Marijuana Lawyers Fight Possession & Distribution Charges
New Jersey treats marijuana charges very seriously. While some states have begun to decriminalize marijuana possession, NJ Gov. Chris Christie recently vetoed a bill that would have done so in New Jersey. As a result, being caught with a single marijuana joint or just a few marijuana seeds in New Jersey can have serious repercussions.
A conviction for marijuana possession could expose you to severe penalties, including jail time, loss of driving privileges, and a mark on your permanent criminal record. Having a drug arrest appear on your permanent record can be devastating to your future employment and housing opportunities.
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If you’ve been arrested for marijuana possession or marijuana distribution in New Jersey, you need a criminal defense attorney who will fight for your rights.
A Conviction for Marijuana Possession in NJ Can Have Severe Consequences
Simple possession of marijuana in New Jersey is addressed by N.J.S.A 2C:35-10a(4). The statute applies when the defendant is found in possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana. The statute classifies simple possession as a disorderly person’s offense. This means that a conviction for simple possession of marijuana can result in penalties of up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Moreover, since marijuana is a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), the state imposes additional penalties for marijuana possession drug charges. These include suspension of driver’s license for up to two years, a mandatory drug enforcement and demand reduction (DEDR) penalty of $500, and a lab fee of $50.
Possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana is governed under N.J.S.A 2C:35-10a(3). The statute classifies the offense as a fourth-degree felony. As a result, a person convicted under the statute is subject to a sentence of 18 months in NJ State Prison and a fine of up to $25,000. Additional penalties include suspension of driver’s license for up to two years, a mandatory drug enforcement and demand reduction (DEDR) penalty of $750, and a lab fee of $50.
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In order to obtain a conviction for marijuana possession, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant either actually or constructively possessed the marijuana. Under NJ law, actual possession requires a person to have knowing, intentional control of an item. By contrast, a person constructively possesses an item when he or she has the ability to exercise control over the item, he or she intends to exercise control over the item, and the item is nearby. A good example of constructive possession is when a police officer finds marijuana in the glove compartment of a person’s car.
Serious Prison Time for Marijuana Distribution Charges in Freehold, NJ
Marijuana distribution occurs when an exchange takes place. A person can be charged with marijuana distribution even if no money changed hands and the exchange did not constitute a sale. NJ prosecutors tend to interpret the statute very broadly. As a result, a person can be charged with marijuana distribution simply for passing a joint around a room.
The penalties for a marijuana distribution vary, depending on the amount of marijuana and whether the distribution occurred in a protected area:
- Fourth degree charge: Distribution of less than one ounce of marijuana can lead to a sentence of up to 18 months in New Jersey State Prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- Third degree charge: Distribution of one ounce or more but less than five pounds can result in a sentence of between three and five years in NJ State Prison and a fine of as much as $25,000
- Second degree charge: Distribution of five pounds or more but less than 25 pounds exposes the defendant to a sentence of between five and 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000
- First degree charge: Distribution of 25 pounds or more is the most serious charge, leading to a potential sentence of between 10 and 20 years in state prison and a fine of as much as $300,000
A defendant can also face enhanced penalties for distribution of marijuana in a school zone or distribution of marijuana in a public park.
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NJ prosecutors often seek the maximum possible punishments for a marijuana conviction. However, an experienced attorney can potentially raise constitutional issues about how the police conducted their search to obtain the evidence of marijuana possession. For example, police must have reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime before they can stop you. If there are problems with the way the police obtained the drug evidence in your case, it may be possible to have the evidence suppressed and the charges dismissed.
A knowledgeable drug defense attorney may also be able to explore alternative sentencing options in your case. Depending on the circumstances, you could be eligible for Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) or Drug Court. Additionally, first-time marijuana offenders may be eligible for the conditional discharge program, which imposes on the offender a supervised probationary period and which allows an offender to avoid a criminal record.
Do not let a marijuana conviction destroy your life. Speak with the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Lombardi and Lombardi, P.A. today. We have years of experience defending clients in Essex, Monmouth and Ocean counties. Call us anytime or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case.