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Criminal Law: Drug Crimes

A New Jersey Defense Attorney Can Defend You Against Drug-Related Charges

Thousands of people are charged with drug offenses each year. Drug charges carry serious penalties, and you need experienced attorneys on your side. A New Jersey drug lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. can help you deal with possession charges. Contact us today for a consultation to learn more about how we can help you protect your rights. 

New Jersey Drug Laws

Drug charges in New Jersey can be either indictable crimes or disorderly persons’ offenses. In other states, these are sometimes called “felonies” and “misdemeanors.” Defendants may be required to appear before the superior or municipal courts to resolve these charges. In some cases, these charges are also prosecuted at the federal court level.

Usually, police have solid evidence before they charge anyone with a drug crime. This evidence often includes drugs, needles and paraphernalia, cash, and surveillance reports and witnesses. Defendants often are at a severe disadvantage and need experienced representation.

Drug Crime Penalties

Convictions on drug charges can carry severe penalties. Defendants may only have to pay a few hundred dollars in fines for small offenses. More serious offenders may receive many years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines. For example, repeat drug sellers are likely to face at least three years of prison time with no parole option. Our New Jersey drug lawyers are very familiar with the details of sentencing and can assist clients in getting the best possible outcome under the law.

More serious drug charges are usually classified as first or second degree. At sentencing, the judge will usually send such a defendant to prison for several years. For example, a defendant trying to sell even a small amount of drugs near a school could receive three years in jail. Parole would not be optional during that time. This is true even when the defendant had no prior record. Only in cases where a defendant can show compelling circumstances will he avoid jail time. An experienced New Jersey drug lawyer can help to identify and present information that could help get a lighter sentence.

Most people also do not realize that convicted drug offenders in New Jersey could lose their driver’s license. Judges may revoke a defendant’s license for between six months and two years. Defendants who can show a hardship, such as caring for a sick relative, may be able to avoid losing their driver’s licenses. But the burden is on defendants and drug crime attorneys can help defendants to show the hardship.

Drug Diversionary Programs

Diversionary programs are sometimes available to defendants in New Jersey without prior records. These include the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI), Conditional Discharge, and Conditional Dismissal. These options enable a one-time drug user to avoid a criminal conviction if he or she stops using drugs. Defendants must show that they are worth admitting to these programs. The drug defense lawyers at Helmer, Conley and Kasselman, P.A. have assisted many clients with admission into these programs.

New Jersey Defense Attorney for All Drug Charges 

Our defense attorneys represent individuals charged with all types of drug-related offenses in New Jersey. Whether you are facing a disorderly persons charge for marijuana possession or you are at risk for long-term imprisonment for manufacturing, cultivation or distribution, we can use our extensive experience in New Jersey drug crime cases to protect you against unnecessary consequences.

Our practice includes defending clients in cases involving allegations of:

  • Cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of controlled dangerous substances
  • Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)
  • Illegal possession, use and distribution of prescription medications
  • Possession of controlled dangerous substances (drug possession)
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Possession with intent to distribute
  • Violations of the New Jersey Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act

Under New Jersey law, “controlled dangerous substances” include all drugs listed on Schedules I through V of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) drug scheduling protocol. The statute applies to “analogs” of these drugs as well. Substances that can trigger drug crime charges in New Jersey include (but are not limited to):

  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Phenyl-2-propanone (P2P)
  • All other Schedule I, II, III, IV and V drugs

Defense Strategies in Drug Crime Cases in New Jersey

If you have been charged with a drug crime in New Jersey, it is imperative that you not simply assume you will be convicted at trial. Even if you were caught “red-handed,” you could still have defenses available. Moreover, even if the evidence is such that you cannot avoid a conviction, there are still a number of ways that you can potentially fight to minimize your sentence at trial.

At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., our criminal defense attorneys rely on centuries of combined legal experience to present comprehensive defense strategies on behalf of our clients. When you engage our defense team to represent you, we will carefully examine the details of your case to determine what defenses you have available. We will work to challenge the prosecution’s case from all angles, and we will use our trial-tested defense tactics to protect you to the greatest extent possible. Some potential defense strategies in drug crime cases in New Jersey include:

  • Constitutional Rights Violations – Did the police have reasonable suspicion to stop you and probable cause to make an arrest? Did they read your Miranda rights before you were interrogated in custody? Unlawful searches, seizures and interrogations are all common Constitutional violations that can lead to the suppression of evidence at trial.
  • Lack of Intent – Certain drug crimes, such as manufacturing, sale and distribution, require proof of intent. If the prosecution cannot prove that you intended to manufacture, sell or distribute a controlled dangerous substance, then you are not guilty of the crime alleged.
  • Burden of Proof – In addition to proving intent (in relevant cases), the prosecution must prove all other elements of its case beyond a reasonable doubt. If evidence of any element of the charge against you is lacking, this can provide a complete defense to criminal culpability.
  • Lawful Prescription – In many cases, the police will arrest individuals for unlawful possession of prescription medications due to their inability to produce a valid prescription. If you have a lawful prescription for the drugs that were in your possession at the time of your arrest, your prescription will likely be the key to avoiding a conviction at trial.
  • Planting or Entrapment – Did the police plant drugs on you or in your home? Were you unlawfully coerced into buying or selling a controlled dangerous substance? Unfortunately, planting of drugs and police entrapment are very real issues, and avoiding a conviction under these types of circumstances requires skilled and strategic legal representation.
  • Someone Else’s Drugs – If you were arrested for drug possession in a car, at a house party or in any other situation where multiple people were present, the prosecution must prove that the drugs in question were yours in order to secure a conviction.
  • Valid MMP Card – If you were arrested for simple marijuana possession or cultivating marijuana for personal use and you have a valid Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) card issued by the New Jersey Department of Health, your MMP card should provide a defense under the New Jersey Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act.

Answers to Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs): Drug Crimes, Defenses and Penalties in New Jersey

Q: What is the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI) and how does it apply to first-time drug offenders in New Jersey?

The Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI) is a diversionary program that allows individuals charged with certain first-time drug offenses to avoid having a conviction on their permanent record. As explained by the New Jersey Courts:

“If PTI is successfully completed, there is no record of conviction and the defendant avoids the stigma of a criminal record. Although no record of a conviction exists, a defendant may want to file for an expungement to remove any record of the original arrest. . . . Early intervention allows rehabilitative services to be provided soon after the alleged offense, in an attempt to correct the behavior that led to the offense.”

If you are eligible for PTI or another diversionary program and pursuing entry into one of these programs is your best option, our attorneys can help you take the steps necessary to protect your record.

Q: What are the specific penalties for drug crimes in New Jersey?

The specific penalties you are facing will depend upon the specific crime (or crimes) with which you are being charged. Sentences for drug crimes in New Jersey vary depending upon a variety of factors, including the specific drug, the quantity of the drug, and the purpose for which it was possessed. Factors such as being arrested in a school zone or causing a serious or fatal accident can increase the penalties that are on the table as well.

Generally speaking, however, the sentencing ranges or some of the more-common drug crime charges in New Jersey include:

  • Possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana: Up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine
  • Distribution of less than one ounce of marijuana: Up to 18 months in prison and a $25,000 fine
  • Manufacturing, sale or distribution of five ounces or more of heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine: 10 years to life in prison and up to a $500,000 fine

Q: Are drug crimes state or federal offenses?

Drug crimes are prosecuted at the state and federal levels. At the state level, drug crimes are outlined in Title 2C:35 of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. At the federal level, the Controlled Substances Act and various other statutes impose severe penalties for a broad range of drug crimes.

Q: What can a defense lawyer do for me if I am guilty?

In order to prove that you are guilty of the crime alleged, prosecutors must prove all elements of the charge (or charges) against you beyond a reasonable doubt. There are numerous defenses to drug crimes in New Jersey; and, until you speak with a lawyer, you simply have no way of knowing if you are likely to be convicted at trial. Even if it appears that the prosecutor’s office may have enough evidence to secure a conviction, an experienced attorney will be able to evaluate your Constitutional defenses, pursue appropriate diversionary programs and take various other steps in order to mitigate the consequences of your arrest.

Why Choose Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.?

1. Centuries of Combined Legal Experience

The attorneys on our criminal defense team have centuries of combined legal experience. We have successfully represented thousands of clients throughout New Jersey, and we offer unique insights based on our extensive experience fighting for clients in criminal courts statewide.

2. Broad Criminal Defense Experience

By representing individuals charged with all serious criminal offenses in New Jersey, we are able to develop and execute comprehensive defense strategies that are custom-tailored to the unique circumstances of each individual case. No case is too big or too small, and we can defend you regardless of what you have on the line.

3. State-Wide Reputation

Our defense attorneys are known statewide by clients, prosecutors and judges for their experience in criminal court. Our firm has a strong reputation for providing strategic and aggressive legal representation while compassionately attending to our clients’ individual needs.

4. Personalized and Straightforward Advice

While defending against drug crime charges in New Jersey is complicated, we focus on providing personalized and straightforward legal advice to our clients. We know the questions you want answered, and we will help you understand everything you need to know in order to help us execute a successful defense.

5. Commitment to Justice in Court

Most of all, when we take your case, we will do everything in our power to obtain the best possible outcome on your behalf. We are committed to securing justice for our clients, and we appreciate what it means to represent you when your freedom and future are on the line.

Contact a New Jersey Defense Attorney Today

If you have been charged with a drug offense, you need experienced attorneys to guide you through the process. The attorneys at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. have helped hundreds of people charged with drug offenses to resolve their cases. We may be able to help you get into a diversionary program and avoid a conviction altogether. If your charges are more serious, we can attack the state’s case and possibly get evidence suppressed. We can almost always reduce the penalties you will face.

Drug charges are serious. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact a New Jersey drug lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. today at 856-547-7888. Call Us –  Problem Solved.

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