First Drug Offense Lawyers Mount Laurel NJ
Defense Attorneys for First-Time Drug Offenders in Burlington County and South Jersey
If you have recently been arrested for a drug offense for the first time in New Jersey, you are probably worried about what consequences you may face if you are convicted and how to proceed from here. At The Law Offices of Leonard D. Biddison, our criminal defense attorneys have a tremendous amount of experience handling cases like yours and we know how to help you avoid jail and a criminal conviction on your record. If you have been arrested for first-time drug charges in Cinnaminson, Medford, Mount Laurel, Mount Holly, Bordentown, Evesham Twp, Moorestown, Maple Shade, Florence, or another municipality in Burlington County or South Jersey, contact us to speak with an attorney about your case. Our lawyers have successfully had a multitude of drug charges dismissed in municipal and superior courts, and assisted countless clients with getting accepted into diversionary programs. Call us now at 856-245-5240 to learn more about the options you have when charged with your first criminal offense for drugs.
What Are the Penalties for First-Time Drug Possession in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the penalties you face when charged with a drug crime for the first time depend on the type of drug involved and how much of the substance you had in your possession at the time.
First Drug Offense with Marijuana in NJ
Possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana is a disorderly persons offense and it carries potential penalties of up to 6 months of imprisonment and fines of $1,000. This offense is sometimes referred to as a municipal marijuana charge because the case is heard before and decided by a judge in the municipal court of the town where you were arrested. If you possess over 50 grams of marijuana, it is a fourth degree indictable offense and you might be looking at 18 months in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. These cases are heard in the county superior court and you have the right to a jury trial.
Charged with Cocaine or Heroin for the First Time
Heroin and cocaine are controlled dangerous substances (CDS) and despite their prevalence, New Jersey law enforcement works very hard to protect communities from the devastating impact of these drugs. Possessing even a small amount of heroin or cocaine is a serious crime. If you have less than half of an ounce of heroin in your possession, you can be charged with a third degree indictable offense. This charge carries the possibility of fines of up to $35,000 and potential prison time of up to 5 years.
It is also a third degree crime to possess less than half an ounce of cocaine, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, fines between $35,000 to $75,000, and even mandatory participation in a drug rehabilitation program. For both of these offenses, if you are in possession of the drugs within 100 feet of school property, you will be required to serve an additional 100 hours of community service as part of your sentence.
Arrested for my First Drug Offense, Will I go to jail?
If you are a first time drug offender, you may be able to avoid jail time in a number of ways. First, you may be able to achieve an outright dismissal by having certain essential evidence deemed inadmissible, meaning it cannot be used against you. This is typically done by challenging the acquisition of the controlled substance the police found, whether they had grounds to stop you in the first place, search warrant issues, and other complex legal matters that are best handled by a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
You may also be able to get your drug charges dismissed if you qualify to participate in a diversionary program such as Pre-trial Intervention (PTI) or conditional discharge.
Get First Drug Charges Dismissed through Pre-Trial Intervention
Pre-trial Intervention PTI allows you to avoid going to jail and serve probation for one to three years instead. Certain conditions will be placed on you during your probation and you may be required to undergo random drug testing, attend drug treatment and counseling, perform community service, and more.
To be eligible for PTI, you must be a first time offender charged with an indictable drug offense like possession of over 50 grams of marijuana for personal use or possession of other drugs like prescription pills, heroin, or cocaine for personal use. This program is not for disorderly persons offenses, only indictable offenses. You may not have participated in PTI before or received a conditional discharge in order to be admitted.
Can I get Conditional Discharge for a 1st Drug Offense?
Conditional discharge is another type of diversionary program available to certain first time drug offenders in New Jersey. If you have been charged with a disorderly persons offense like possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana, then PTI will not be available to you, but you can apply for a conditional discharge. A conditional discharge also allows you to avoid jail time and serve a probation period from 6 months to a year. During your probation, you must follow the specific conditions placed on you. For first time drug offenders, conditions will frequently include random drug testing and reporting to the probation department.
To qualify for conditional discharge, you must be a first time offender and you cannot have any out of state convictions. If you previously participated in PTI or conditional discharge, you are not available to apply for conditional discharge.
Charged with my First Drug Crime, What Should I do?
As a first time drug offender, you likely have more options available to you than you think. That is why it is so crucial to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer early on in your case, so they can determine what programs you may be eligible for and investigate the evidence to identify potential suppression issues that could result in a dismissal right away. If you are facing drug charges for the first time in New Jersey, call our criminal attorneys today at 856-245-5240 for a free consultation. We understand that you feel overwhelmed, and we can help walk you through the process to obtain the best possible result.