At the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC, our New Jersey drug offense defense lawyer Matthew V. Portella fights aggressively to protect the rights, liberty, and future of his clients. If you or your loved one was arrested and charged with a drug-related crime, we can help. To set up a strictly confidential initial consultation with an experienced New Jersey drug charges defense attorney, please contact us at our Haddonfield office or our Pleasantville office.
An Overview of Drug Offense Charges in New Jersey
Drug Possession Charges
Drug possession is a criminal offense that occurs when a person possesses a controlled substance without legal authorization. Drug possession is a serious crime in New Jersey—a conviction could result in a lengthy prison sentence. The severity of a drug possession charge depends, in large part, on the legal categorization (scheduling) of the drug in question. Under the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Law, the state uses the following drug scheduling system:
- Schedule I (Most Serious): Heroin, LSD, Acid, MDMA, and Psilocybin Mushrooms.
- Schedule II: Hydromorphone, Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Cocaine, and Methamphetamine.
- Schedule III: Anabolic Steroids, Ketamine, Tylenol with Codeine, and Testosterone.
- Schedule IV: Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ambien.
- Schedule V (Least Serious): Small amounts of certain controlled substances with accepted medical use.
In New Jersey, drug possession offenses are charged under N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-10:
- 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 (C.24:21-1 et seq.). Any person who violates this section with respect to:
- (1) A controlled dangerous substance or its analog, classified in Schedule I, II, III, or 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.2C:43-3, a fine of up to $35,000.00 may be imposed;
- (2) Any controlled dangerous substance, or its analog, classified in Schedule V, is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree except that, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:43-3, a fine of up to $15,000.00 may be imposed;
Specialized Rules for Marijuana Possession: In recent years, there have been major reforms to the marijuana (cannabis) laws in New Jersey. To learn more about the state’s marijuana possession laws, refer to our New Jersey Cannabis Legal Guide or contact us directly with any specific questions.
Drug Distribution Charges
New Jersey prosecutors take allegations of drug distribution very seriously. A drug distribution conviction can lead to far more serious penalties than a drug possession conviction. Under New Jersey law (N.J.S.A. § 2C:35-5): “it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or purposely:
- (1) To manufacture, distribute or dispense, or to possess or have under his control with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog; or
- (2) To create, distribute, or possess or have under his control with intent to distribute, a counterfeit controlled dangerous substance.”
The severity of a drug distribution charge will depend on several factors, including the nature of the controlled substance and the amount involved in the alleged distribution. Depending on the specific circumstances, a drug distribution offense in New Jersey could be charged as either a first, second, third, or fourth-degree offense. Penalties range from 18 months to 20 years in prison with maximum fines between $10,000 and $500,000.
Drug Offense in Sensitive Areas (School Zone, Public Housing)
A drug offense is an even more serious crime in New Jersey if it occurs within a particular area—either within 1,000 feet of a school or 500 feet of public housing. Here is an overview of the two statutes concerning these crimes:
- Drug Offense Without 1,000 Feet of a School: Under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7, “1. a. Any person who violates subsection a. of N.J.S.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.2C:35-12, be sentenced by the court to a term of imprisonment. Where the violation involves less than one ounce of marijuana, 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 one year, whichever is greater, during which the defendant shall be ineligible for parole. In all other cases, 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.2C:43-3, a fine of up to $150,000 may also be imposed upon any conviction for a violation of this section.”
- Drug Offense With 500 Feet of Public Housing: Under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1, “1. a. Any person who violates subsection a. of N.J.S.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.”
A drug offense within 1,000 feet of a school or 500 of public housing is a very serious crime in New Jersey. Any person facing either charge should consult a criminal defense attorney immediately.
Why Hire New Jersey Drug Offense Defense Lawyer Matthew V. Portella?
With more than two and a half decades of criminal defense experience in New Jersey, our founder attorney Matthew V. Portella, Esq. has the skills and knowledge to handle the full range of drug crimes charges, including drug possession, possession with intent to distribute, and drug distribution. No matter the circumstances behind your charges, our criminal defense team can help.
Mr. Portella takes a creative, disciplined approach to every case. He will build in the time, resources, and attention to the smallest of details. With a focus on protecting your rights and helping you secure justice, Mr. Portella is prepared to answer your questions, explain your options, investigate your drug charges, and develop a comprehensive legal strategy and defense that best tells your story.
Contact Our New Jersey Drug Offense Defense Attorney Today
At the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC, our New Jersey drug defense lawyer, Matthew V. Portella, has over 25 years of experience aggressively fighting for the rights of his clients. If you or your family member was charged with a drug offense, he is ready to help. Give us a call now or contact us online to arrange a strictly confidential review of your case. From our legal offices in Haddonfield and Pleasantville, we defend drug charges throughout New Jersey including in Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, Cumberland County, and Salem County.