New Jersey Marijuana Possession Crimes
New Jersey Marijuana Possession Crimes
Marijuana possession is the number one criminal offense that clogs New Jersey county and municipal courts. According to the New Jersey State Police, there were almost 29,000 drug arrests in New Jersey in only the first six months of 2007, twice more than drunk driving arrests statewide, most of them for marijuana possession. Nationwide, marijuana use is on the rise and so are arrests for marijuana possession. According to the FBI report, in 2006 there were an estimated total of 1,889,810 state and local arrests for drug abuse violations in the United States of which 39.1% were for marijuana possession. That makes it almost 737,000.
People smoke pot in all parts of the county, but it is how states treat marijuana possession that makes all the difference. Many states, including New York and California, don’t view simple marijuana possession as the end of the world crime and most first-time offenders will get away with having the charges dismissed and paying a small fine. The penalty of first-time possessing of less than 25 grams of marijuana in New York is $100. It ‘s $200 for the second time. Otherwise, half the state will end up in jail.
Not so in New Jersey. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10, marijuana possession is prohibited and penalties depend on either or all of the following: (1) type of possession (possession with intent to distribute or not), (2) quantity of the drug in possession, and (2) whether it is the first, second, or third offense.
If you’re caught with more than 50 grams of marijuana, including any adulterants or dilutants, or more than five grams of hashish, you may be charged with a crime of the fourth degree, and you could get up to 18 months in jail and pay a fine of up to $25,000.00. If you are charged with possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana, including any adulterants or dilutants, or five grams or less of hashish, you will face a disorderly person’s offense charge that in the worst case scenario may get you up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine. You could also lose your drivers license and pay for your own rehabilitation program.
First time marijuana possession offenders in New Jersey could benefit from any of the two diversion programs, the Conditional Discharge authorized by N.J.S.A. 2C:36A-1 or the Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI). Under the conditional discharge law, basically, you have one chance to have your petty disorderly persons marijuana offense conditionally discharged if you qualify. How do you qualify? Your attorney should show that (1) your continued presence is not a danger to the community, which means convincing the court that no lock up or rehab is needed, (2) that the program’s supervision will correct any drug problems you have, and (3) this is your first application to the program or to Pretrial Intervention (“PTI”).
If you qualify for the conditional discharge program, the case will be suspended for a year and then, assuming you stay clean, it is dismissed. There will be no trial, no criminal record, and usually no suspension of your driver’s license. After the case is dismissed, you may expunge the arrest records.
If you fail to satisfy the program conditions, the case will be restored on the court’s calendar and then you will need your lawyer’s phone number again. After the year’s probation period, you will not have a criminal record
How the case will proceed largely depends on the prosecutor. The prosecutor may agree to downgrade your case as a disorderly persons offense and it would proceed in Municipal Court and would be eligible for Conditional Discharge. Otherwise, the case will go to the county court where you will be charged with a Fourth Degree Offense but may qualify for PTI.
Even with the existing first-timers diversion programs, traditional defense methods may be used such as evidence suppression under Search and Seizure laws. As simple as it may seem, a New Jersey marijuana possession charge may be gone for good or it may stick to you for a long time. The bottom line is, don’t try it yourself. You will need a good New Jersey marijuana defense lawyer who will walk you through the process