Possessing, Distributing, or Selling Drugs in a School Zone
Charged with Manufacturing or Distribution Within 1,000 Feet of School Property?
An arrest for distribution of drugs becomes significantly more complicated when it involves allegations of intent to sell in a School Zone. The reason for this stems from the fact that a 1,000 foot charge under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 is a separate offense that carries significant jail exposure and even ineligibility for parole. It is therefore extremely important in our view that anyone charged under 2C:35-7 to retain a lawyer that is highly knowledgeable in drug cases. If you were arrested for this offense, the attorneys here are prepared to put their over 100 years of collective experience to work for you, including their years as prosecutors, so that you can obtain the very best outcome on your case in Ocean County, Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Morris County, Union County, Bergen County, Hudson County, Essex County or Passaic County. An attorney is available anytime at 1-877-450-8301 to answer your questions and we invite you to review the information regarding school zone law that follows.
Relevent Language of the Law. N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 provides that "any person who violates [ N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5] by 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 any elementary or secondary school or school board, or within 1,000 feet of any school property or school bus, or while on any school bus, is guilty of a crime of the third degree and shall...be sentenced by the court to a term of imprisonment..." To review the language of the statute in its entirety, refer to NJ School Zone Law: N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.
Elements of Offense. In addition to proving Drug Distribution, the prosecutor must establish two elements to obtain a school zone conviction under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7. First, the conduct must occur on school property or within 1,000 feet of an elementary school, secondary school, or school board. Second, the area must be regularly and actually used for "school purposes". Both of these elements must to demonstrated by the prosecution in order for an accused to be convicted of this offense.
School Zone Map. In accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7(f), the prosecution should present a map establishing that the conduct occurred within the 1,000 foot zone. The related map is only valid for this purpose if it was approved by resolution or ordinance of the municipal or county governing body as a drug free zone.
Lack of Knowledge Irrelevent. This law is what is commonly referred to as a strict liability statute that imposes criminal liability irrespective of intent. An accused does not have to possess an intention or even knowledge that the Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin or any other CDS is being sold in a prohibited zone. If the sale or attempt to sell occurred in the school zone, this suffices under the statute.
Merger Does Not Apply. As previously stated, a school zone charge is a separate offense from selling CDS. In addition, while the law often allows for merger of criminal offenses, subsection (c) of the law prohibits merging a conviction for distribution with a violation of N.J.S.A.2C:35-7.
Penalties & Sentence. The of jail exposure for a violation of 2C:35-7 depends on the Degree of Offense to which an accused is convicted. A First Degree charge carries 10-20 years in prison, a Second Degree triggers 5-10 years of imprisonment, and a Third Degree results in imposition of 0-5 years in jail. A conviction under this section also exposes a defendant to a fine of up to $150,000.
Minimum Term & Parole Ineligibility. A school zone offense carries a minimum period of parole ineligibility ranging between one-half and one-third of the sentence imposed or three years, whichever is greater. If the drug involved is one ounce or less of marijuana, however, the minimum term of parole ineligibility allowed is between one-third and one-half of the sentence or one year, whichever is greater. The mandatory minimum term of impisonment may, however, be waived by the court after considering certain factors including the defendant's prior record and whether school and/or children were actually present at the time of the conduct. The possibility of waiver does not apply where the defendant uses or threatens violence or possesses a firearm, or where he or she has a prior conviction for drug distribution or possession with intent to distribute.
If you would like additional information, attorneys can be reached 24/7 at 1-877-450-8301.