Of all U.S. youth arrests, over half resulted in juvenile delinquency adjudications, and over half were due to drug offenses. Just like adults, minors break the law by possessing, manufacturing, transporting, trafficking, and distributing illegal or prescription drugs without a prescription. While the laws in New Jersey typically punish adult drug offenders with prison and high fines, they do not apply to juveniles in the same way. Yes, the law is the law, but the juvenile system aims to rehabilitate young drug offenders by providing resources and education to help youth avoid future brushes with the law.
Most juveniles stopped by the police have marijuana and harder drugs like heroin, cocaine, and other unlawful controlled dangerous substances (CDS) in their possession. They may also have drug paraphernalia on them or in their cars. However, some arrests are for juvenile drug dealing or possession with intent to distribute, which come with more severe penalties than simple possession. Despite the rehabilitation goal, juveniles convicted of drug offenses can face harsh sentences. Fortunately, juveniles can also seek the best possible representation from experienced juvenile defense lawyers such as ours at Proetta, Oliver & Fay, so parents and their children can count on trusted advice, guidance, and legal protection throughout the juvenile process.
Defending Juveniles Charged with Drugs in Burlington County NJ
Our juvenile drug charge attorneys defend minors charged with a wide range of crimes involving drugs, both illegal street drugs and prescription drugs, in municipalities throughout Burlington County. If your child has been charged with possession, intent to distribute, selling, or another offense involving CDS in Pemberton, Mount Holly, Bordentown, Cinnaminson, Delran, Florence, Evesham Township, Burlington City or Township, or another town, contact our law office for immediate assistance and to speak with a juvenile lawyer free of charge about your case. Call (609) 850-8284 or send us a message today.
Minors Taken into Custody for Controlled Dangerous Substances in Evesham NJ
When the police suspect a minor is involved in a drug crime, they may take the juvenile into custody and question them. Once satisfied that the child has committed a drug crime, the police can release the minor to their parents and file a delinquency complaint. Alternatively, they can detain the juvenile if they believe the child is a flight risk or threatens public safety and then file a complaint.
Juvenile Detention Hearings in Drug Cases in Mount Holly
If detained, a court must set a hearing within 24 hours. After that, a probable cause hearing occurs. When a judge finds no probable cause for the commission of a crime, the court releases the minor. The first two hearings occur within two court days for juveniles remanded to detention. Review hearings follow two and three weeks later. The adjudicator hearing is where the judge, not a jury, determines guilt or innocence as to the charges. The judge then makes a final disposition within two months of the initial detention. For serious cases in which a juvenile has been detained, the experience, knowledge, and skill of the juvenile’s lawyer is even more integral to securing their release and providing the most zealous defense.
Court Venue for Juvenile Drug Adjudications in New Jersey
The Family Court, otherwise known as the Superior Court, Family Division, under the authority of the Juvenile Justice Commission, handles juvenile matters. Juvenile court proceedings are confidential and handled differently than criminal proceedings. After reviewing their case, a judge determines guilt or innocence, not a jury. If the judge adjudicates the minor delinquent, he or she then crafts an appropriate sentence or disposition. Juvenile delinquency means the juvenile committed a crime or a disorderly persons offense. It essentially means the equivalent of a conviction for an adult drug offender.
Range of Severity for Juvenile Drug Possession and Distribution Offenses in NJ
Once a judge adjudicates a minor a delinquent for drug crimes, they must determine the appropriate disposition based on the facts. Drug crime grades depend upon the type and quantity of the drug involved. A CDS classification as Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V per federal and state schedules, determines its danger to users as addictive or otherwise harmful and its medicinal benefits or use. So, a Schedule I drug is the most dangerous and has no therapeutic benefits. A Schedule V drug is typically an over-the-counter medication with little addictive properties but accepted medical use. Schedule I to III drugs are varying degrees of dangerous and addictive but have little, some, or no medicinal purposes. The drug itself determines its classification and the severity of the crime when it is involved.
New Jersey Juvenile Drug Possession Crimes
A juvenile charged with possession of a Schedule I to III drug without a prescription is normally charged with third degree drug possession. A judge can sentence a juvenile to two years in a juvenile detention facility and fine them a maximum of $35,000.00. Therefore, a minor caught with methamphetamine, heroin or cocaine, or drug analogs like oxycontin can potentially face the maximum sentence. Schedule V drug possession is a fourth degree crime that could result in the juvenile spending a year in detention and a fine of $15,000.00 at most.
Marijuana is in a category all its own since legalization for adult users. Notably, marijuana possession remains against the law for those under the age of 21 in New Jersey, but it is not handled in the same manner as other drug possession cases involving those underage. Thus, when a minor has less than six ounces of marijuana when stopped by a police officer, they may get a written warning. If they are driving, they may be charged with underage DUI if an officer has probable cause to believe the minor is driving under the influence of marijuana. However, the smell of marijuana alone is not a reason for an officer to search a vehicle for drugs. Possession of over six ounces of marijuana is a fourth degree crime. Lower-level crimes, like fourth degree crimes and disorderly persons offenses, most likely do not result in detention sentences.
Juvenile Drug Distribution and Possession of CDS with Intent to Distribute by a Minor in NJ
For juveniles charged with distribution or intent to distribute or dispense, a sentence for a possession of CDS with intent to distribute conviction also depends on the drug and amount. To illustrate, possessing an ounce or more of a Schedule I or II CDS with the intent to distribute the CDS is a second degree crime. Less than one ounce results in a third degree crime. The penalties for this crime are steeper than drug possession only, and there are unique enhancements for certain drugs and amounts. For example, possessing five or more ounces of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it is a first degree crime and a second degree crime for quantities of less than five ounces and more than one-half ounce. Possessing less than a half ounce with the intent to distribute the drug is a third degree crime.
For heroin and cocaine, a juvenile who possesses five or more ounces of either, intending to distribute the drug, is guilty of a first degree crime. One-half to five ounces of either for distribution is a second degree crime, and less than a half ounce, a third degree crime. Moreover, a conviction for possession of a CDS near a school property leads to 100 hours of community service and additional penalties for the juvenile’s other convictions. Possession of a drug with intent to distribute in a school zone is a more serious charge, with penalties to match. These cases are looked upon more harshly than simple possession cases and even straight distribution cases, as there are added punishments when someone intends to sell drugs near a school in New Jersey.
Potential Dispositions for Juveniles Adjudicated Delinquent of Drug Offenses in NJ
In the end, a judge must fashion a sentence or disposition that leans more toward rehabilitation than punishment, though each case depends on several factors. A judge may be more lenient with a first-time offender who is very young and never had social services and other resources to help the juvenile, as opposed to a repeat offender or one who had services and reoffends. A judge wants to see that a juvenile offender is willing to rehabilitate. The nature of the crime and circumstances and the minor’s home circumstances may also influence a judge’s disposition.
For one who appears likely to rehabilitate and abide by court orders, a judge may impose fines and order diversion alternatives, such as probation, community service, counseling, substance abuse rehabilitation services, or educational programs instead of detention. The measure of any disposition is the best interests of the child to help them rehabilitate, if possible. However, judges must also consider public safety when a child is unwilling or able to rehabilitate and is likely to reoffend.
Detention is a punishment of last resort but may be appropriate in some circumstances. For instance, a juvenile who commits a serious crime, such as drug distribution, manufacturing, maintaining or operating a drug production facility, or causing another’s death from drugs, may face a waiver to the criminal justice system and prosecution as an adult under N.J.S.A. 2A:4A-26.1. Barring a waiver from the juvenile system, delinquency adjudication results in a juvenile record that may be disadvantageous for future employment, university acceptance, getting housing, or later offenses as an adult.
Expunging a Juvenile Drug Charge in New Jersey
Many juveniles seek to expunge their records so their juvenile record does not come up on background searches. However, they must know the law on expungement as there are several qualifications for expungement and juvenile records are typically sealed. A juvenile expungement attorney at our Burlington County law firm can help with expungement applications for minors, so please do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions about expunging your juvenile record.
Speak to a Juvenile Drug Case Defense Lawyer in Evesham NJ
If your child has drug charges pending or is in detention, seek help from a juvenile defense lawyer at Proetta, Oliver & Fay, who can advocate for their best interests. Our attorneys are ready to assist you and your child through the entire juvenile proceeding from start to finish, whether their case involves marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, Ecstasy, Adderall, Xanax, Percocet, Oxycodone, or another type of CDS. We can gather the evidence to convince a judge that your child is not guilty or demonstrate that your juvenile is suitable for a diversion over detention. Depending on the situation, we created a tailored approach to juvenile drug defense representation to either get the charges dismissed or paint a sympathetic picture of their struggles, needs, and rehabilitation potential. To speak with a juvenile drug defense lawyer at our office, contact (609) 850-8284. You can also submit a form online and request a free consultation. We will get in touch with you right away.
Our phones are answered 24 hours a day. We are available weekdays during business hours. We also meet with clients on evenings and weekends by request. We have four office locations conveniently located in Jersey City, Edison, Middletown, Cranford, Burlington, and Hamilton. All major credit cards are accepted.
525 Highway 73, Suite 104, Marlton, New Jersey 08053 Phone: 609-850-8284 By Appointment Only
100 Horizon Center Boulevard, Hamilton, New Jersey, 08691 By Appointment Only
Point Pleasant Office
3828 River Road,
Suite A, Point Pleasant,
New Jersey 08742
By Appointment Only
180 Kings Highway, Middletown Township, New Jersey 07748 By Appointment Only