Being charged with any crime as a juvenile can be quite a detrimental experience. Many juveniles and their parents hold onto hope when the young one is arrested for a crime simply because they believe that the justice system is lenient on youthful offenders. While this may be true in some situations, it’s definitely not a requirement that a court will be sympathetic to those charged with drug distribution as a juvenile. Any underage person charged with this type of drug offense has a difficult road ahead of them, so it’s important for them and their parents to fully understand the related law.
What is Drug Distribution?
New Jersey law, on the surface, has a seemingly simple definition of drug distribution. The state defines the crime as purposely or knowingly possessing or having a controlled substance under one’s control with the intent to either dispense or distribute it. The law goes much further in defining specific types of drugs, but any illegal substance that falls under this definition can lead to huge legal troubles.
In layman’s terms, drug distribution is having a controlled substance with the goal of giving it away or selling it for a profit. It doesn’t matter whether or not a person actually sells the drugs or not; the mere intention to distribute them is enough to bring up charges.
Juvenile Drug Distribution
There’s no doubt that the legal system is a bit different for juveniles as compared to adults, but this doesn’t mean that an underage person still can’t be charged with drug distribution and sentenced to a hefty incarceration period. If the court finds a minor delinquent for drug distribution, they can impose penalties ranging from fines or community service to serious detention periods.
Degrees of Drug Distribution and Penalties
Drug distribution isn’t simply a blanket term that covers any indiscretion related to handing out or selling drugs; different types of controlled substances will lead to different penalties. There are different degrees of these crimes, and some are considered much more serious than others. Having heroine or any drug derived from the coca leaf, for instance, can lead to an incarceration term of four years under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b) if the juvenile possessed at least five ounces of the drug at the time of their arrest.
Possessing five ounces of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute will lead to the same amount of incarceration time under statute N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(9). A fine of $300,000 could also be imposed, whereas in the case of heroine, the fine could be up to $500,000. Penalties will get less severe if a juvenile has smaller quantities of these drugs, but it’s important to point out that, even with less than half an ounce of certain drugs (i.e. meth, heroine), it’s possible for the juvenile to be convicted of a third degree crime and sentenced to two years of detention.
There are several possible defenses which could prevent a juvenile from being incarcerated for charges related to drug distribution. If an attorney can prove that the juvenile didn’t “knowingly or purposefully” possess a controlled substance or had no intent to distribute it, then the charge may be dropped, reduced or lead to a verdict of not delinquent.
It’s important to note, however, that proving the crime didn’t happen isn’t the only legitimate defense. Police officers are bound by law to follow certain procedures when administering an arrest, search or seizure. If they violate any of these rules, or any of a juvenile’s rights, evidence against the minor could literally be considered void. Even when these defenses aren’t possible, though, experienced legal representation can negotiate a deal that would ensure the minor’s freedom (i.e. diversion or drug treatment programs).
Although courts often go easier on juvenile offenders, drug offenses are going to be looked at in a much more negative light than the typical youthful indiscretion. This means that, regardless of how young a minor is when arrested for drug distribution, the charge definitely needs to be taken seriously.
Free Consultation on Your Drug Distribution Charge
The office of Villani & DeLuca frequently represents those facing drug distribution charges throughout Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey. If you are facing the possibility of a juvenile drug distribution adjudication, call the experienced drug crime lawyers at Villani & DeLuca today for your free initial consultation. An attorney will discuss with you the facts of your case and all available options free of charge. Call today!