New Jersey is one of many states to legalize marijuana for medical use. Those who are in possession of this substance without a doctor recommendation, however, can face some serious penalties if the prosecuting attorney achieves convictions in criminal court. If you are facing a marijuana-related drug charge, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you fight it.
Compared to other states, New Jersey laws regarding the illegal use of marijuana are fairly relaxed. Yes, it is still punishable by incarceration and fines, but the penalties are less severe than those issued for other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. What are the state marijuana laws and what options are there for fighting marijuana-related drug charges?
Marijuana crimes and penalties
There are three different categories under which marijuana-related drug crimes fall. These are possession, sales and trafficking. The penalties for these crimes are:
- Possession: If found with under 50 grams in your possession, it is a misdemeanor charge that is punishable by a fine of $1,000 and incarceration of up to six months. If arrested near a school, additional fines may follow, as well as community service. If found with over 50 grams in your possession, this is a felony-level offense that is punishable by a fine of $25,000 and incarceration up to 18 months.
- Sale: If you have less than an ounce in your possession with the alleged attempt to sell, you may face a felony charge that has a penalty of an 18-month jail term and a fine of $25,000. Anything over that would also be a felony offense that is punishable with anywhere from three to 20 years in prison and fines ranging from $25,000 up to $300,000.
- Trafficking: If you are the accused leader of a trafficking organization, penalties include life in prison and/or a fine of $500,000. Parole is possible after 25 years.
While, obviously, sales and trafficking are the more serious offenses, any of them, if prosecutors achieve a conviction, can impact one's personal and professional life in a negative way.
Drug charge defenses
Fighting a drug charge is rarely an easy feat. However, it is not impossible. There are various defense strategies that may work, depending on the details of one's case. A few potential defenses include:
- Unwitting possession: If you claim unwitting possession, you are saying that you were unaware that you had the drug in your possession.
- Lack of possession: If you claim lack of possession, you are denying that the drug belongs to you but rather to another person who was either with you or who owns the property you were at when arrested.
- Medical necessity: If you claim medical necessity, it is because you have a doctor's recommendation but failed to have your prescription on your person, leading to your arrest.
Your criminal defense attorney, after reviewing your case, can help you settle on a defense that will best serve your interests.
Experience matters when fighting drug charges
Fighting a marijuana-related drug charge is not without its challenges. Under the right circumstances, you may be able to have your case moved to drug court in order to avoid prosecution altogether. If that is not a possibility, however, your legal counsel can help you take the steps necessary to fight for a case dismissal or seek to minimize the consequences of a conviction.