A drug possession conviction in New Jersey can negatively impact your life, your future, and the lives of those close to you. Drug charges can lead to hefty fines and even prison time. In addition to the punishment associated with a drug conviction, it can dramatically limit your opportunities in other areas of life, such as employment, housing, and education.
If you’ve been charged with drug possession in Monmouth County, New Jersey, the lawyers at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall know what is at stake, and we are here to help you. Our highly skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyers have a track record of success in representing clients arrested for drug possession. The reasons that people turn to us when their future is in jeopardy are our unique qualifications:
- More than two centuries of combined experience handling all types of criminal cases, including drug possession charges.
- Ten carefully chosen lawyers who focus specifically on criminal defense.
- Law firm members with diverse backgrounds in criminal justice including experience as former county and municipal prosecutors who have served as Director of a Major Crimes Bureau, Special Operations, Domestic Violence Unit, Guns Task Force, and an entire Trial Division.
If you have been arrested on drug possession charges in any Monmouth County town, such as Belmar, Wall, Freehold, Middletown, Red Bank, Asbury Park, or Howell, don’t try to handle your case alone. Call the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall today to speak with a knowledgeable drug defense lawyer to discuss your options.
Understanding Illegal Drug Possession
Drug possession refers to the possession of illegal drugs or drugs that are not prescribed for the individual who has them. The possession of controlled substances is a crime because these drugs may cause harm to those using them. Common examples of illegal drugs in New Jersey include cocaine, heroin, LSD, and methamphetamines, among others.
Types of Drug Possession Charges
When people are arrested for drug possession, prosecutors will refer to the schedule of drugs to determine official charges. People who are caught with Schedule I, Schedule II, and Schedule III drugs are more likely to face jail time and fines than those caught with Schedule IV and Schedule V drugs.
Common types of drug possession charges in New Jersey are marijuana possession, cocaine possession, methamphetamine possession, and heroin possession. Common forms include possession for personal use (also known as “simple possession”), possession with intent to distribute, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Potential Penalties for Drug Possession
Potential penalties for drug possession charges in New Jersey include:
- Possession of Less Than 50 Grams of Marijuana – You can face a disorderly persons offense, which carries up to six months in prison, a fine of $1,000, loss of your driver’s license, and drug rehabilitation.
- Possession of More Than 50 Grams of Marijuana – You can face a fourth-degree criminal offense, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
- Possession of Narcotics or Controlled Dangerous Substances – This includes heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, and other illegal narcotics, hallucinogens, stimulants opiates, and depressants. You can face three to five years in prison, a fine of $1,000 to $25,000, loss of your driver’s license, and a mandatory drug rehabilitation program.
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia – This charge carries up to six months in prison, a fine of $500 to $1,000, and a driver’s license suspension for up to two years.
- Simple Possession of Unauthorized Prescription Drugs – This is treated as a 3rd-degree crime, which can carry stiff sentences (up to five years in jail) and large fines. Many people think there is no harm in taking or having a prescription drug, but they are wrong. Using unauthorized prescriptions to get through an exam or to deal with stress is illegal.
- Possession of Schedule V drugs – This is a 4th-degree indictable offense. While not as serious as 3rd-degree offenses, if convicted, you could face up to 18 months in jail and fines up to $10,000.
Possession with Intent to Distribute
Possession with intent to distribute is determined by factors such as quantity, money on hand, quality, and packaging. These factors will be weighed by the court when determining your charges and may also be reviewed by an expert witness in the drug field. The most common drugs this law refers to include marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and LSD.
The penalty for drug possession with the intent to distribute, drug manufacturing, or intending to sell all fall under the same category, and the penalty is the same for each of them.
The severity of the punishment for each of these offenses will vary, depending on the illegal substance found and the quantity of drugs.
- If you are caught in possession of and trying to sell less than 1 ounce of marijuana, you can go to jail for up to 18 months and have to pay a fine of up to $15,000.
- If you have more than 1 ounce but less than 5 pounds, you can go to jail for up to 5 years and have to pay a fine of up to $25,000.
- If the amount is between 5 and 25 pounds, you can be put in jail for 10 years and will face a fine of up to $75,000.
- If you have over 25 pounds, you can go to prison for up to 20 years and be forced to pay up to $300,000.
- If you are caught possessing and trying to sell less than one-half of an ounce of heroin, you can be put in prison for up to 5 years and have to pay a fine of up to $75,000.
- If the quantity is more than half an ounce but less then 5 ounces, you can face up to 10 years in prison and a $75,000 fine.
- If the quantity exceeds 5 ounces, you can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and be compelled to pay a fine of $500,000.
- If you are caught possessing and trying to sell less than 100 milligrams of LSD, you can face up to a 10-year prison sentence and a fine of $75,000.
- If you are trying to sell more than 100 milligrams, you can go to prison for up to 20 years and be fined $500,000.
Drug Possession Defense Strategies
If you are accused of drug possession in Monmouth County, the burden of proof lies with the state. Prosecutors have to prove that an illegal drug was in your possession or among your belongings, that you knew you had the drug, and that you knew the drug was illegal. Depending on the circumstances of your particular case and whether you have a prior record, your Freehold drug possession defense lawyer may be able to arrange for you to be assigned to a drug treatment or counseling program rather than given jail time.
The following are some common defense strategies for drug possession:
While police are generally careful to avoid entrapment, it still happens. Entrapment cases involve proving that a police officer or an informant caused or induced the defendant to break the law.
- Unlawful search and seizure
According to the Fourth Amendment, only evidence found through lawful search and seizure can be used as evidence in court. If the evidence in your case was obtained unlawfully, an attorney can use this as a defense and try to get your case thrown out.
- The drugs belong to someone else
It’s possible to use the defense that the illegal substances were not yours if the drugs were found in a place where the actual ownership could be contested. For example, the drugs may have been found in the house you share with a roommate.
- Lab analysis
A lawyer can help ensure that the prosecutors are not making assumptions. Just because the substance found looks like cocaine, for instance, does not mean that it is. The prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance is what they say it is, and a lab analysis can prove this.
- Missing evidence
Evidence often passes through a number of hands before winding up in the evidence locker. This increases the chances that it can be lost. If the prosecution cannot produce the alleged drugs, it is possible that the court will throw your case out.
What to Expect When Facing Drug Possession Charges
If you are facing drug possession charges in Freehold, the Monmouth County criminal justice process will likely follow the following steps:
- First Appearance in Court. After being arrested, you can expect to have to make your first appearance in court, where you will go before a judge and be given a set of conditions for pretrial release. If you do not show up to your first appearance, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. You will be notified of your right to have a lawyer represent you during your first appearance. It is important that you have a qualified Freehold defense attorney represent you and guide you through the process.
- Set Bail. Depending on your case, you may qualify for bail. If bail is made, you will be released on the condition that you pay the bail amount until your charges in the complaint are resolved. This doesn’t mean you’ve gotten out of the court system yet. You will still have mandatory dates to appear and requirements of your bail.
- Examine Evidence and Establish Burden of Proof. After your first appearance, a prosecutor will determine whether to pursue your case. A variety of factors come into play, including police reports, witnesses, and your prior criminal record. A reputable and respected Freehold defense attorney who is well known in Monmouth County courts can negotiate on your behalf and seek to have the charges reduced or dismissed. Before bringing your case to trial, prosecutors must consider whether there is enough evidence against you to be punished for drug possession.
- Substance Abuse Evaluation. You will need to go through a substance abuse evaluation, which is supposed to define the nature of your involvement with drugs and whether or not you qualify for drug rehabilitation.
- Trial and Sentencing. If your case has not been settled or dismissed, a jury trial may be held to decide whether to convict you. The jury will decide your sentence/penalty.
Drug Possession and Implications for the Community
Drug possession and substance abuse tend to have a negative impact on the community. Drug abuse can contribute to crime, housing problems, financial problems, and homelessness, among other negative effects. Substance abuse costs the individual, the family, and the community in a wide range of ways, including:
- Loss of productivity
- Loss of unemployability
- Diminished physical and mental health
- Reduced overall quality of life
- Increased crime and violence
- Increased incarceration rates
- Increased neglect and abuse of children
- Dependence on non-familial support systems
- Increase in costs for medical treatment
Benefits of Hiring a Monmouth County Attorney
A qualified criminal defense attorney can be a major asset if you are facing drug charges. An attorney with experience and a track record of success can provide many advantages.
Our Monmouth County criminal attorneys are highly skilled in defending those who are accused. Our criminal defense lawyers understand every aspect of criminal law and court procedures in the state. They are committed to building a strong case on your behalf. They will examine all the facts and evidence in your drug possession case and develop a defense strategy to defend you.
Having an attorney gives you a much better chance at having your charges reduced or dismissed. If you decide to defend yourself in your drug case, you will likely find it to be far more difficult and complicated than you expected. You will be at a disadvantage. You may be outmatched by experienced prosecutors, judges, and others in the legal field you may face. An experienced defense attorney knows the applicable law and members of the criminal law system in Monmouth County. An attorney’s knowledge and experience will help you to build a stronger case and fight for your rights.
A defense attorney can take action promptly. A criminal defense lawyer needs to do all they can to challenge your drug possession charges. Attorneys are aware of possible prosecutorial misconduct and tactics, and they can help clear the pathway to justice out of all the hearings, motions, and pleadings.
Our attorneys are great negotiators. It is critical that a criminal defense lawyer has a high level of negotiation and persuasion skills. This can be especially important when negotiating a plea bargain with Monmouth County prosecutors. An effective plea bargain could result in lower charges or penalties.
An attorney can help with sentence mitigation. If you decide to plead guilty to your drug charge or you are found guilty after a trial, you will need an attorney who can stand on your behalf at your sentencing hearing. Having an attorney present with the required knowledge can make a huge difference.
An attorney can help you find an appropriate drug treatment program. If necessary, an attorney will work with the courts to be sure you are able to use the program during the criminal charges.
Contact a Monmouth County and Freehold, NJ, Drug Possession Attorney Today
Fighting a drug possession charge in Freehold and Monmouth County can be very stressful and complicated. Paperwork, court dates, and complex legal terminology are involved. You are up against prosecutors whose mission it is to prove you are guilty. Don’t attempt to go through this difficult process all alone.
The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is ready to defend you against the charges you face. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys will be ready to discuss your situation during a confidential consultation. Call us or reach out to us online today.