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Possession of a Firearm During a Drug Offense

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Possession of a Weapon While Committing a Narcotics Offense Lawyer in Burlington County

Gun Possession During CDS Distribution Crimes in Southern New Jersey

Drugs and Guns Defense Attorneys Mount Holly NJ

In New Jersey, there is a separate criminal statute that penalizes an illegal act involving narcotics and firearms. New Jersey Statute 2C:39-4.1(1) Governs Weapons and Firearm Possession while Committing Certain Drug Crimes. The skilled criminal defense lawyers at our Burlington County defense firm have experience obtaining reduced charges that shave years off sentences, negotiating plea bargains, and obtaining not-guilty verdicts to some or all of the charges at trial. Most of all, having competent legal counsel from us every step of the way can ease your mind and guide you as you face the harsh realities of the legal system. If you have been charged with possession of a firearm or another weapon during a narcotics offense in Mount Laurel, Mount Holly, Evesham, Bordentown, Cinnaminson, Delran, Florence, Riverside, or another town in Burlington County or southern New Jersey, contact our office at (609)-850-8284 for a free consultation.

How Does the Law Define a Violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1?

Under the law, it is a second degree crime to possess a firearm and commit the following crimes: lead a narcotics trafficking network (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-3), organize or finance a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) manufacturing facility (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-4), and manufacture, distribute or dispense CDS (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-50, its analog, or imitations of a CDS (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-11). Further, anyone who employs a juvenile in a drug manufacturing operation (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-6) or distributes a CDS near school property while possessing a firearm (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7) also violates NJSA 2C:39-4.1. Moreover, attempting or conspiring to commit a drug crime while possessing a firearm is likewise a second degree crime. 

A firearm includes a handgun, rifle, or shotgun, and a CDS includes drugs listed on Schedules I through V of the state and federal drug schedules (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-2).  The law distinguishes firearms from other weapons. An individual may illegally possess a firearm or weapon when the firearm is un-permitted, or the weapon is illegal to possess, or if either is possessed for an illegal purpose. 

What are the Elements of a Drugs and Weapons Offense that a Prosecutor Must Prove to Convict Someone in NJ?

The state cannot convict an accused for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1(a) unless it proves all three elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) the accused committed, attempted to commit, or conspired to commit one of the drug crimes listed in the statute 2) using a firearm 3) that the accused had in their possession. In addition, the state must prove the accused either possessed a weapon illegally or possessed it for an unlawful purpose. This depends on the facts of the case and whether it was a weapon or a firearm involved. 

How is Weapons Possession During CDS Activities Unique under NJ Law?

When an individual faces weapons charges, they may be looking at penalties for a fourth, third, or second degree crime, depending on the weapon. For example, illegal handgun possession is a second degree offense, while illegal shotgun possession is a third degree offense. Other non-firearm illegal weapons possession charges may be the same or even lower-level offenses.

In addition, the penalties for drug distribution offenses vary depending on the drug and the amount, ranging from a fourth degree to a first degree distribution crime. Thus, a convicted individual could face anywhere from 18 months to 20 years in prison. However, the combined firearm and drug distribution charge under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1 is always the same crime degree regardless of how the accused possessed the weapon, the type of CDS, or the quantity of the drugs. 

Second Degree Crime to Violate N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1

A second degree criminal conviction results in a prison sentence of five to ten years and a $150,000.00 fine. However, the statute allows a judge to impose enhanced sentences, which means longer prison terms and higher fines, when the circumstances warrant. For example, when an adult distributes drugs to a minor or pregnant woman, a court may find these circumstances appalling enough to increase the standard penalties. 

More importantly, the sentence for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1 does not merge with any other sentence imposed. So, a convicted defendant must serve their sentences consecutively.  And finally, many gun crimes are subject to the Graves Act, which prescribes mandatory minimum sentences a convicted individual must serve before becoming eligible for early release on parole.

What Other Charges can I Face in a Drugs and Guns Case in New Jersey?

Though the statute explicitly punishes the commission of a drug crime with a firearm or weapon, several other crimes are included within the same scenario. For example, the state punishes possessing a firearm or weapon to commit an unlawful act. It also punishes anyone with a firearm without a permit or another weapon that is illegal under any circumstances, such as a sawed-off shotgun. In addition, an accused may face separate drug possession, manufacturing, and distribution charges, among other violations listed in the statute. 

Why is Non-Merger of Sentences Important in Weapons During Narcotics Offenses Cases in NJ?

Since N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1 joins separate crimes, such as possession of a firearm or weapon for an unlawful purpose, unlawful possession of a weapon, and various drug crimes, a court can merge sentences for duplicate crimes like a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1 and N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4, possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, also a second degree crime. However, 39-4.1 specifies that the sentence for the offense is not merged. Thus, an accused must consecutively serve five to ten years for each when convicted. 

What is an Example of Drugs and CDS Charge Case in Southern New Jersey?

An example of the grave consequences of combined gun and drug charges is the Camden County case involving many illegal drugs (1,000 fentanyl pills and seven pounds of crystal methamphetamine) and firearms last year. The defendant faced charges involving possession and distribution charges for having and selling the CDS fentanyl and methamphetamine, along with unlawful possession of ammunition and possession of firearms to further a drug trafficking operation. 

The defendant faced first degree illegal drug possession and distribution charges carrying a sentence of ten years to life. And because he had a prior drug conviction, he also faced second degree illegal possession of ammunition by a felon, with a potential ten year sentence. Finally, the second degree possession of a firearm to further a drug trafficking operation, a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1(a), carried a minimum five-year sentence under the Graves Act, which ran consecutively to the other sentences. 

In other words, the defendant faced a possible life sentence for committing drug crimes with a gun, plus separate charges for drug possession and distribution and the illegal possession of ammunition. His sentence also included a fine of over $200,000.00.

Speak with Mount Holly Drugs and Guns Defense Attorneys

Multiple criminal convictions and penalties can result in long penalties, even life in prison in New Jersey. Without an experienced criminal defense lawyer handling your charges for possession of a weapon during a CDS offense, you may permanently lose your liberty or remain imprisoned for decades and pay enormous fines. 

Retaining a talented and committed criminal defense attorney at Proetta, Oliver, & Fay is crucial when you face steep penalties and state prosecutors who can petition the court to increase those penalties for drugs and guns charges. Having counsel to protect your rights when the state oversteps its boundaries, acquires evidence unlawfully, or presumes the worst about you and your intentions regarding the incidents leading to your firearm and narcotics charges, can result in reduced charges, a lessened sentence, or even a not guilty verdict at trial.

Call to speak with one of our criminal defense lawyers about the best way to handle your case involving firearm or weapons possession during narcotics activities in Willingboro, Pemberton, Delanco, Palmyra, Lumberton, Westampton, North Hanover, or elsewhere in the Burlington County or Camden County area. We are here 24/7 to provide you with immediate assistance in a free consultation.

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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.

Burlington Office

525 Highway 73,
Suite 104, Marlton,
New Jersey 08053
Phone: 609-850-8284
By Appointment Only

Hamilton Office

100 Horizon Center
Boulevard, Hamilton,
New Jersey, 08691
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Point Pleasant Office

3828 River Road,
Suite A, Point Pleasant,
New Jersey 08742
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Middletown Office

180 Kings Highway,
Middletown Township,
New Jersey 07748
By Appointment Only