Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-7, potential penalties for distributing drugs such as heroin, cocaine, marijuana, or various prescription drugs, which is generally prohibited under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-5 and § 2C:35-10.5, are substantially increased for offenders arrested in a school zone or within 500 feet of a public park. For purposes of this increase in penalties, New Jersey law defines a school zone as any area within 1,000 feet of any school property. In cases where a defendant is accused of distributing a controlled dangerous substance in a park, the offense is automatically escalated from a third degree crime to a second degree offense under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-7.1. For those accused of distributing drugs in school zones, this escalation in the severity of the charges is not automatic, but increased potential penalties will attach to the crime of distributing a controlled and dangerous substance if it is alleged to have occurred within a school zone. The potential penalties faced by defendants whose offenses occurred within a school zone include a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 3 years without early release or parole, as well as fines of up to $150,000. Additionally, a defendant facing charges for distributing drugs in a school zone is not allowed a presumption against incarceration, a benefit usually conferred on first-time offenders accused of most other third-degree offenses. Therefore, the scales of justice are unfortunately weighted in favor of sending defendants to jail in cases involving the alleged distribution of drugs within a school zone.
CDS in a School Zone Penalties
Charges for distribution of a controlled dangerous substance in a school zone under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-7 are often accompanied by charges for distributing drugs within 500 feet of a public park under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-7.1 since many schools and parks are located very close to one another. New Jersey law treats most drugs the same under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-7, except that different penalties apply for distributing less than one ounce of marijuana within a school zone. For this charge, the potential penalties are decreased in severity, with the mandatory minimum jail time decreased from 3 years to only 1 year.
The severity of these penalties makes it crucial to consult with a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible in order to fully understand your rights and carefully craft the best legal defense strategy possible in your case. At the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our powerful legal defense team has decades of experience successfully defending clients in Mays Landing, Atlantic City, Galloway Township, Egg Harbor Township, Hamilton Township, and throughout Atlantic County. Charges for these offenses carry some of the most harsh potential penalties for any drug crimes in New Jersey, making it particularly important to retain an experienced attorney. Many of the seasoned attorneys on our powerful legal defense team have previously worked as prosecutors in over 25 New Jersey towns. Therefore, our legal defense team offers unparalleled thorough knowledge of the inner workings of the court system. We are also frequently able to have our clients’ charges reduced, or even dismissed.
Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation
If you have been arrested or charged with distributing drugs in a school zone in Atlantic County, please call us for a free consultation. We will review the details of your case and provide guidance on the best possible strategy for you. Call us at 1-877-450-8301 any time, or email us, for a free consultation to discuss how the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can help you reach the best outcome possible in your case.