What Are the Penalties for Drug Possession in New Jersey?

When you are facing drug charges in New Jersey, it is important to understand the penalties you could be facing if convicted.

Penalties for drug possession under New Jersey state law and federal law can be steep.

Even after serving a sentence, there are more penalties that you could encounter. A criminal background could cause an inability to apply for certain jobs or federal student loans.

General Drug Possession Laws and Penalties in New Jersey

Under New Jersey law, there are several statutes for drug possession penalties. The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice (N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C:35-10) states that:

“It is illegal for anyone to have a controlled dangerous substance unless it is for a prescription from a professional practitioner.”

New Jersey does not distinguish between misdemeanor and felony offenses in the state. Crimes are classified as “indictable” offenses and “disorderly persons” offenses. Depending on the type of controlled substance the following are potential penalties:

  • Possession of a Schedule I, II, II, or IV drug: This is a third-degree crime. It can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $35,000.
  • Possession of a Schedule V drug: This is a fourth-degree crime. It can result in up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
  • Possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana: This is a disorderly persons offense. It is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Possession of five grams or less of hashish: This is also a disorderly persons offense. It is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

If convicted of a third-degree crime or fourth-degree crime in New Jersey, you will have a criminal criminal record. Keep in mind that a first-degree crime is the most serious offense in New Jersey. 

Penalties for possession of any of those substances can be more severe if any of the following is true:

  • Possession of any of the above substances while on any property used or school purposes, any property owned by an elementary or secondary school, any property owned by a school board, any property within 1,000 feet of school property, and any school bus will have an additional sentence of at least 100 hours of community service (if there is no imprisonment).
  • Failure to give the substance to a law enforcement official will also be charged with a disorderly persons offense.

Types of Scheduled Drugs in New Jersey

What are the different types of scheduled drugs? The following are examples of each:

  • Schedule I drugs: heroin, marijuana, ecstasy;
  • Schedule II drugs: Cocaine, methadone, methamphetamine, OxyContin, oxycodone, and morphine;
  • Schedule III drugs: Codeine;
  • Schedule IV drugs: Valium, Klonopin; Xanax;
  • Schedule V drugs: low amounts of codeine or opium.

When a person possesses a large amount of drugs, the charges can include intent to distribute offenses, which come with more penalties.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Under New Jersey Law

Many people who face charges for drug possession also face charges for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Under the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice (N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C:36-1), drug paraphernalia is any object used to grow, make, package, or introduce “into the human body a controlled dangerous substance”.

If you are charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, you can face a disorderly persons conviction with up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Federal Drug Possession in New Jersey

People in New Jersey who are accused of possession-controlled substances can also be subject to federal drug possession charges depending on the circumstances of the case.

The penalties for a federal drug possession conviction under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.C.S.A. §§ 801 et. seq.) are severe. The Controlled Substances Act classifies drugs into five schedules. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous and Schedule V drugs are the least dangerous. The penalties depend on the schedule of the drug and the amount in a person’s possession.

For example:

  • Schedule I or II possession: In smaller quantities, a first offense conviction typically results in 5-40 years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million. Second offenses result in 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $4 million. Penalties for a first offense conviction of larger amounts also usually include a prison term of 10 years to life and a fine of up to $4 million.
  • Marijuana possession: Depending on the amount, fines can range from up to 5 years in prison (less than 50 kg) to life in prison (1,000 kg or more).

Contact a Drug Possession Defense Lawyer

 If you need to build a defense, a New Jersey drug possession defense attorney can help.

Contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio LLC today to begin working on your case with an experienced drug crimes defense lawyer at our firm.

Author Photo

Anthony J. Vecchio

Anthony’s entire career has been dedicated to defending those accused of crimes, DWI, serious motor vehicle violations, and the rights of victims of crimes and accidents. He has prosecuted, defended, or appealed cases ranging from municipal court matters to more serious crimes including drug offenses and murder. Anthony is passionate about providing personalized, thorough, and effective representation to individuals in crisis.

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