Can a Lawyer Help with Eliminating Drug Charges?
Drug charges can permanently affect a person’s record and their ability to seek employment. Charges can also affect the status of one’s driver’s license. At Ellis Law, a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer will fight to have a person’s charges lowered or even dismissed. A lawyer should be familiar with handling serious drug charges in the superior courts, as well as the lesser drug citations that are heard in municipal courts. Individuals can face drug charges for the following:
Whether the accused has been charged with drug manufacturing, driving while under the influence, drug possession, or drug distribution, a criminal defense lawyer will fight to protect their interests in and out of the courtroom. A lawyer will also investigate their criminal history to determine their eligibility for a conditional discharge. If one is able to get a discharge, they will not have a criminal record. It is even possible to have their past criminal charges expunged.
What are the Consequences of Cocaine Possession?
Cocaine possession is the primary drug associated with federal drug arrests in the United States. According to the drug possession laws of New Jersey, both cocaine and crack cocaine are considered scheduled narcotics. The penalties of cocaine possession in New Jersey may vary based on the weight of the drugs involved and the nature of the possession. For example, penalties for simple possession are much different than that of possession with the intent to distribute. Since cocaine is listed as a scheduled narcotic, an individual charged with possession will be subjected to an indictable criminal offense, such as felony possession.
Cocaine, whether in its powdered or rock form, is a readily available and highly addictive street drug. New York and New Jersey law enforcement are often aggressive in charges and arrests dealing with cocaine. Drug court has been adopted by the state of New Jersey to work toward rehabilitation of non-violent offenders rather than incarceration. A criminal defense lawyer will work to get a case heard in court when it is possible and appropriate. Possession of cocaine or crack cocaine can have serious consequences under state law. It is against the law to purposely or knowingly obtain or possess a controlled substance that was obtained without a valid prescription.
What is Simple Cocaine Possession?
Simple possession is typically a third-degree offense with the maximum penalty of five years in jail. However, if the accused individual has no prior indictable convictions, incarceration is not usually sentenced. A pre-trial intervention (PTI) is sometimes available to an individual charged with third-degree possession who has no previous record.
If the individual has a prior indictable record, they are ineligible for a PTI. In such a case, the penalties are dependent on the prior record, details of the case at hand, and the arguments made for the suspect; the case may result in incarceration. A criminal defense lawyer will work with their client to find the best option available for this charge.
What are the Penalties for Possession of Cocaine with the Intent to Distribute?
A charge of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute has very serious penalties. In New Jersey, it is unlawful for a person to possess, manufacture, or distribute a controlled substance or a counterfeit controlled substance. Penalties for possession with the intent to distribute in New Jersey depend on the weight of the cocaine in the individual’s possession and can often be very severe with long-term effects. Penalties include:
- Possession and distribution of less than one-half ounce of cocaine is considered a third-degree offense and may be subject to a fine of up to $75,000.
- Possession and distribution between one-half ounce and five ounces of cocaine is a second-degree offense with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in jail.
- Possession and distribution of five or more ounces of cocaine is a first-degree crime. The penalty in the state of New Jersey is mandatory incarceration of up to 20 years with parole eligible after one-third to one-half of the sentenced time has been fulfilled. This offense may also carry a fine of up to $500,000.
In a situation where a person has been convicted of a first-degree offense for distribution of cocaine in the past and is now being convicted of a second or third-degree offense, sentencing can be complicated. Contacting a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer will be invaluable in assuring a fair trial with minimal penalties.
Are the Penalties More Severe if the Crime Happened in a School Zone?
Possession of cocaine in a school zone will have additional penalties in New Jersey. If an individual is convicted of cocaine possession in a school zone, they may be required to perform a minimum of 100 hours of community service in addition to the penalties imposed for the crime, unless the penalties include incarceration.
A school zone is considered on or within 1,000 feet of any property used for school purposes that is leased to or owned by an elementary or secondary school or school board, including school buses. Additionally, it is considered a third-degree offense if the individual is convicted of possession with the intent to distribute in a school zone. This offense carries a penalty of imprisonment where the defendant is not eligible for parole for a minimum of three years to one-half of the entire sentence, and a fine of up to $150,000. A criminal defense lawyer will exhaust all possible defenses to ensure their client has the best possible outcome in a cocaine charge involving a school zone.
What are the Consequences of Distributing in or Near a Public Park or Public Housing Project?
Possession, distribution, or possession with the intent to distribute cocaine within 500 feet of a public park, public building, or public housing facility is a second-degree offense. A public housing facility is any building, dwelling, complex, or structure used for or in connection with the local housing authority to provide housing to those of low income. A public park is any playground, park, or recreation area controlled or owned by the local government, including the state or county. Claiming to be unaware of the nearby public area is not a permissible defense.
Any charges involving the possession or possession with the intent to distribute can become very difficult. Without proper legal representation, such complications can result in harsher penalties. A criminal defense lawyer will take advantage of such complications to provide their client with the best defense that is possible.
Accused of Distribution and Dealing of Illegal Drugs
Drug charges can permanently affect a person’s record and their ability to seek employment. Charges can also affect the status of one’s driver’s license. If an individual has been charged with or arrested for the distribution of illegal drugs, it is crucial to take immediate action for a strong defense. The accused should not answer any questions without having a criminal defense lawyer present. Their right to remain silent may be their best protection to avoid making mistakes and increasing charges.
A criminal defense lawyer will fight to have their client’s charges lowered or even dismissed. A lawyer is prepared to defend cases involving the trafficking, sale, dispensing, and intent to distribute drugs. Whether one has been charged with drug manufacturing, driving under the influence, drug possession, or drug distribution, a lawyer will fight to protect their client’s best interests in and out of the courtroom.
What are the Penalties of a Drug Distribution Charge?
If one is charged with the intent to distribute an illegal drug, penalties range from supervised treatment to jail time. A first-offense charge of the intent to distribute an illegal drug may just result in strict supervision or drug treatment. If the threat of deadly force or other violence is involved with a drug distribution charge, one may be at risk of serious consequences, such as an unnecessarily long prison sentence. A criminal defense lawyer will work to get a case tried in a drug court rather than a criminal court, where a conviction carries the penalty of jail time. Drug court is specifically designed to rehabilitate drug users and may be more inclined to sentence drug treatment. Contacting a criminal defense lawyer at the first opportunity after being charged or arrested will guarantee the strongest defense possible.
How Serious are Drug Paraphernalia Charges?
Drug paraphernalia is a broad term and refers to many materials and devices associated with illegal drugs, such as:
- Bongs or pipes
- Prescription pads
- Blades, spoons, or bullets
- Cutting agents or precursor chemicals
What are the Consequences of Drug Paraphernalia Charges?
A drug paraphernalia charge is a misdemeanor case. Consequences for drug paraphernalia charges can result in a disruption of a person’s daily activities and can negatively affect their security clearances, career opportunities, or educational prospects later in life. In New Jersey, penalties for possession of drug paraphernalia includes a suspension of a driver’s license for six months to two years without the option of a hardship license. If these charges are combined with drug possession or distribution, the penalties may include jail time.
Drug paraphernalia charges rarely result in extended jail sentences, but a criminal defense lawyer will provide their client with a fair trial and explore the best available options. The prosecution often uses drug paraphernalia laws as bargaining tools. A lawyer will gather as much information about the case to give their client as many options as possible and find the best terms possible. Since drug paraphernalia is such a broad term, it can be advantageous to fight the charges. It is important not to plead guilty prematurely; one may suffer harsh penalties unnecessarily.
What Should I Do After I Receive a Drug Possession Charge?
While consequences of drug possession can include jail time, more often, a client who is charged with a first offense is admitted to drug court and may be subject to supervision, treatment programs, or conditional discharge. If the case results in a discharge, one will not carry forward a criminal record. If the individual is charged with a second offense, school zone offense, or intent to distribute, a criminal defense lawyer will work to get the charges reduced. As with any drug charge, contacting a skilled lawyer as soon as possible will work in one’s favor. Making a statement or answering any questions can sometimes harm a person’s case.
In a case where the drug possession charge applies to an individual under 18 years old, a criminal defense lawyer will determine if the case should be tried in a criminal court or is more appropriately handled as a juvenile offense. Whatever the decision, an accomplished lawyer will handle a case at any level.
Possible Defenses Against Drug Possession Charges
When fighting drug charges, a criminal defense lawyer will obtain as much information as possible to give the best defense:
- Was an illegal search and seizure used to obtain the drugs being used as evidence?
- Was an officer patting the accused down for a weapon when they found the drugs?
- Did the illegal drug actually belong to the accused?
- Was there a search warrant request or probable cause for the traffic stop that uncovered the drugs?
- Have the charges been elevated to possession or distribution based on the presence of large amounts of cash, drug paraphernalia, plastic bags, or a scale?
- When the accused was arrested, were they given their Miranda rights?
Based on these questions, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to reduce the charges in a plea bargain or negotiate a dismissal. If necessary, a lawyer will go to trial on behalf of their client.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law Provide Legal Representation to Those Facing Drug Charges
If you were charged with drug possession, contact a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer at Ellis Law for help with your case. We will fight for your rights in and out of the courtroom. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 732-308-0200. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York City.