Everything You Need to Know About Drug Possession in New Jersey

Being accused or convicted of drug possession in New Jersey is life altering. The penalties for a conviction can ruin your reputation, your career, and your family. Keep reading to learn more about how drug possession is treated in New Jersey and how you can protect yourself if you are accused. 

Drug Possession

No doubt about it, New Jersey is tough on drugs. Drug possession is considered a felony-level offense in most cases, unless the amount of the drug (marijuana or prescription medicine) possessed is 6 ounces or less, which is usually deemed “personal use” quantity. Under New Jersey drug laws, if you are caught with an amount of drugs that exceeds the definition of “personal use”, you can be charged with distribution.  

There are many variants that come into play when assessing a drug charge in New Jersey. The type of drug, the amount of the drug, whether intent to distribute can be proven, whether the drug was possessed within 1000 feet of a school, and prior arrests all contribute to determining charges against someone for drug possession. 

New Jersey classifies crimes as “disorderly persons offenses” and “indictable crimes”, not misdemeanors and felonies, but the penalties for either are harsh. A disorderly person’s offense can result in up to 6 months in jail and $1000 fine while a fourth degree (lowest) indictable crime offense can produce an 18-month prison sentence and $10,000 in fines. 

Marijuana vs. Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) 

An amendment to the state constitution legalizing cannabis became effective on January 1, 2021, and enabling legislation and related bills were signed into law by governor Phil Murphy on February 22, 2021. However, there are strict guidelines as to who can grow it, who can sell/buy it, and how much of the drug is allowed in possession of one person. 

The drugs that fall under the Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS) umbrella are highly penalized by the drug laws in New Jersey. These CDS drugs include cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and certain prescription drugs without a prescription. When it comes to charges associated with these types of drugs, quantity and the specific drug in question matter. 

Drug offenses are classified by degrees in New Jersey, each degree has its own set of consequences. 

  • Third Degree Offense: If you are caught with even a small amount (less than ½ an ounce) of a CDS drug, the penalty is strict. 3 to 5 years in prison, and fines up to $35,000 for fentanyl or methamphetamine, or up to $75,000 in fines for cocaine or heroin. 
  • Second Degree Offense: More than half an ounce but less than 5 ounces of fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, or ecstasy, or a higher amount of prescription drugs will result in a second-degree offense. 5-10 years in prison, with fines upwards of $150,000 for fentanyl or ecstasy. The other CDS drug fines vary. 
  • First Degree Offense: The most serious of drug offenses. 5 or more ounces of any CDS drug will result in 10-20 years in prison, and fines as high as $500,000 for fentanyl, ecstasy, cocaine, or heroin. The fine for methamphetamine and prescription drugs is as high as $300,000, with a 10-year prison sentence for prescription drugs. 

Examples of Drug Possession Charges in New Jersey 

As mentioned above, if intent can be proven along with drug possession, the penalty will be more severe. If you are charged with possession only, the charges could include: 

  • 50 or less grams of marijuana: Disorderly persons offense 
  • More than 50 grams of marijuana: Indictable offense, degree of crime depends on the weight of the drug
  • Any amount of heroin, cocaine, acid, methamphetamine, GBH, ecstasy and any other narcotics, hallucinogens, stimulants, depressants, or opiates: Indictable offense based on the weight of the drug 
  • Unauthorized prescription drugs: Commonly charged as a third-degree offense 
  • Drug paraphernalia such as needles, bongs, pipes, baggies: Usually charged as a disorderly person’s offense 

Although marijuana has been decriminalized in New Jersey, you are only allowed to possess less than 6 ounces. Possessing more than 6 ounces can result in a disorderly person’s offense with penalties of up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Possessing more than 1 pound of marijuana will result in a fourth-degree offense with even harsher penalties. 

If You Are Charged with Drug Possession in New Jersey 

If you, or someone you know, is facing a drug possession charge in New Jersey, it is imperative to secure experienced legal advice immediately. Facing these types of charges on your own is not wise. A knowledgeable criminal defense team, like the attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot has experience defending against all types of drug charges. 

The team of attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot makes you a priority. We get to know you and the facts of your case to develop the best defense strategy we can. Drug charges can destroy your life, but our team can help put it back together. 

Reach out to the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot if you, or a loved one, is facing drug possession charges in New Jersey!