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What are the Defenses for Drug Distribution?

Posted on: February 19, 2021

Drug-related charges in New Jersey are serious and carry stiff penalties, including fines and jail time. Some drug crimes can also be prosecuted under federal law depending on scale, location, type, and amount of drugs and money involved. No matter which authority makes the arrest or indictment, everyone has the right to legal defense. An arrest or indictment does not automatically mean guilt.

What is Drug Distribution?

Under New Jersey law, anyone who distributes, manufactures, sells, or dispenses a controlled dangerous substance or possesses a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute is committing a crime. Depending on the type and amount of the drug, the degree of charges will vary. Penalties for conviction in New Jersey are as follows:

  • First degree: 10 to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $200,000
  • Second degree: Five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000
  • Third degree: Three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000
  • Fourth degree: Up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Disorderly persons offense: Fine of up to $1,000
  • Petty disorderly persons offense: Fine of up to $500

New Jersey’s drug schedule is also considered when determining the degree of a drug-related crime.

What is a Drug Schedule?

New Jersey classifies a controlled dangerous substance according to their medical use, potential for abuse, and psychological or physical dependence, as follows:

  • Schedule I: High potential for abuse, no accepted medical use in the U.S., or lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision. Examples include:
  • Marijuana, except legal in New Jersey when prescribed by a licensed physician for specific medical uses and obtained from a licensed dispensary
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • LSD
  • MDMA
  • Bath salts
  • Schedule II: High potential for abuse, may lead to psychological or physical dependence, currently accepted medical use in the U.S. with severe restrictions. Examples include:
  • Cocaine
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Vicodin
  • Oxycodone/Oxycontin
  • Fentanyl
  • Amphetamines
  • Ritalin
  • Percocet
  • Codeine
  • Schedule III: Less abuse potential than Schedule I and II drugs, accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence. Examples include:
  • Suboxone
  • Ketamine
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Tylenol with codeine
  • Schedule IV: Low potential for abuse when compared to drugs in Schedules I, II, and III with some accepted medical use in the U.S. Examples include:
  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Klonopin
  • Barbituates
  • Schedule V: Low potential for abuse relative to the substances listed in Schedule IV, currently accepted medical use in the U.S., limited potential for dependence relative to the substances listed in Schedule IV, may be sold over the counter, and must contain:
  • 200 milligrams or less of codeine
  • 100 milligrams or less of dihydrocodeine
  • 50 milligrams or less of ethylmorphine
  • 2.5 milligrams or less of diphenoxylate
  • 100 milligrams or less of opium

Sometimes a drug charge will reference the following common terms:

  • Opiate or opioid: A controlled dangerous substance with addiction-forming or addiction-sustaining liability or is capable of being converted into an addiction-forming or addiction-sustaining liability drug.
  • Narcotic: Any of the following, whether produced by extraction from natural elements or chemical synthesis:
  • Opium, coca leaves, and opiates
  • A compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, or preparation of opium, coca leaves, or opiates
  • Prescription drug: Drugs available only through prescription by a medical provider licensed to prescribe medications.

What Should I Do if Charged with Drug Distribution?

Anyone who has been arrested or is under investigation or facing charges for drug distribution should exercise their right to remain silent and not admit to anything. Anyone arrested has the constitutional right to counsel. They should not speak to authorities without a criminal defense lawyer present. Engaging a criminal defense lawyer, even before being formally charged, is beneficial to building a strong defense. If charges have already been filed or an arrest has been made, consulting with a criminal defense lawyer is still the best first step.

What are the Defenses for Drug Distribution?

In New Jersey, there are several things a prosecutor must prove in a drug distribution charge, including:

  • The item in question is a controlled dangerous substance
  • The defendant acted knowingly or purposely
  • The defendant either manufactured, distributed, dispensed, or possessed the drug with intent to distribute

Law enforcement will often use drug packaging materials to support their case for intent to distribute. In New Jersey, a defendant does not need to have benefited financially to be charged with drug distribution. Every case is unique, but a criminal defense lawyer will use a combination of techniques to defend a person charged with drug distribution. An experienced lawyer will:

  • Determine if illegal search and seizure was involved
  • Establish if there was probable cause for a search or traffic stop
  • Challenge the possession of the controlled dangerous substance
  • Prove entrapment or that the defendant had a prescription or did not know substances were illegal
  • Dispute the intent to sell or distribute and contest the evidence related to the intent to distribute
  • Question the validity of test results and lab equipment
  • Establish if there were racial, socio-economic, or other biases
  • Argue that improper procedures were used or errors were made
  • Question the credibility of witnesses and call out flawed testimony
  • Disqualify evidence or prove the evidence is insufficient to establish reasonable doubt or that evidence has been tampered with

Freehold Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Those Involved in Drug-Related Crimes

New Jersey law includes a variety of drug-related crimes, from possession to manufacturing to distribution and more. Any case will have many nuances, and no one is guilty simply because they have been charged. The Freehold criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law have the skill and experience to ensure that a defendant in a drug-related case receives fair treatment inside and outside the courtroom. Call 732-308-0200 to schedule a free consultation or contact us online. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we proudly serve residents throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.

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