After getting high at a friend’s party, you decided to walk home rather than drive. While it was wise to safeguard yourself and other drivers, walking home high may have been the better, but not the best choice. Being out in public while under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) may be illegal in New Jersey per the statute N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(b). It depends largely on whether you have a prescription for the drug or not. After the police found you ambling home, your arrest resulted and now you have been charged with illegal use or being under the influence of CDS/drugs. You may not have known that walking on a public street while high is an offense, or you might have stayed the night or made other plans. However, the law applies with or without your knowledge of it. Now, you need to understand what the consequences are if you get convicted, what alternatives and defense options may be employed to avoid penalties, and where to turn to get the best legal help.
Our law firm, Proetta, Oliver & Fay, passionately defends clients charged with illegal use or being under the influence of CDS, possession, failure to turn over drugs to law enforcement, prescription drug possession, and other drug offenses throughout Burlington County. If your drug charge arose in Bordentown, Cinnaminson, Burlington Township, Mount Holly, Mount Laurel, Florence, or neighboring areas, contact our office in Marlton directly at 609-850-8284 today and speak with an attorney about your case in a free consultation.
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(b) Statute for Illegal Use of CDS or Being Under the Influence
Regardless of the CDS, you cannot be under the influence of drugs in public unless your doctor prescribes or gives you the drugs. This applies to illegal controlled dangerous substances and unauthorized prescription medications.
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10 (a) defines a controlled dangerous substance or its analog as one classified in federal (Drug Enforcement Agency) and NJ State Schedules. The more dangerous types of CDS, including their analogs, are contained in Schedules I, II, III, and IV. Those are the drugs classified as highly addictive with little medicinal value. Drugs such as heroin, cocaine, Fentanyl, LSD, PCP, methamphetamine, MDMA, and other street drugs and pharmaceuticals are Schedule I through IV drugs. Schedule V drugs are typically over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.
Additionally, marijuana, although technically a Schedule I drug according to the federal drug schedules, does not fall under the umbrella of illegal use or being under the influence in New Jersey. Property owners are allowed to prohibit or regulate marijuana use on their own properties, including owners of multi-family homes and apartments.
By way of example for an illegal use or being under the influence of CDS offense, if your medical provider prescribed Tylenol with Codeine for your respiratory condition, you may not be violating the law when you leave your home still groggy from the drug. Conversely, if you took your sister’s leftover Tylenol with Codeine and went out in public, you could be guilty of a disorderly persons offense under 2C:35-10(b).
What Must be Proven for a Conviction for Being under the Influence of Drugs in Public
The law makes it easier than most offenses for a municipal court prosecutor to prove you committed the crime. The law does not require the state to prove which CDS you had in your system while in public. It is enough that you used or looked like you used CDS, an analog, or counterfeit substance. In other words, your physical movement, glassy eyes, track marks, grogginess, speech, reaction, responses, and reflexes may reveal to an officer trained in recognizing a person under the influence of drugs that you were high in public. Thus, the state may convict you through the testimony of the arresting officers or other evidence confirming that you took a drug or its analog or counterfeit.
Criminal Penalties for Illegal Use or Being under the Influence of CDS
A disorderly persons offense can land an offender in jail for six months with a $1,000.00 fine plus other court costs delegated to various funds. A conviction may also result in a suspended driver’s license for six months to two years. Although a disorderly persons offense is not as severe as an indictable crime, a conviction still stains your record. A drug offense on your record may give an employer a reason not to hire you or a landlord cause to reject your application for housing. It may even cause issues with your professional license or ability to work in the field of your choosing.
Defense Options for Being Under the Influence of Drugs Charges
Choosing an experienced drug defense attorney is critical to help you fight the charges. They may be able to help you get a better deal than the statutory penalties through effective plea bargaining. You may also get into a diversionary program like the conditional discharge program if you do not have an existing criminal record. For your first offense, a conditional discharge in municipal court means your charges are dismissed by successfully completing a supervised program with drug testing, education, and other resources. With conditional discharge, you do not go to jail and you do not have a criminal conviction that harms your background check status.
If a trial is necessary, a talented drug lawyer can represent you in front of a judge. The municipal court handles disorderly persons offenses. Trials go before a judge without a jury, so your attorney must convince a judge that you have defenses to the charges and the prosecutor can’t prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Other Drug Charges that may Occur with Illegal Use of CDS
Depending on the drug, you could face a criminal conviction for possessing a CDS or its analog. Thus, when the police detained you on the public sidewalk, they could charge you with possession if they found a drug on you at the time. If you had heroin or LSD, or another Schedule I to IV drug on your person, you may face third degree charges. A conviction means a possible three to five year prison sentence and a fine of up to $35,000.00. If caught with a Schedule V drug, you may go to prison for 18 months and pay $15,000.00 in fines for a fourth degree crime. Prescription medications are categorized by degree or graded based on the amount of pills in your possession at the time. These serious crimes can range from disorderly persons to second degree offenses.
Unless your doctors validly prescribed a drug or its analog for you in the regular course of their practice, you risk an indictable criminal conviction for possession in addition to an N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(b) violation. Plus, possession of any Scheduled drug on or near school property adds 100 hours of community service to the sentence (N.J.S.A. 35C-10(a)). Furthermore, the law requires that you voluntarily hand over any known drugs to law enforcement. If you know you have illegal drugs, you must hand them over before the police find them on you. The superior court handles indictable crimes, and a conviction on your record for a third, fourth, or second degree crime is serious. Fortunately, your attorney may also convince the prosecutor to reduce fourth degree possession charges to disorderly persons offenses to try the entire matter in municipal court, where the penalties are substantially minimized.
Moorestown Being Under the Influence Drugs Attorneys Prepared to Defend You
Rather than agonize over the possible outcomes of your arrest, consult with a qualified criminal defense lawyer at our Burlington County criminal law firm, Proetta, Oliver & Fay, about your arrest and pending drug case. Your story and the facts and evidence may reveal avenues of defense. For example, your detention and arrest may be questionable. The police may not have followed the correct procedures by searching you without your consent or a warrant before arrest. If you asked for an attorney while the police questioned you at the station, the police might have violated other Constitutional Rights. You are guaranteed due process and a just presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Call us at 609-850-8284 to discuss being under the influence of CDS charges and any other drug charges against you. Consultations are free and available 24/7. Don’t wait to check with an attorney on our team and begin developing your defense. If your case is in Evesham, Delran, Eastampton, Medford, Willingboro, Moorestown, or another municipality in Burlington County, entrust our criminal defense lawyers with your much-need legal counsel.
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