New Jersey Methamphetamine Law: Possession and Distribution
The NJ criminal attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall defend meth possession and distribution cases in New Jersey. Our legal staff includes three experienced criminal lawyers and Jonathan F. Marshall, a former prosecutor. A lawyer from our law firm is prepared to speak to you immediately and initial consultations with an attorney are always without charge. Our New Jersey law firm provides criminal defense representation in methamphetamine possession and distribution cases statewide including Monmouth County, Hudson County, Union County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Burlington County, Morris County, Somerset County, Essex County, Mercer County, and Bergen County. The lawyers at our firm are ready to give your methamphetamine possession or distribution indictment the attention it deserves.
The possession and distribution of methamphetamine has recently become of particular interest to law enforcement agencies and law makers in New Jersey. In recognition of what is perceived to be a growing epidemic, the NJ legislature has implemented tough drug provisions that pertain specifically to the possession and distribution of meth. Accordingly, charges involving simple possession or possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine have the potential to become extremely complicated. Meth possession or distribution charges may be a second-degree crime or third-degree crime, depending on the facts of the case. Irrespective of whether you have been indicted as a second-degree or third-degree crime, the criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall make sure that all defenses and issues are fully explored and that you are provided with the best opportunity to avoid the pitfalls associated with a conviction. If you have recently been arrested, it is never too early to get an attorney involved. The pre-indictment stage of your court case presents a good opportunity for an attorney to present defenses that may help you avoid indictment and/or obtain a downgrade of an indictment.
The New Jersey Methamphetamine Possession Statute
The statute governing methamphetamine possession, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10, provides:
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, Schedule II,Schedule III or Schedule 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;
Typically, possession of methamphetamine will be punishable according to several factors: (1) the quantity (2) the location (school zone laws); and (3) whether the drugs are intended for personal use or intended for distribution.
2C:35-10 is the statute that prohibits the unlawful possession, use or being under the influence of, or failure to make lawful disposition of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) or its analog, classified in Schedule I, II, III, or IV. The only exceptions for the possession, use, or being under the influence are found in P.L. 1970, c.226 (C.24:21-1 et seq.). This exception will apply if a person is found to be in possession of a controlled dangerous substance pursuant to a valid prescription from a practitioner acting in his professional capacity. Obviously, these exceptions will not apply to methamphetamine.
Possession of Methamphetamine is a Third-Degree Offense.
Usually, if charged with possession in violation of 2C:35-10 in New Jersey, potential exposure to jail time will depend on a combination of factors: (1) the quantity; and (2) the drug’s classification under the controlled dangerous substance provisions. Methamphetamine is a Schedule II substance. A Schedule II substance is defined as one that “(1) has a high potential for abuse; and (2) has currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions; and (3) abuse may lead to severe psychic or physical dependence.” P.L. 1970, c.226 (c. 24: 21-5). Given the high likelihood of addiction and the dangerous physical side effects, possession of “meth” typically carries with it stiffer penalties than possession of, for example, marijuana. Therefore, possession of methamphetamine is usually charged as a third-degree crime. A third-degree crime carries a penalty of up to 5 years in state prison and a fine of up to 15,000 dollars. Given the serious consequences, it is important to enlist the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can formulate effective defense strategies.
You Can be Arrested for Being Under the Influence of Methamphetamine
It is important to note that the statute includes a “under the influence” provision. An individual suspected of being under the influence of methamphetamine in New Jersey can be charged with a disorderly persons offense. Please be advised that the State need not prove that the defendant was under the influence of methamphetamine specifically. The state’s burden of proof will be satisfied if the can show that the “accused did manifest physical and psychological symptoms or reactions caused by the use of any controlled dangerous substance. 2C:35-10(b). A disorderly persons offense carries a penalty of up to six months jail time and a fine of up to 1,000 dollars. Additionally, the accused may be required to complete many hours of community service, or sentenced to a lengthy probation.
If Caught Possessing “Meth” in a School Zone, the Accused will Face Enhanced Penalties
The “1000 feet School Zone” offense is in addition to any offense the accused has committed under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10. The statute reads in pertinent part:
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.
Be advised that it is no defense that the accused was unaware that his possession occurred within 1000 feet of a school zone or a school bus.
Possession of Significant Quantities of Methamphetamine Will Likely Result in a Possession with Intent to Distribute Charge Under 2C:35-5.
As stated herein, the type of narcotics is only one of several factors that will determine the defendant’s potential exposure in New Jersey. Possessing larger quantities can turn a “simple” possession charge into something much more serious; possession with the intent to distribute. 2C:35-5 is the statute that prohibits the manufacturing, distributing, dispensing and possession with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense all substances classified in Schedule I, II, III, and IV.
The statute sets forth specific subsections for different narcotics, including methamphetamine. These subsections generally define the degree of the offense based on the quantity of the substance involved. As compared to the other narcotics, the specific subsections that pertain to methamphetamine prescribe harsher penalties for comparatively small amounts of methamphetamine. The statute imposes tougher penalties in recognition of methamphetamine’s recent surge in popularity and its highly addictive qualities.
As noted, the statute seeks to penalize the distribution of meth according to the amounts involved. The breakdown is as follows: (1) if caught with five ounces of meth or more, the accused will face first-degree criminal charges, 20 years in state prison, and a fine up to 300,000 dollars (2) one half ounce or more but less than five ounces will result in a second-degree charge, which carries with it up to 10 years in state prison and a fine up to 150,000 dollars; and (3) if convicted for possession with intent to distribute a quantity of one half ounce or less, the defendant will be guilty of a third-degree offense and face a fine of up to 75,000 dollars.
Whether the defendant is charged with a distribution offense depends not only on the amounts involved, but also the surrounding circumstances. For instance, if the narcotics are separated into individual packages, it is much more likely that the accused is in the business of distributing (drug dealing) methamphetamine and the drugs are not for personal use.
Not only is the distribution and sale of CDS illegal, but the sale of imitation CDS is also illegal. 2C:35-11 makes it a crime for someone to represent to another that the substance (which he is distributing) is CDS. This representation may be expressed or implied. A violation of this statute is a third-degree crime.
Distribution Within 1000 feet of a School Zone Could Mean MANDATORY JAIL
In addition to any other violation described herein, the accused can be charged separately for distribution in a school zone. The enhanced penalties in New Jersey for distribution of methamphetamine in a school zone 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.
Distributing Methamphetamine Within 500 Feet of a Public Housing Project or Public Park in NJ
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.
If you have been arrested for possession or possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, call our offices and arrange for a free consultation with one of our criminal lawyers. Our defense attorneys defend individuals accused with the possession or distribution of methamphetamine in Monmouth County, Hudson County, Union County, Middlesex County, Ocean County, Somerset County, Essex County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Morris County, Mercer County, and Bergen County. A lawyer is available to assist you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and initial consultations with an attorney are without charge.