Consequences of a NJ Drug Crime Conviction
May 29, 2022
The consequences for a drug crime conviction in New Jersey are severe and far-reaching.
You can serve a lengthy prison term and pay enormous fees, whether your offense is drug possession, drug distribution, manufacturing, or sales. Even after serving a sentence, the punishment continues long after you pay the crime debt to society. Moreover, since drug charges typically overlap, compounded punishment lengthens prison terms. Finally, it raises fine amounts. As a result, defending numerous charges and negotiating for alternative criminal charges or sentences becomes more challenging. Nevertheless, an experienced New Jersey drug defense attorney can find ways to avoid conviction through dismissal, a diversionary program, or obtain a better deal than the state’s charges. Contact 609-850-8284 for immediate assistance and to speak to an attorney who provides aggressive defense against drug crimes.
What are the Possible Consequences of a Drug Conviction in NJ?
Drug convictions revolve around which drugs you have, give, or sell and where you have or sell them. It also matters what your role is concerning the drug manufacture or sales and the drug quantity or weight. For example, when you merely use a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), such as cocaine, you may escape worse punishment reserved for those operating drug manufacturing and selling businesses or being the ringleader of a drug cartel. However, you can also face charges for conspiring to sell a CDS if you work in illegal drug businesses, even if you are not the leader. Since illicit drugs are seen as a public safety threat, how dangerous the CDS is, how much you have, and where you have it generally makes a big difference in the sentencing outcome.
Punishments for Possessing CDS
Possessing over 6 ounces of marijuana or another less addictive Schedule V drug, like an over-the-counter analgesic, will get you less prison time than harder drugs, like heroin and cocaine. More dangerous drugs, such as Schedule I to IV drugs, are third degree possession crimes with a maximum 5-year prison term and a $35,000.00 fine.
Charges for Selling Drugs Have More Extreme Consequences
If you are dealing drugs with little medicinal value but high addictive qualities like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and opioids, or prescription drugs without a prescription, you may face a conviction and sentence to prison for up to 20 years. Distributing the most dangerous drugs like heroin, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine, psilocybin mushrooms, or other Schedule I or II drugs, can result in 5 to 20-year sentences and up to $750,000.00 in fines depending on the amount. Moreover, distributing prescription drugs can land you in prison for 18 months to five years. Learn more about your specific charges by visiting the following:
Marijuana Conviction Sentences are Treated Differently
For marijuana possession, a violator faces a fourth-degree criminal conviction for having over six ounces. The potential sentence is 18 months in prison and a $25,000.00 fine from the superior court. The penalty rises for possessing over six ounces within 1000 feet of a school but distributing near a school is minimally a third degree crime. The penalty for possession includes 100 hours of community service and more fines. Distribution of less than an ounce for the second offense is a fourth-degree crime, and the penalties rise with the weight of the drug.
Reasons for Harsher and Extended Drug Crime Penalties
Let’s say you have a heavy weight of marijuana on you or in your car while parked within 1,000 feet of the local high school, you can expect the penalties for a possession and sale conviction to rise significantly to at least a third degree crime. The increased threat to a vulnerable population, such as school-aged children, inspired the New Jersey legislature to punish drug sales and possession near school property. Likewise, selling drugs within 500 feet of public parks, housing projects, and public buildings is a second degree crime, punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison. Plus, imprisonment and fines elevate for those selling marijuana to juveniles and pregnant women. Other causes for stiffer and extended penalties include prior drug crime convictions, employing minors in a drug operation, and guns and gang associations with the drug charges.
Other Fines and Sentences for NJ Drug Convictions
In some ways, penalties for drug offenses range higher than other criminal convictions of the same degree. For example, a first degree conviction typically results in a $250,000.00 fine. This is far higher for a drug crime of the same degree. And drug convictions come with other penalties for various funds, which can total in the thousands. Another drawback is you may also have your license suspended for six months.
One of the other problems with the most serious drug offenses, leading to second or first degree criminal charges, is the presumption of incarceration. This leaves judges less discretion to consider other punishments than prison. Even with lower grade crimes like fourth and third degree offenses, a judge may still incarcerate a defendant with multiple convictions on their record, as the presumption of non-incarceration only applies to those never convicted of a crime before.
Previously, certain drug charges came with mandatory minimum sentences, meaning the convicted defendant must serve a minimum sentence before becoming eligible for parole and early release. In 2021, an Attorney General directive recommended removing six non-violent drug offenses from mandatory minimum sentencing. These include:
- Being the leader of drug trafficking network
- Maintaining or operating a CDS production facility
- Employing a juvenile in a drug operation
- Some charges for distributing CDS
- Distributing drugs near schools and to juveniles
In some cases, convicted offenders may not be eligible for housing, employment, or educational opportunities with a drug conviction on their records. Now, if a conviction could disappear from a person’s record, that may eliminate some future life-related consequences.
Can You Get Rid of a NJ Drug Record?
Expungement has time requirements and limitations to clearing a criminal conviction or multiple convictions in New Jersey. To get convictions expunged, a person must have only one indictable offense and no more than five disorderly persons convictions on their record. There are additional specifications depending on how the case was resolved and what the crime or crimes were. It is best to speak to an experienced attorney who handles expungements about your record, eligibility, and what is involved in getting your drug conviction expunged.
Do First Time Drug Offenders go to Jail in NJ?
First-time drug offenders may benefit from diversionary programs created to rehabilitate them, like conditional discharge in municipal court or Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) in superior court. Although first-time offenders may benefit from a diversionary program or Drug Court to avoid conviction, the participant most often must submit to random drug testing, complete community service hours, and regularly check in with a probation officer to succeed. Also, some more severe first and second degree charges make you ineligible for PTI regardless of your criminal history. A good defense lawyer can sometimes overcome these presumptions by getting prosecutorial approval and submitting a solid application for PTI.
What Happens if a Juvenile is Convicted of a Drug Offense in New Jersey?
Juveniles arrested for drug possession still face penalties in juvenile court, while those convicted for distribution may even go to the juvenile equivalent of jail, a detention facility. Parents of minors convicted of drug crimes often worry that a single mistake will ruin their child’s chances of getting into a good college or landing the right job.
Getting an NJ Attorney on Your Side is the Best Way to Avoid a Drug Conviction
Regardless of the sentence, New Jersey drug convictions can leave an indelible mark. With so many penalties, fines, and enhancements, you need an excellent criminal drug defense to avoid the worst the state can give you for a drug crime conviction. An attorney may be able to help you avoid conviction by challenging police behavior that violated your rights. Searches and seizures of drug crime evidence must follow the law. If not, a defense attorney can file a motion to suppress to get any evidence obtained by an unlawful search thrown out, meaning the state can not use it against the defendant. An attorney may even get your case dismissed entirely if the facts are favorable to your defense and they have the required skill. Alternatively, they may find the leverage to get you a better deal or admission into a program to maintain a clean record by lowering the crime grade level. A criminal lawyer should also be prepared for helping you get your record expunged. For all of these reasons and more, you should enlist a top-notch criminal defense lawyer.
To find out more and consult with an attorney about your drug case today, call 609-850-8284. Free consultations are available and your information is kept completely confidential.