New Jersey Defense Lawyers: Cocaine Possession or Distribution
Former New Jersey Prosecutor
The defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall defend individuals charged with possession of cocaine and possession of crack cocaine (also known as rock) throughout New Jersey including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Morris County, Burlington County, Mercer County, Ocean County, Essex County and Hudson County. Both varieties of "coke" are categorized as scheduled narcotics under the drug possession laws of New Jersey and what this means is that it is almost certain that an individual shall be subject to an indictable criminal offense (e.g. felony possession) if found in possession of coke. The penalties for possession of cocaine in the State of New Jersey vary depending on the nature of the possession (i.e. simple possession or possession with intent to distribute) and the weight of the drugs involved.
The United States Office of National Drug Control Policy indicates that cocaine, including crack cocaine, is the primary drug involved in Federal Drug arrests. Based on our experience, we suspect that state court prosecutions for cocaine possession in New Jersey also predominate. Powder cocaine and crack cocaine are highly addictive and are a readily available street drug. Given many factors associated with cocaine use, possession and distribution, law enforcement in New Jersey has been aggressive in arrests, cocaine drug busts, and penalty enforcement. New Jersey has also recognized its addictive nature and has adopted Drug Court in an effort to rehabilitate rather than incarcerate those non-violent offenders whose real problem is addiction. The criminal lawyers at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall are experienced in New Jersey possession charges for cocaine and crack cocaine and will move for admission into Drug Court where appropriate. If you have been arrested, charged and/or indicted for cocaine possession, please do not hesitate to contact our NJ law firm.
New Jersey's Cocaine & Crack Cocaine Possession Law
The statute governing cocaine possession, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10, provides that:
a. It is unlawful for any person, knowingly or purposely, to obtain, or to possess, actually or constructively, a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog, unless the substance was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order form from a practitioner, while acting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by P.L.1970, c. 226. Any person who violates this section with respect to:
(1) A controlled dangerous substance, or its analog, classified in Schedule I, II, III or IV other than those specifically covered in this section, is guilty of a crime of the third degree except that, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3, a fine of up to $35,000.00 may be imposed;
Penalties for possession of cocaine and crack are predicated on the weight of the drugs in possession, the location where the possession took place, and whether the possession was for the suspect's own use or whether the possession was with the intent to distribute.
Penalties for "Simple" or "Straight" Possession
Simple possession of cocaine or crack is generally a third degree offense. A third degree offense carries a maximum term of incarceration of five (5) years. A presumption against incarceration exists, however, where an individual has no prior indictable convictions. Additionally, a suspect charged with third degree possession is generally eligible for Pretrial Intervention (PTI) provided no prior diversion has been granted. Where an individual possesses a prior indictable record and is ineligible for PTI, the penalties to be imposed, including incarceration, hinge on the facts of a particular case, prior record, and the weight given to any arguments made in favor of the suspect at sentencing. The criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John Marshall shall make certain every argument is made at sentencing so that penalties are minimized.
Possession of Cocaine or Crack Cocaine in a School Zone, Public Housing Project, or Public Park Carries Additional Penalties in New Jersey
If you are charged with possession of cocaine or crack cocaine in a school zone, public housing project, or public park, there are enhanced penalties under
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10. The school zone provision of the "straight" or "simple" possession statute provides that:
Any person who commits any offense defined in this section while on any property used for school purposes which is owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school or school board, or within 1,000 feet of any such school property or a school bus, or while on any school bus, and who is not sentenced to a term of imprisonment, shall, in addition to any other sentence which the court may impose, be required to perform not less than 100 hours of community service.
Possession of Coke with Intent to Distribute Law
Possession of cocaine or crack with intent to distribute, commonly referred to distribution of cocaine , is a very serious offense in New Jersey. The New Jersey Drug Distribution Statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5, provides that it is illegal:
(1) To manufacture, distribute or dispense, or to possess or have under his control with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog; or
(2) To create, distribute, or possess or have under his control with intent to distribute, a counterfeit controlled dangerous substance.
Penalties for Possession with Intent to Distribute in New Jersey
The penalties in New Jersey for distribution of cocaine or crack cocaine are provided in N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b). The statute provides:
Any person who violates subsection a. with respect to:
(1) Heroin, or its analog, or coca leaves and any salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of coca leaves... in a quantity of five ounces or more including any adulterants or dilutants is guilty of a crime of the first degree. The defendant shall, except as provided in N.J.S.A. 2C:35-12, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment by the court. The term of imprisonment shall include the imposition of a minimum term which shall be fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed, during which the defendant shall be ineligible for parole. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection a. of N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3, a fine of up to $500,000.00 may be imposed;
(2) A substance referred to in paragraph (1) of this subsection, in a quantity of one-half ounce or more but less than five ounces, including any adulterants or dilutants is guilty of a crime of the second degree;
(3) A substance referred to in paragraph (1) of this subsection in a quantity less than one-half ounce including any adulterants or dilutants is guilty of a crime of the third degree except that, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3, a fine of up to $75,000.00 may be imposed;
c. Where the degree of the offense for violation of this section depends on the quantity of the substance, the quantity involved shall be determined by the trier of fact. Where the indictment or accusation so provides, the quantity involved in individual acts of manufacturing, distribution, dispensing or possessing with intent to distribute may be aggregated in determining the grade of the offense, whether distribution or dispensing is to the same person or several persons, provided that each individual act of manufacturing, distribution, dispensing or possession with intent to distribute was committed within the applicable statute of limitations.
The penalties for possession of cocaine or crack cocaine with intent to distribute therefore hinge on the quantity, by weight, of the cocaine or crack cocaine in the defendant's possession. Possession of five (5) ounces or more of cocaine or crack cocaine for distribution carries mandatory incarceration, a maximum sentence of twenty (20) years (assuming it is not an extended term situation) and there shall be a parole ineligibility of one third to one half of the sentence imposed. Possession of cocaine or crack cocaine of between one half ounce and five (5) ounces for purposes of distribution is a second degree offense which carries a maximum sentence of ten (10) years (assuming it is not an extended term situation) and an assumption of some period of incarceration. Distributing cocaine or crack cocaine in an amount less than one half an ounce is a Third degree offense. Where individual has previously been convicted of a First Offense for cocaine distribution and is now subject to a Second Offense or Third Offense for distribution of cocaine, the penalties become further complicated. A lawyer with our firm can provide additional detail on this subject including, but limited to, the implications of the Brimage Guidelines.
Distribution in a School Zone Carries Enhanced Penalties
There are enhanced penalties in New Jersey for distribution of cocaine or crack cocaine in a school zone which are set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7. This statute provides that:
Any person who violates subsection a. of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5 by distributing, dispensing or possessing with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog while on any school property used for school purposes which is owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school or school board, or within 1,000 feet of such school property or a school bus, or while on any school bus, is guilty of a crime of the third degree and shall, except as provided in N.J.S.A. 2C:35-12, be sentenced by the court to a term of imprisonment. The term of imprisonment shall include the imposition of a minimum term which shall be fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed, or three years, whichever is greater, during which the defendant shall be ineligible for parole. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3, a fine of up to $150,000.00 may also be imposed upon any conviction for a violation of this section.
Possession with intent to distribute cocaine within a school zone are very serious cases and a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can be invaluable in these types of case. If you have been arrested or indicted for possession of cocaine in a school zone, our criminal attorneys will exhaust all potential defenses and insure that you reach the best possible outcome.
Distributing Cocaine or Crack Cocaine Within 500 Feet of a Public Housing Project or Public Park in NJ Carries Additional Penalties
N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 provides that:
a. Any person who violates subsection a. of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5 by distributing, dispensing or possessing with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog while in, on or within 500 feet of the real property comprising a public housing facility, a public park, or a public building is guilty of a crime of the second degree, except that it is a crime of the third degree if the violation involved less than one ounce of marijuana.
b. It shall be no defense to a prosecution for violation of this section that the actor was unaware that the prohibited conduct took place while on or within 500 feet of a public housing facility, a public park, or a public building.
"Public housing facility" means any dwelling, complex of dwellings, accommodation, building, structure or facility and real property of any nature appurtenant thereto and used in connection therewith, which is owned by or leased to a local housing authority in accordance with the "Local Redevelopment and Housing Law," for the purpose of providing living accommodations to persons of low income.
"Public park" means a park, recreation facility or area or playground owned or controlled by a State, county or local government unit.
The reality is that charges involving simple possession or possession with intent to distribute cocaine or crack cocaine have the potential to become extremely complicated. While the complications can result in enhanced penalty exposure, including jail, the complicated facts also provide additional opportunities for bona fide defenses and/or issues of guilt. The criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall make sure that all defenses and issues are fully explored and that clients are provided with the best opportunity to avoid the pitfalls associated with coke charges. An attorney of our office is prepared to discuss your Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Morris County, Burlington County, Mercer County, Ocean County, Essex County or Hudson County, cocaine charge. Please feel free to contact our office and arrange a free initial consultation with one of our defense attorneys.
New Jersey Drug Laws