Possessing or distributing a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) is strictly against the law in the state of New Jersey. These substances can include “hard” drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, but they can also include marijuana and pharmaceuticals that require a prescription.
If you have been charged with any type of drug possession or drug distribution in New Jersey, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side representing you every step of the way. New Jersey criminal defense lawyer Brian J. Neary can review all of the facts and circumstances of your case and help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible in your situation.
Defining Controlled Dangerous Substances
For a drug to qualify as unlawful, it must be listed on one of the five schedules of CDS under state or federal law. Serious drugs that have no medical purpose and also have a high risk of abuse are categorized as Schedule I. On the lower schedules are drugs that serve a medical purpose, such as prescription drugs, which are some of the most common types of CDS. While these drugs are prescribed on a regular basis, possessing or distributing them without legal permission to do so is a crime, just as possessing cocaine would be.
Some of the more common substances involved in drug cases include:
- Heroin or fentanyl
- Powder or crack cocaine
- Cannabis (marijuana)
- Ecstasy, MDMA, or “Molly”
Illegal Possession or Distribution of Illegal Drugs
Under New Jersey law, it is illegal to possess drugs without a valid prescription or to distribute drugs without holding the license to do so, such as a pharmacy license. Possessing even the smallest amount of an illegal substance can lead to a criminal case and serious charges. The charges and consequences can increase significantly if you are accused of any of the following:
- Possession with the intent to distribute
Penalties upon conviction for various drug crimes can range from 6 months in prison and $1,000 in fines to up to 20 years in prison and fines, depending upon the amount of drugs in the defendant’s possession (or which the defendant intends to distribute).
Federal Drug Charges
It is important to recognize that drug crimes can also be charged by federal authorities. This is especially common when authorities believe a person is part of a major drug trafficking operation. In such situations, the case will be handled in federal criminal court, which has many different rules and procedures than New Jersey state court. In addition, federal authorities often conduct extensive investigations and, therefore, prosecutors have a substantial amount of evidence to present in their cases. The penalties for serious drug convictions may be more severe in federal court, as well. For all of these reasons, it is necessary to have an attorney who understands both the state and federal criminal justice systems.
Federal law also criminalizes conspiracy in the drug context. In order for there to be a criminal conspiracy of any kind, there must first be an express or implied agreement between two or more individuals to carry out a specific criminal end. In the drug context, the prosecution must prove that two or more people agreed to commit a violation of federal drug law.
Additionally, selling drug paraphernalia is punishable under both federal law and New Jersey state law. Some common examples of drug paraphernalia include the following:
- Bongs or pipes that are used to smoke marijuana or crack cocaine
- Plastic baggies that are used to hold, carry, transport, or distribute drugs
- Grinders that are used to crush marijuana
- Scales that are used to measure drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine
- quipment that is used to make crystal meth
You can be charged with possessing or distributing paraphernalia just as you be charged with possession or distribution of the drugs themselves.
Defenses to Drug-related Charges
There are many different ways to defend against drug-related charges, depending on the specific circumstances of a particular case. Some common defenses include:
- The substance in question was not a CDS
- The defendant did not knowingly possess the drugs
- The drugs were not intended to be distributed or sold (possession only for personal use, which is a lesser charge)
- The prescription drug at issue was lawfully prescribed by a licensed health care provider
- The defendant is in the business of carrying or transporting drugs, such as a common carrier
- The drugs were discovered in violation of the defendant’s constitutional 4th Amendment rights (Illegal Search and Seizure)
In many cases, skillfully presenting a legal defense can result in the charges against you being dismissed or in an acquittal at trial.
Even if your case is not completely dropped, there are many other ways a defense attorney can assist you, including negotiating a favorable plea bargain or qualifying you for pretrial intervention programs—often called “drug court”—which can prevent any conviction from being entered on your criminal record.
Contact a New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer Today for a Free Initial Consultation
Federal and state prescription drug possession and drug trafficking charges are serious business and the potential penalties upon conviction can be severe. Depending upon the facts and circumstances of your case, as well as your prior criminal record, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you obtain a dismissal of your case, a charge reduction, or the opportunity to participate in a pretrial intervention program.
Given the seriousness of these offenses and the potential penalties upon conviction, you do not want to go it alone when it comes to defending your charges. New Jersey criminal defense lawyer Brian J. Neary and his team have been representing criminal defendants in drug possession and drug trafficking cases for over 35 years. The firm is ready and willing to meet with you to discuss your case and to offer clients results-oriented legal representation. To schedule a free consultation with a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer, please call us today or contact us online.