New Jersey law states that the operator of a motor vehicle is not legally allowed to possess a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). Whether the drug was being used or not or if it belonged to a passenger, if the car is stopped by a police officer, the driver may be charged with drug possession. The individual’s driving privileges will also be suspended for two years and a fine of $50 will be levied under motor vehicle statute N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1. In addition, if the officer finds the CDS and believes that the operator might be under the influence, there can also be a charge of DUI which will complicate the situation even further.
CDS Drugs and Their Classifications
Under New Jersey law, CDS drugs are placed into different categories known as “schedules.” There are five classifications ranging from I to V and, depending on the nature of the drug, it is placed in one of the categories.
Schedule I drugs, for example, are the most addictive and have no medical purpose. Heroin would be a Schedule I drug. The less severe drugs are placed into subsequent categories. Schedule II drugs can lead to mental issues and dependence. Schedule III drugs such as amphetamine can have medical uses, but are also capable of being abused and sold illegally. Schedule IV drugs include hypnotic drugs that are not considered that dangerous or addictive. Schedule V drugs are typically painkillers like codeine that are commonly prescribed for medical reasons.
Charges for being in possession of a scheduled drug can vary. Substantial jail time and fines can be accrued for possession of an addictive drug such as heroin or cocaine or if there are a large number of amphetamines in the vehicle.
Defending a Charge of Drug Possession in a Car
In order to convict a person for having possession of illegal drugs in his or her car, it is required that the State prove three things. First, they need to show that the accused is the operator of the motor vehicle at the time the charge is issued. Being a passenger in the car at the time would not be enough to charge a person with drug possession in a car under this statute. There would be a charge of possession of the drugs, but that would fall under statute N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10.
Second, the controlled substance must be present in the car to bring forth a charge of possession. There’s a difference between being under the influence of the drug (DUI) and possession. If the driver has the drugs in his or her possession—i.e. in a bag in the car—and is under the influence of the drugs, both charges can be filed.
The third element is that the driver must have apparent knowledge of the presence of the CDS in the car. While it may sound like a flimsy excuse, there is the possibility that the driver was not aware that the drugs were in the car. This charge has a better chance of being dropped if the CDS is somewhere in the car rather than on the person of the motor vehicle operator or if there is evidence of the drug having been ingested by the driver.
Speak to an Experienced Attorney About Your Drug Possession Charge
If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with possession of a CDS in a motor vehicle, it’s important to have experienced attorneys to provide legal advice. The law firm of Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey has the knowledge of New Jersey motor vehicle and criminal law to help you in your time of need.
A drug charge can have long-term ramifications on one’s life, possibly preventing admission to college, being hired by employers, and being excluded from military service. If your drug possession charge occurred in any town in Ocean County or Monmouth County, New Jersey, Villani & DeLuca can assist you. Call to discuss your case today.