New Jersey Drug Crimes Defense Attorney
The war on drugs continues, and there is no end in sight. The drug war has terribly impacted New Jersey communities and families. Thousands of people have ended up in jail or prison even though they are not violent offenders. Thousands more have criminal records for a mistake they made when they were young. The penalties for any drug crime are severe; a simple mistake can create a life-long headache.
You can fight back against drug charges. No matter how grim things look now, there are defenses a skilled attorney at Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates can raise. Tara Breslow-Testa is an experienced New Jersey drug crimes lawyer who has represented countless individuals accused of drug use, possession, manufacture, distribution, and more. She stays on the cutting edge of New Jersey criminal defense law and provides personalized attention to each case. Indeed, Tara Breslow-Testa works closely on each client’s case from start to finish to ensure quality representation. Reach out to Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates by calling (732) 784-2880 or contact us online.Drug Crime Information Center
- J.S.A. 2C:35-10 Drug Possession
- J.S.A. 2C:35-10(b) Drug Use
- J.S.A. 2C:36-2 Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
- J.S.A. 2C:35-10.5 Distribution of Prescription Drugs
- J.S.A. 2C:35-5 Manufacturing, Distributing Or Dispensing Drugs
- J.S.A. 2C:35-9 Drug-Induced Death
- J.S.A. 39:4-50 Driving Under The Influence
- J.S.A. 2C:36-4 Advertising Drug Paraphernalia
- Federal Drug Charges In New Jersey
- Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Crimes
- Experienced New Jersey Drug Crimes Lawyer
We see drug possession charges all the time. Maybe you are a student in school who had a bag of pot or cocaine in your backpack. Or you were busted trying to buy some drugs in a parking lot.
It is illegal in New Jersey for anyone to purposely or knowingly possess or obtain a controlled substance unless by a valid prescription from a doctor. Possession can be actual or constructive.
What is Constructive Possession?
Constructive possession often exists when you own property and know drugs are on the premises. For example, you might be a landlord who knows that a tenant is selling or possessing drugs. Or you own a car used to transport drugs. The drugs are not on your body, but you exercise control over the drugs and know about them. If you do nothing, you could face constructive possession charges.
What are The Penalties for Drug Possession?
The penalties will depend on which drug you’re caught with. Generally, possession of any Schedule I, II, III, or IV drug will be a third-degree crime, which carries as punishment two to five years in prison and a $35,000 fine. These penalties are for a first offense.
If caught with Schedule V drug possession, you face fourth-degree crime charges, which carry a maximum of 18 months in jail and a maximum $15,000 fine. Likewise, these are for a first offense.
Marijuana has its own classification. If caught with more than six ounces, you face a fourth-degree charge. However, it is now legal for adults aged 21 or older to have up to six ounces of marijuana. If you are under 21, you can receive written warnings for possessing or using less than six ounces.
The police might discover you are high but not find any drugs on you. If you are found using or otherwise under the influence of a controlled substance without a prescription to treat an illness, it is a disorderly persons offense. Marijuana and hashish are excluded.
New Jersey also criminalizes the use or possession of drug paraphernalia. N.J.S.A. 2C:36-1 provides a long definition of drug paraphernalia. Put simply, paraphernalia is anything that helps in the consumption, packaging, storing, growth, or cultivation of scheduled drugs.
Here are some common examples of drug paraphernalia:
- Kits for growing dangerous substances (other than Cannabis sativa L.)
- Kits for manufacturing or otherwise producing/converting drugs
- Devices that increase the potency of any plant (other than Cannabis sativa L.)
- Testing equipment for something other than fentanyl test strips
- Scales and balances for weighing
- Dilutants such as mannitol and quinine hydrochloride
- Mixing devices such as spoons, bowls, or blenders
- Envelopes, balloons, capsules, and anything else used to package drugs
- Containers used to conceal drugs or intended to be used that way
- Pipes and other objects that facilitate ingestion of drugs
Sometimes it is not clear whether an object is drug paraphernalia. For example, most people have bowls and spoons in their homes. They aren’t automatically considered drug paraphernalia. We can look at many facts to determine whether an object was used as paraphernalia. Factors include how close they are to drugs or a defendant’s statements.
Many prescription drugs are addictive, and many people make vast sums of money selling prescriptions. New Jersey has criminalized this practice. Punishment will depend on the number of pills or dosage units you distribute. Defendants face a disorderly persons charge for distributing four or fewer doses, all the way up to a second-degree charge for 100 or more dosage units.
You might not be involved in the day-to-day production or distribution of drugs. But this statute criminalizes knowingly maintaining or operating premises used for drug products. If you own a garage that others use to make drugs—and you know about it—you can be charged.
This is a first-degree crime with mandatory prison time and a maximum $750,000 fine.N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5 Manufacturing, Distributing Or Dispensing Drugs
It is illegal to manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances or to intend to do so. This law also applies to counterfeit substances.
Penalties for Violations
The penalties will depend on the drug and usually the amount:
- Less than 0.5 an ounce: third-degree crime with a maximum $75,000 fine
- 0.5 ounces but less than 5 ounces: second-degree crime
- 5 ounces or more: first-degree crime with a minimum prison term and a hefty $500,000 fine
Schedule I Or II Narcotic Drug
- Less than 1 ounce: third-degree crime with a maximum $75,000 fine
- 1 ounce or more: second-degree crime
- Less than 0.5 an ounce: third-degree crime with a maximum $75,000 fine
- 0.5 ounces but less than 5 ounces: second-degree crime
- 5 ounces or more: first-degree crime and a maximum $300,000 fine
New Jersey has changed its marijuana laws recently. Here are the penalties if you are caught distributing or dispensing marijuana.
- Less than 1 ounce: written warning for a first offense, but a fourth-degree crime for a second or subsequent offense.
- 1 ounce but less than 5 pounds: third-degree crime and a maximum $25,000 fine.
- 5 pounds but less than 25 pounds: second-degree crime.
- 25 pounds or more: first-degree crime and a maximum $300,000 fine.
If your distribution involves someone 17 or younger, you face second-degree charges, mandatory prison time, and a maximum $500,000 fine. Employing someone includes knowingly soliciting, hiring, directing, or using them.N.J.S.A. 2C:35-8 Distribution to Persons Under 18
If you distribute to a minor, the prosecutor can seek even more severe penalties, such as twice the term of imprisonment and a fine. The prosecutor can also seek twice the time you are ineligible for parole. Further, the presumption against imprisonment will not apply.
For example, if you face ten years in prison, you could potentially face 20 years for selling to someone under 18. This enhancement also applies if you sell to a pregnant woman, regardless of age.N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 Distribution Near a School
Any distribution of drugs within 1,000 feet of a school—or on the school property—is a third-degree crime and will result in mandatory imprisonment. Consequently, defendants can spend up to three years without being eligible for parole.N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 Distribution Near Public Property
If you distribute drugs within 500 feet of public property, you can be charged with a crime of the second degree. Public property includes a public park, public building, or even public housing. However, if you are distributing less than an ounce of marijuana, it is a third-degree crime.N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9 Drug-Induced Death
If someone dies from a drug overdose, you could be charged with their death. This statute imposes strict liability. That means your intent doesn’t matter. Usually, in the typical homicide case, the state needs to prove your intent to harm someone. The state must prove you intended the death or were reckless in ignoring a substantial risk. Not so if the victim dies of a Schedule I or II drug you supplied.
A drug-induced death is a first-degree crime in New Jersey—a very high penalty for providing someone with drugs. You could spend decades in prison and pay a considerable fine.
When most people think of DUI, they think of alcohol. But New Jersey law also considers you impaired if you are under the influence of a narcotic or habit-forming drug, including prescription drugs. Having a valid prescription is not a defense if the drugs impair your ability to drive safely.
Penalties are very steep. For a first offense, you are looking at a $300-500 fine, 12-48 hours in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, and possible imprisonment of up to 30 days. You will also lose the ability to drive in New Jersey for at least seven months and possibly up to a year.
If this is your second drug DUI, you could see a maximum $1,000 fine, 30 days of community service, at least 48 hours in jail, and up to 90 days. You also cannot drive in New Jersey for 1-2 years after a conviction. You’ll need to install an ignition interlock device to get your license back.
A third or subsequent conviction increases the penalties to a maximum of 180 days in jail and license suspension lasting up to 8 years.
One problem with DUI cases is that a prior conviction in a different state might count as a “prior.” This means the first arrest for DUI in New Jersey could result in losing your driving privileges for years.
When the police find drugs in your car, you can be prosecuted under this statute if you knew the drugs were in the car. This law applies to any drug classed on Schedules I-V. You won’t face charges if you have a valid prescription. Penalties include a fine. You could also lose your license, which is why it is vital to fight this drug charge.N.J.S.A. 2C:36-4 Advertising Drug Paraphernalia
N.J.S.A. 2C:36-4 makes it a crime to place in any publication an advertisement to promote the sale of drug paraphernalia. This is a crime of the fourth degree and carries as a penalty up to 18 months in jail and a maximum $10,000 fine.
It is a petty disorderly persons offense to discard a hypodermic needle or syringe without destroying it in a place accessible to others. It is also a petty disorderly persons offense if you own property and allow discarded, undestroyed hypodermic needles or syringes to remain on the property without disposing of them. Many unsuspecting property owners could face charges under this statute for failing to clean up after drug addicts.
You might also face federal charges if arrested for a drug offense in New Jersey. The federal government also makes using, possessing, manufacturing, and distributing drugs illegal. Federal and state authorities often cooperate in investigations. Many federal drug crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences, and the penalties are often stiffer in federal court.
When do the feds come in and bring charges? A lot depends on the facts. If you are part of a large drug ring, then you could possibly see the federal government involved. They like to bring additional criminal charges, like wire fraud, money laundering, or racketeering, when suing for drug distribution.
If you are facing state drug charges, you always need to consider how your actions might impact a future federal case.Which Drugs are Illegal?
New Jersey puts drugs on a schedule based on their level of danger and whether they have any valid medical use. Those on Schedule I are considered the most dangerous, while those on Schedule V are the least dangerous. Even Schedule V drugs are regulated, so you cannot use them freely. The schedules come into play when determining the penalties for possession or intent to distribute offense.
Drugs on this schedule have no valid medical use but have a high risk of abuse. Some of them are:
- Opiates, such as allylprodine
- Narcotics, such as heroin
- Hallucinogenic drugs like mescaline and peyote
These drugs have some valid medical uses but still have a high potential for abuse, so they are tightly regulated. Some schedule II drugs are:
The drugs on this schedule carry less risk of dependence and offer more medical usage. Still, they need strict supervision. Schedule III drugs include:
- Barbituric acid
- Any substance with methamphetamine
Schedules IV And V
These drugs have mild addiction properties and more proper medical use. These schedules contain common prescription drugs, such as alprazolam (which retails as Xanax) and zolpidem (sold as Ambien). Although these drugs are common, they are still regulated in the United States.
Drug crime charges are severe and carry serious penalties. Indeed, convictions of drug offenses such as drug trafficking or possession can result in long prison sentences and big fines. Therefore, you may wish to hire a criminal defense attorney from Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates to protect your rights if you have been charged. A criminal defense lawyer at our law firm can help fight your charges by using the best defenses available under the applicable drug laws.
In some situations. Possessing up to six ounces of marijuana is legal for anyone 21 or older. Even if you are under 21, you will not face criminal charges if caught with under six ounces of marijuana. Go over six ounces, and you are committing a crime—usually of the fourth degree, which could land you in jail.
Distribution is also closely regulated by the state. Licensed retailers can sell up to an ounce to someone 21 or older. Likewise, any adult can transfer possession of up to one ounce without payment.
Some distribution is still prohibited, though. Selling less than one ounce will get you a warning. Do it again, and you are facing criminal penalties. The penalties only increase if you choose to distribute near a school or public building.
Unfortunately, many people think weed is now always legal. That is not the case. Depending on the circumstances, you can still face possession and/or distribution charges.
Yes. Some people wrongly think that prescription drugs are “harmless.” While it’s true that many prescriptions are safe if used as directed, New Jersey still regulates them. Using or possessing a prescription drug without a valid prescription is a crime. Selling or distributing these drugs are also crimes. You could easily end up in jail for years if convicted.
Anyone can make a mistake. Judges and prosecutors also understand that. For this reason, some first-time offenders will avoid jail. That doesn’t mean every first-time offender will avoid time behind bars.
Third- and fourth-degree crimes usually carry the presumption of no imprisonment. A judge will consider all alternatives to incarceration, such as community service. You could also end up on probation for a long time, which will come with conditions. However, probation allows you to continue to go to school and work.
Some first-time offenders will still see prison based on:
- The crime you are charged with. First- and second-degree crimes usually result in time behind bars. There is a presumption against imprisonment for third- and fourth-degree crimes, but the prosecutor can overcome that presumption in some instances.
- Whether you have additional criminal charges, such as resisting arrest or assault.
- Your attitude before the judge and whether you express remorse for the crime.
An experienced New Jersey drug crimes lawyer will do everything possible to keep you out of jail. New Jersey’s prisons are overflowing as it is, and there is no reason to send someone there for a simple mistake in judgment.
It’s possible your child will end up in juvenile detention. The focus of the juvenile justice system is on rehabilitation, first and foremost. Still, the facts of the arrest matter. It is always possible they will be stuck in detention. Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates can help families whose child is in the juvenile justice system for a drug offense.
A diversionary program allows certain defendants to rehabilitate themselves without spending time in jail or prison. The prosecutor usually drops the charges if you successfully complete your diversionary program. This means you won’t have a criminal conviction on your record.
If you are enrolled, you typically will do some or all of the following for 1 to 3 years:
- Give regular urine samples to show you are clean
- Perform community service
- Attend substance abuse and/or psychological counseling
- Meet regularly with a parole officer
Diversionary programs are a good option if you have no prior criminal record but made a mistake. However, even many attractive candidates are denied admission. An experienced New Jersey drug crimes attorney can advise you whether to apply and will help with the application.
New Jersey realizes that addicts commit many drug crimes. Throwing them in jail isn’t very productive. Instead, the state recognizes that substance abuse counseling is a better alternative.
You might go through Drug Court. Unlike diversionary programs, however, you must plead guilty. Nevertheless, the focus will be on rehabilitating you, not punishing you. For that reason, you can often avoid jail.
If you are interested in drug court, talk with an attorney. Our legal team can help with the application process.
An expungement can help a person move on with their life after conviction. Whenever you apply for a job or even an apartment, odds are you will need to disclose any prior convictions. Even worse, many internet companies are providing criminal background checks for the click of a mouse and a $19.99 fee.
With an expungement, you can clean up your criminal record. However, not everyone is eligible to expunge a drug offense. Generally, you can only have one indictable offense on your record, and most drug crimes are indictable offenses.
You might also be ineligible if you have too many disorderly persons convictions. At most, you can have five if you have no indictable convictions or three with an indictable conviction.
There are benefits to working with a New Jersey drug crimes attorney. Our office can review your record to see if you are a good candidate for expungement. If so, we can help fill out the paperwork and represent you, if necessary, in court. We can also help you strategize whether to seek expungement now or later.
Oral arguments are sometimes necessary. Although you could represent yourself, it’s in your best interest not to. Let a seasoned attorney stand before a judge and ask permission to clean up your record.
Yes. First, an officer can search anything you give consent to. You should expect the cop to ask if he can search your car. You should say “no.”
Even without consent, however, officers can perform a search. The most common situation is if they have a search warrant signed by a judge. But they often don’t even need that. Under the law, a cop can search your car if they have probable cause that you have drugs. They can point to anything, such as a passenger acting high.
Yes, it is possible. However, we want to know more about the facts. There is no one defense that works in all cases. A lot depends on what you told the cops and where they found the drugs or paraphernalia.
For example, we might raise any of the following defenses:
- You did not actually or constructively possess drugs.
- You did not know about the drugs the police found on your property or your person.
- You had a valid prescription to take the drugs.
- The police didn’t weigh the drugs properly, so you are under the criminal limit.
- The police did not have a valid reason to search you, so the drugs were obtained illegally.
- You did not know people around you had drugs or were distributing them.
It is also possible to challenge the amount of drugs involved. In many cases, you will face stiffer penalties the more drugs the police find. However, you can’t count on the police to weigh everything properly. Sometimes even getting some of the drugs suppressed can help reduce charges.
Say nothing! The less said, the better. Many defendants convict themselves with their own statements. The fact that drugs were in your pocket or purse does not mean you are guilty. For example, maybe you borrowed your friend’s jacket, which had cocaine in a pocket. If you didn’t know the cocaine was inside, then you are not in possession of drugs.
The same is true if a friend gave you an envelope to give to a common acquaintance. You might have no idea what was in the envelope. The fact that it contains heroin doesn’t mean you are guilty.
In many situations, suspects try to “talk their way” out of drug charges. The police might even ask you to tell them your side of the story. You are not required to answer any of the officer’s questions. We recommend immediately calling a New Jersey drug crimes lawyer instead. Say, “I want an attorney present,” and wait for them to give you a phone call.
It depends on what you knew and what actions you took. If you had no idea what was happening, you might not be charged with a crime. However, a prosecutor will look closely at your actions. For example, people might have been coming to the home at all hours of the day and night. A reasonable parent would investigate what was happening. You should consult with an attorney to be on the safe side.
Proving intent is difficult. Often, prosecutors will assume you intend to distribute if they find a lot of drugs on you. They assume you aren’t going to consume 50 pounds of cocaine. They might also find a lot of money on you along with a brick of drugs.
There might be valid reasons why you had large amounts of a controlled substance on you with no intent to distribute. You should discuss these concerns with a New Jersey drug crimes attorney.
Possibly. Often, there are weaknesses in a case that the prosecutor hopes the defense attorney doesn’t find out about. For example, the cops might not have had probable cause to search you. Or they used illegal racial profiling when they pulled your car over and then started poking in the back seat. Once we make these arguments, some prosecutors want to make a case go away.
The days following a drug arrest are confusing. You might have many questions spinning in your mind, such as: Will I go to jail? Can I beat these charges? What did the police find in my car or backpack? Will I lose my college scholarship?
Now is the time to meet with an experienced drug crimes lawyer in New Jersey. At Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates, we have the experience and knowledge you need at this challenging moment. Our legal team is adept at reviewing the prosecutor’s evidence with a fine-tooth comb. We can find mistakes in the collection and testing of drugs, as well as in how the officer conducted the police stop. Never immediately plead guilty without talking with an attorney first. There is so much at stake—possible loss of driving privileges or time spent behind bars. You owe it to yourself and your future to call to schedule a free consultation. Moreover, savvy criminal defense attorney Tara Breslow-Testa personally handles each client’s case. She lends her wealth of experience and expertise to meet the individual needs of every client. To learn more, call Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates at (732) 784-2880 or contact us online.