Laws on Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS)
In 1970, the federal government passed the Controlled Substances Act in order to regulate possession of illicit drugs in the United States. This law created a classification system that assigns all controlled dangerous substances (CDS) into one of five categories or schedules based on various considerations such as the potential for addiction, accepted medicinal uses and general health risks.
How Illegal Drugs are Classified
Substances presenting a great risk of addiction and little to no accepted medical usage are classified in Section I, while relatively less dangerous drugs with greater accepted medical use are assigned to Schedule V. Cocaine is classified as a Schedule II drug due to its highly addictive nature and its very limited use in the medical profession.
NJ Cocaine Possession Law
Convictions for cocaine possession are among the most common drug-related offenses in New Jersey. Cocaine is typically possessed in one of two forms: in a powder form ingested by snorting through the nose or in a processed rock form known as “crack” that is heated up and smoked.
The New Jersey statute that regulates cocaine possession is N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10, which states that it is illegal for anyone “knowingly or purposely, to obtain, or to possess, actively or constructively, a controlled dangerous substance.” A person “purposely” possesses cocaine whenever it was his goal or objective to have the drug, and he is deemed to “knowingly” possess cocaine whenever he is virtually or practically certain that he is in possession.
This language is important because it means that you can be convicted of cocaine possession even if you were not 100% certain that what you had in your possession was an illegal drug. In other words, if you are handed a suspicious white powder that you think might be cocaine, you cannot argue that you were unaware it was actually cocaine by simply remaining ignorant of that fact. All the State has to prove is that you were aware that there was a good chance that the substance you possessed was cocaine and that you failed to get rid of it in a timely manner.
Penalties for Cocaine Possession in New Jersey
Penalties under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10 depend on where the person is arrested and the quantity of cocaine in his or her possession. Possession of less than a half an ounce (even only trace amounts) is a third degree indictable offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine between the amounts of $1,000 and $35,000. In addition, there is a mandatory forfeiture of driving privileges for at least six months and up to two years.
Possession of more than half an ounce will lead to significantly harsher punishment because you are presumed to be in possession with intent to distribute, a much more serious offense than simple possession. Possession of a half an ounce to five ounces of cocaine is punishable by up to ten years in prison, while possession of five or more ounces can result in a prison term of up to twenty years. Finally, penalties and fines can be significantly harsher if you are convicted near a school zone or in a public park.
Pre-Trial Intervention for Cocaine Possession
If charged with simple possession of less than a half an ounce of cocaine, you may be subject to a range of penalties depending on whether or not you have any prior convictions for a drug or criminal offense on your record. If you are a first-time offender charged with simple possession of cocaine, you will typically be allowed to apply for a Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program.
Acceptance into this program will allow you to enter a drug treatment program instead of the standard court proceedings or trial. Successful completion of the program can lead to a dismissal of charges and no conviction on your record. Any conviction for a drug-related offense remains on your record for ten years, and carries a mandatory license suspension of at least 6 months and up to 2 years.
Call Villani & DeLuca for Help With CDS Charges
If you have been charged with cocaine possession in New Jersey, please contact the law offices of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our experienced criminal defense team prides itself on honesty, quality and the availability of our lawyers. Partner, Carmine R. Villani has a wealth of experience in New Jersey criminal defense having served as municipal prosecutor and municipal public defender in numerous municipalities in Ocean County and Monmouth County throughout his 20+ year legal career. Contact the criminal defense attorneys of Villani & DeLuca for a free initial consultation by calling 732-965-3350 today!