Marijuana crimes include possession, possession for sale, sale and distribution, cultivation, and trafficking. The penalties associated with convictions for marijuana crimes in New Jersey depend on the type of charge that it is, how much marijuana was involved, and the defendant's criminal record. If you are charged with a drug crime like a marijuana offense, it is critical to retain an experienced New Jersey marijuana lawyer to evaluate which strategy is likely to be successful at producing a favorable outcome.Marijuana Offenses Span a Broad Range of Conduct
Actual or constructive possession of marijuana is illegal under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(3). The prosecutor will need to show not only possession but also that the person knowingly or purposely obtained or possessed it. Possession of over 50 grams of marijuana or over five grams of hash is punished as a crime of the fourth degree. You can be fined a maximum of $25,000 and jailed for up to 1.5 years if you are convicted. However, if you possess 50 grams or less of marijuana or five grams or less of hash, this is a disorderly persons offense, and you face up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. Being under the influence of marijuana is also a disorderly persons offense.
The penalties are enhanced when the marijuana is possessed within 1,000 feet of a school zone. N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10 requires that you perform at least 100 hours of community service in addition to any service that is part of the marijuana possession sentence for possession within 1,000 feet of a school zone or school bus.
The penalties are harsher for manufacturing, selling, or otherwise distributing marijuana. Distributing and cultivating marijuana are also penalized based on how much marijuana was involved. These charges carry mandatory minimum sentences. If you are caught in possession of marijuana with intent to sell, and the marijuana weighs at least 25 pounds, this is a first-degree crime, and a maximum penalty of $300,000 and 10-20 years in prison can be imposed. If you are charged with possessing marijuana with intent to sell when the weight is 5-25 pounds or 10-50 plants, or hash that weighs 1-5 pounds, this is a second-degree crime. You can face up to $150,000 in fines and 5-10 years of imprisonment. If you are charged with possessing marijuana with intent to sell when the weight is one ounce to five pounds, this is a third-degree crime. You can be fined a maximum of $25,000 and imprisoned for 3-5 years. If you are charged with possession of marijuana in an amount up to one ounce or up to five grams of hash, this is a fourth-degree crime.
When the possession with intent to distribute occurs in a school zone, there are enhanced penalties, again dependent on weight. The severity of the penalties makes it important to consult a marijuana attorney who can help New Jersey residents protect their rights. If less than one ounce of marijuana is involved, you can be imprisoned for a minimum sentence that is fixed at one-third or half of the sentence imposed or a year, whichever of these terms is higher. During that time, you will not be eligible for parole. However, if there is more than one ounce of marijuana involved, the minimum term of imprisonment is three years, rather than one. There are upward adjustments for possession with intent to distribute that occurs within 500 feet of a park or public housing project.Defenses in Marijuana Cases
There are often defenses available for marijuana crimes. For example, medical marijuana is permitted in New Jersey, and it might be possible to defend a charge on that basis, but you should be aware that it is not enough to have a serious medical condition to possess marijuana. You also must have received a certification from a doctor and a Registry ID card to be able to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for medical purposes. Using medicinal marijuana without these things is still punishable.
Often, a strong defense strategy in a drug case hinges on your constitutional rights. For example, the police need to safeguard your constitutional rights even if they suspect you of a marijuana crime and conduct a search and seizure on that basis. If the police do not have reasonable cause to stop you while you are driving, for example, it may be possible for a New Jersey marijuana attorney to move to suppress any evidence of marijuana that is found in your car. The burden of proof is high in criminal cases. The prosecution needs to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In some cases, it is possible to secure a dismissal by showing the prosecutor evidence that would cast a reasonable doubt, while in others, it is possible to win the case at trial by persuading the jury that there is a reasonable doubt.
Even when there is no strong defense strategy available for the specific charge, it may be possible to avoid a conviction. For example, pretrial intervention may be appropriate. In other cases, drug court may be an appropriate diversion option.Discuss Your Situation with a Marijuana Lawyer in New Jersey
If you are charged with a marijuana crime, you should hire an experienced trial lawyer to protect your rights and provide a strong defense. At the Grimes Law Firm, we provide advice and skillful legal representation to accident victims in Neshanic Station and throughout Somerset County, as well as in many other communities in the tri-state area. Contact us at (908) 371-1066 or online to schedule a free consultation. We are also available to assist people who need a theft crime lawyer or representation in fighting another type of charge.