Methamphetamine (or meth) is among the most dangerous illegal drugs available in the United States. Individuals who are addicted to meth can face enormous challenges in all aspects of their lives, and tragically, meth use can prove to be fatal in some cases.
Of course, taking meth has legal consequences, and making meth is considered to be a serious criminal offense under New Jersey law. If you have been charged with any type of meth crime, you will need to hire an experienced New Jersey drug lawyer who can fight to protect you in every way possible.
Methamphetamine Crimes in New Jersey
There are three main types of methamphetamine-related crimes under New Jersey law. Each carries its own unique set of penalties. These crimes are: (i) using meth, (ii) possessing meth, and (iii) manufacturing or distributing meth.
1. Using Methamphetamine
Using methamphetamine is a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey. Section 2C:35-10.b. of the New Jersey Statutes states:
“Any person who uses or who is under the influence of any controlled dangerous substance . . . for a purpose other than the treatment of sickness or injury as lawfully prescribed or administered by a physician is a disorderly person.”
A “controlled dangerous substance” includes any drug classified in Schedule I, II, III or IV. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies methamphetamine as a Schedule II drug, while “[a]ny substance which contains any quantity of methamphetamine” is a Schedule III drug under Section 24:21-7 of the New Jersey Statutes.
As a disorderly persons offense, being under the influence of meth carries up to a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. In New Jersey, drug crime convictions can also lead to a driver’s license suspension, mandatory treatment or counseling, and other consequences.
2. Possessing Methamphetamine
Possessing methamphetamine is a more serious crime than using methamphetamine under New Jersey law. Section 2C:35-10.a.(1) makes possession of methamphetamine a third-degree indictable crime. Third-degree crimes carry three to five years of prison time, and Section 2C:35-10.a.(1) imposes an enhanced fine of up to $35,000. If you are arrested for possessing meth in a school zone or within 1,000 feet of a school zone, the judge is required to sentence you to at least 100 hours of community service if he or she does not impose prison time.
These penalties apply regardless of how much meth you have in your possession at the time of your arrest. Even having as little as half a gram of meth in your car or pocket can lead to a third-degree charge. However, if you have a significant amount of meth in your possession, prosecutors may try to elevate your charge to possession with intent to distribute.
Under Section 2c:35-5 of the New Jersey Statutes, possession of methamphetamine with intent to “distribute or dispense” can be prosecuted as up to a first-degree indictable crime. In these cases, the penalties that are on the table are determined by the amount of meth involved:
- Less Than One-Half Ounce – Possession of less than one-half ounce of methamphetamine with intent to distribute or dispense is a third-degree indictable crime carrying three to five years of prison time and an enhanced fine of up to $75,000.
- One-Half Ounce to Less Than Five Ounces – Possession of one-half ounce to less than five ounces of methamphetamine with intent to distribute or dispense is a second-degree indictable crime carrying 5 to 10 years of prison time and up to a $150,000 fine.
- Five Ounces or More – Possession of five ounces or more of methamphetamine with intent to distribute or dispense is a second-degree indictable crime carrying 10 to 20 years of prison time and an enhanced fine of up to $300,000.
3. Manufacturing or Distributing Methamphetamine
Manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine are also serious criminal offenses under Section 2C:35-5. In addition to addressing possession with intent to distribute, this section of the law also makes it illegal to “manufacture, distribute or dispense . . . a controlled dangerous substance.”
Manufacturing and distribution are subject to the same quantity-based penalties as possession with intent to distribute or dispense. Since meth manufacturing operations regularly involve quantities well in excess of five ounces, these cases frequently involve charges for first-degree indictable crimes.
Avoiding a Meth Conviction Through a Diversionary Program
If you are being charged with using or possessing methamphetamine and this is your first offense, you may be able to avoid a conviction through one of New Jersey’s diversionary programs. These programs “divert” your case from trial, and if you complete one of these programs successfully, your case can be wiped from your record.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, some examples of programs a New Jersey drug lawyer may be able to help you pursue include:
- Conditional Discharge Program
- Conditional Dismissal Program
- Drug Court
- Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI)
- Veterans Diversion Program
Defenses to Meth Charges in New Jersey
If you do not qualify for one of New Jersey’s diversionary programs, you will need to defend against your meth charge in court. There are several potential defenses to meth use, possession, manufacturing and distribution, but the specific defenses you can assert will depend on the particular facts of your case.
Even if the police arrested you with meth in your possession, you could still have defenses available. For example, a New Jersey drug lawyer may be able to prove that the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights. Or, the prosecution simply may not have the evidence it needs to secure a conviction. Before you make any decisions that could impact your life for years to come, you owe it to yourself to find out what a New Jersey drug lawyer can do to protect you.
Request a Confidential Consultation with a New Jersey Drug Lawyer
If you are facing a meth charge in New Jersey, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information. To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced New Jersey drug lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., call 877-435-6371 or send us your contact information online now.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive experience in defending criminal cases as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our site, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.