It can be frightening to face a charge such as possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia in New Jersey for the first time. You worry about a possible criminal record, driver’s license suspension, fines, jail time, and other penalties. Whatever charge you face, keep in mind that New Jersey law considers you innocent until proven guilty and that you have the legal right to hire a criminal defense attorney.
Roy Breslow and Casey Breslow-Glugeth both have years of experience working as prosecutors in New Jersey. That means they understand prosecution tactics and have the resources available to challenge the charges against you. No matter which attorney you work with to fight against your possession New Jersey 1st offense, you can depend on their breadth of legal education and experience on both sides of criminal trials to attack errors by the prosecution and turn them into advantages for you. Breslow and Breslow-Glugeth are both admitted to the New Jersey Bar and have received recognition for both their prosecution and defense of people charged with criminal acts.
Freedom is far too precious to gamble with, even for first-time offenders. We urge you to schedule a free consultation with Breslow Law Office today. This gives you the chance to learn more about our defense strategies to prevent you from gaining a criminal record while we learn more about your situation. You may reach us at 973-239-8000 in Verona and 609-494-8884 in Long Beach Island.
Understanding the Penalties for a First-Time Drug Offense in New Jersey
The first question most people have when charged with marijuana possession or other drug charges is what type of criminal charges they face. That depends on the specific charge against you. For example, New Jersey considers marijuana possession of less than 50 grams a disorderly persons offense. This term refers to a criminal misdemeanor. It will appear on future background checks if convicted. A disorderly person offense typically doesn’t include jail time unless you have a previous criminal record. The fine can be up to $1,000. Other categories of drug-related criminal charges include:
- First-degree drug charge: This charge often accompanies other serious crimes such as inflicting severe bodily harm on another person. Typical penalties are up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $200,000. People with a previous felony conviction could face 30 years in prison.
- Second-degree drug charge: You face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $150,000 if charged with this crime. Drug distribution may fall under this category. However, a prosecutor may push for a first-degree drug charge for possession of a large amount of drugs.
- Third-degree drug charge: This charge comes with a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $15,000. Possession of harder narcotics usually falls into this category.
- Fourth-degree drug charge: New Jersey has implemented a pretrial intervention program for people facing a fourth-degree drug charge. That means you may receive probation instead of going through a court trial. The state will drop its drug charges against you if you complete the probation period with no further criminal charges against you. It also won’t maintain any record of the fourth-degree charge. The pretrial intervention program also goes by the name N.J.S.A. 2c.
Expungement may be possible for some of these drug charges. We will explain the criteria in more detail when you meet with our experienced criminal defense attorney for a free consultation.
Possible Defenses to First-Degree Drug Charges
Remember that you are not guilty of possession charges or drug distribution just because the state has filed criminal charges against you. Police officers and prosecutors must follow the proper chain of command and ensure that no one violates your civil rights when arresting and charging you. If someone makes a procedural error at any point in your criminal offense case, it provides your criminal defense attorney with opportunity to argue for dismissal or lessening of your charges. Possible defenses for first-time offenders include:
- Chain of custody errors: The proper chain of custody with a marijuana possession charge is police seizure, signing the drugs into the police station, signing out of the police station, and transferring the grams of marijuana to a New Jersey police laboratory for appropriate testing. Your attorney will challenge the legality of the drug charge and may ask for a conditional discharge if officials broke any part of the chain of custody.
- Challenging possession of marijuana: When New Jersey prosecutors charge you with possession of marijuana, they must prove that it was indeed yours. Alternate explanations often exist, such as you’re not actually guilty of marijuana possession because you drove another person’s vehicle not knowing it was there.
- Inaccurate laboratory report: Sometimes lab reports are inaccurate or inconclusive. Your criminal defense attorney will challenge the prosecution to prove the validity of any lab report showing drugs in your system.
- Illegal search: Police officers must have a valid reason to search your person, motor vehicle, and home before filing criminal charges for drug possession or distribution against you. If your criminal defense attorney can prove the search was illegal, New Jersey must dismiss the drug offense against you.
- Illegal traffic stop resulting in marijuana charges or other drug charges: No matter how many grams of marijuana or other drugs a police officer finds in your motor vehicle, he or she must have a valid reason to stop you in the first place. Speeding, erratic driving, and broken equipment on your motor vehicle are all valid reasons. Just having a hunch you have possession of marijuana is not.
Contact Our Law Office for a Free Consultation
Facing license suspension, jail time, fines, a criminal record, and other penalties feels overwhelming for first-time offenders. At Breslow Law Offices, we believe anyone can make a mistake and deserves the chance to face lesser consequences such as community service or pre-trial intervention. We use all available resources and our decades of experience to get the drug charges against you reduced or dropped in lieu of any penalty. Please contact Breslow Law Offices today at 973-239-8000 in Essex County or 609-494-8884 in Ocean County.