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FAQs: Arrested for Drugs in Your Car in New Jersey

Typically, law enforcement officers in New Jersey must obtain a warrant before they can search a person or a person’s property. However, an exception exists for automobiles. Police officers do not need a warrant to make a traffic stop or search a person’s vehicle. Instead, they can act based on reasonable suspicion that the driver is engaged in criminal activity, including having drugs or other contraband in the car.

Here, we address several questions that people frequently ask when it comes to traffic stops and searches that lead to drug arrests in New Jersey. To discuss the specific facts of your case with an attorney who has litigated traffic stops and drug arrests as both a prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney, contact The Law Office of Jason A. Volet today. We will provide a free consultation about your case.

When can a police officer stop your car in New Jersey?

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 7 of the New Jersey Constitution protect the rights of people to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. So, in order for a traffic stop, or seizure, to be “reasonable,” it must have a lawful justification. In New Jersey, the rule is that a police officer must have reasonable and articulable suspicion that the driver or passengers are engaged in some form of criminal activity.

For instance, an officer may have reason to believe that a driver has violated traffic laws by speeding, driving with an expired registration tag or driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Once the officer stops a driver, the officer must address the reason for the stop and cannot go beyond that unless the officer develops reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity. For example, if the officer reasonably suspects that drugs are in the car, the officer may detain the driver in order to conduct a dog sniff the car’s exterior.

Can a police officer search your car without a warrant in New Jersey?

A police officer in New Jersey does not require a warrant to search your car after pulling you over. However, the officer still needs lawful justification. Similar to a traffic stop, the officer must have reasonable and articulable suspicion that drugs or other contraband are in your car or probable cause to believe that such items could be found in the vehicle.

To determine whether an officer had reasonable suspicion, a court will look at all of the circumstances and take into account the officer’s training and experience. Even legal behavior could contribute to the officer’s suspicion such as nervous behavior or a suspicious story which the driver gives about his or her travels. In some situations, an officer may have probable cause to search the vehicle based on the “plain smell” of marijuana or other drugs or seeing drugs or other contraband in “plain view.”

Occasionally, an officer will receive a tip that someone is transporting drugs. The tip may justify the stop and search of a car. However, the officer must observe things which independently corroborate the tip before the officer can conduct a search of the vehicle without a warrant.

In several other situations, an officer may conduct a warrant less search of a car. For instance, you may give the officer consent to search, or “exigent circumstances” may exist that pose a threat to the officer’s safety. If you are arrested, an officer may search the vehicle incident to the arrest in order to inventory the car’s contents.

What is the charge for getting caught with suspected drugs in your car?

When suspected drugs are found in your car, you will likely face a possession charge. The severity of those charges will mainly depend on two factors:

  • Type – In New Jersey, controlled dangerous substances (CDS) are categorized into schedules depending on their risk for abuse. Drugs with the highest risk of abuse are classified as Schedule I, while drugs with the lowest risk are classified as Schedule V. Possession of a Schedule I CDS carries more serious penalties than a Schedule V drug possession charge.
  • Amount – A larger quantity of suspected drugs will lead to a more serious charge. For example, possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana is a disorderly persons offense, or misdemeanor, which carries up to six months of imprisonment. However, possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana is a crime of the fourth degree, or felony, which can result in up to 18 months in prison. Additionally, if you are found with a large amount of drugs, you may be charged with possession with intent to distribute.

Keep in mind: An arrest is not a conviction. If the police violated your constitutional rights in the stop and search of your car, for instance, a court may throw out all of the evidence which the police obtained as the result of their unlawful conduct and, in all likelihood, dismiss the drug charge(s). In some cases, a forensic chemist fails to follow proper procedure when testing the substances alleged to be drugs, which can lead to a lab report getting thrown out. Additionally, the prosecution’s evidence may fail to show that you knowingly possessed the drugs.

What should you do if the police arrest you for drugs found in your car?

If the police arrest you for suspected drugs found in your car in New Jersey, you should know the proper steps to take in order to protect your rights. The four main steps are:

  • Remain calm – Getting arrested, regardless of the charge, can be scary. Still, you need to remain calm and avoid any other behavior that could make your situation worse. Getting upset or angry will not help. It could even cause you to say something that a prosecutor will try to use against you later on.
  • Know your rights – Before a law enforcement officer questions you while you are in custody, the officer must read your Miranda rights to you. Those rights include the right to remain silent, and the right to speak with an attorney.
  • Remain silent – Refusing to say anything about the circumstances leading to your arrest, or the arrest itself, is your right. Do not say anything other than you would like to speak to an attorney right away.
  • Cooperate – While you should remain silent, you should also cooperate with the police officers as you go through the “booking” process. If you fail to cooperate, it could lead to additional charges.

Contact a New Jersey Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Today

The most important step that you can take after the police arrest you for suspected drugs in your car is to get legal help. As an attorney who has been certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a criminal trial lawyer, Jason A. Volet will know how to thoroughly investigate all aspects of your case and explore all possible defenses. Prosecutors want to convict you. His sole focus will be to keep that from happening. To get started, contact us today and receive a free consultation about your case.

What Are the Charges for Possession of a Hypodermic Needle in New Jersey?

You can get in legal trouble in many ways because of drugs – even without having drugs in your possession. Possession of drug paraphernalia is one of those situations. In particular, you may face serious consequences in New Jersey if you are found to be in possession of a needle or syringe that is being used for illegal drug-related purposes.

If you or a loved one has been charged with possession of a hypodermic needle or syringe in New Jersey, you should get help as soon as possible from an experienced drug crimes defense lawyer who will protect your rights and help you to fight the charge. As we explain in more detail below, several defenses may be available to you. Your lawyer should know how to explore all options and work tirelessly to pursue the best outcome for you.

Are Hypodermic Needles Illegal to Possess In New Jersey?

Under N.J.S.A. 2C: 36-6, it is generally illegal to possess a hypodermic needle or syringe in New Jersey for the use of a controlled dangerous substance such as heroin. You also cannot sell or give such a needle or syringe to another person. If you are charged with this type of drug paraphernalia possession, you could be found guilty of a disorderly persons offense.

What Is a Disorderly Person’s Offense

A disorderly persons offense in New Jersey is the equivalent of a misdemeanor. Technically, such an offense is deemed to be less serious of a criminal act than an indictable crime, or felony. Still, a disorderly persons offense charge could have a major impact on your life for many different reasons. If convicted, you could:

  • Face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Lose your driver’s license for up to two years.
  • Lose a professional license or certification.
  • Face other consequences such as the loss of your job and standing in your community.

Can I Possess a Hypodermic Needle in New Jersey?

It is important to note that you can possess and use a hypodermic needle or syringe in New Jersey if:

  • You obtain it with a valid prescription issued by a licensed physician, dentist or veterinarian, and you use the needle or syringe for its authorized purpose.
  • You are, in fact, a licensed physician, dentist, veterinarian, nurse, pharmacist or other health care professional who is authorized by the statute to possess the needle or syringe.

Can I Be Charged If I Don’t Use The Syringe?

Additionally, you should know that you could face a charge based on how you discard the needle or syringe (regardless of whether it was used for lawful or unlawful purposes or, for that matter, whether it was used at all). Under N.J.S.A. 2C: 36-6.1, it is a disorderly persons offense if you:

  • Discard the needle or syringe in a place accessible to other persons without destroying it, or
  • If you own, lease or otherwise control property while knowing that needles or syringes that are in intact condition have been discarded or abandoned on the property, and you let them remain there.

How Do You Dispose of Needles and Syringes Properly?

A needle is considered to be destroyed if the needle is broken off or mangled, while a syringe is destroyed if the nipple is broken from the barrel, or if the nipple and barrel are melted. You can also destroy a needle or syringe by putting it into a “rigid container” that is ground up or crushed in a compactor, or if it is burned in an incinerator.

If you are charged with unlawful possession, sale or distribution of a hypodermic needle or syringe, or if you are charged with illegally discarding needles or syringes in New Jersey, you need to take the charge seriously. You should get help from an attorney without delay.

New Jersey’s Hypodermic Needle Laws Have Evolved Over the Years

New Jersey, like many states, has struggled with the conundrum of wanting to punish and deter people from using hypodermic needles and syringes for illegal drug use while, at the same time, addressing the broader public health concerns that needle and syringe use present. Over the years, New Jersey law has evolved and leaned towards prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other bloodborne diseases through the use of used or “dirty” needles.

For instance, in 2006, New Jersey passed a law (N.J.S.A. 2C: 36-6a) which allows possession of a hypodermic needle or syringe (even if it still has a “residual amount” of a controlled dangerous substance) by any person who participates in or is an employee or volunteer of an approved “sterile syringe access” program – commonly called “needle exchange” programs.

As this report indicates, the programs have made a “huge impact” on the communities where they are located: Atlantic City, Camden, Jersey City, Newark and Paterson. Many people who participate in these programs have received more than sterile needles and syringes. They have also undergone drug treatment and received HIV testing and treatment. As a result, New Jersey passed a law in 2017 that allowed needle exchange programs to open in any municipality and authorized $200,000 for five pilot programs.

Additionally, in 2012, New Jersey enacted a law (N.J.S.A. 2C: 36-6.2) that allows an adult (over age 18) to buy up to 10 hypodermic needles or syringes without a prescription (or more than 10 if the adult has a valid prescription) as long as the adult buys the needles or syringes at a licensed pharmacy. (It’s still illegal to turn around and sell the needle or syringe to another person.)

It’s important to point out that the law imposes several requirements on the pharmacy. Before selling the needles or syringes, the pharmacy must:

  • Check the buyer’s age by asking for a photo ID or other proof of age
  • Keep the items under or behind the pharmacy sales counter
  • Give the buyer a New Jersey Department of Health pamphlet that has information about substance abuse treatment and how to safely dispose of the needle or syringe.

What If I am Charged With Needles I Bought Legally?

So, if you are charged with possession of a needle or syringe, you can raise as a defense under N.J.S.A. 2C: 36-6.3 that the needles were obtained from the pharmacy. However, you would need to show that you obtained them legally “by a preponderance of the evidence.” A lawyer with experience handling drug defense cases will know how to gather and present that evidence on your behalf and fight the charge against you.

Get Help from a New Jersey Drug Crimes Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with possession of a hypodermic needle or syringe or a related drug offense, contact attorney Jason A. Volet today for a free consultation. He is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a criminal trial lawyer, and he has handled more than 2,000 cases over the course of his legal career as both a prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney. He will put his knowledge and experience to work for you right away.

3 Common Questions You May Have About Your Miranda Rights

When a person is arrested, the police are supposed to read them their rights as a person facing criminal allegations. This reading, sometimes known as a Miranda warning or a reading of the Miranda rights, is a basic part of most arrests and is required in many cases. However, not all arrests require the reading of these rights at the time of arrest.

If you have been arrested and are facing criminal charges, it is important that you obtain vigorously committed legal representation in your case. For a free consultation regarding your case, contact the New Jersey criminal lawyers of the Law Office of Jason A. Volet at (732) 863-5050.

Do the Police Have to Read the Miranda Rights Every Time?

It is not required that police officers always read a person their Miranda rights if they want to question them. In some cases, officers may stop someone on the street or take them to the police station and ask them about a crime without reading these individuals their Miranda rights. This is typically acceptable because these individuals are not in police custody at the time of questioning.

What Are the Miranda Rights?

The Miranda rights are a set of warnings issued to a a person being questioned by the police which are intended to prevent them from self-incrimination. These rights insulate a person against unfair interrogation or being forced by the police to make a false statement. They include the right to remain silent, the right to seek a legal advisor, and the right to stop speaking to a police officer at any point during an interrogation.

Contact New Jersey criminal defense attorney Jason Volet today for a free consultation.What Happens if These Rights Are Not Read?

If an officer is supposed to read these rights, but fails to do so, the information obtained through subsequent questioning cannot be used in court. This includes any confessions that may have been issued.

What are My Rights if I am Arrested in New Jersey?

When you are arrested for a crime, you are still entitled to certain inalienable rights under the law. The police cannot take these rights from you, and if they do violate them by making a wrongful arrest or neglecting proper procedure, the charges against you may be dropped.

Under the U.S. Constitution you have the following rights:

  • The right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself.
  • The right to hire a lawyer or have one provided for you by the state.
  • The right to a fair trial before your peers.
  • Protection against improper search and seizure.

Contact Us

If you were arrested, taken into police custody, and questioned, you should have received a reading of your rights. If the police failed to do this, a skilled and experienced criminal attorney may be able to have related evidence excluded from consideration of your case.

An experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer can help to explain your rights and your options during questioning, your hearing, and your trial. To speak with an attorney about your criminal charges and organizing your legal defense, contact the Law Office of Jason A. Volet at (732) 863-5050.

 

How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Me?

With a multitude of internet resources and books available regarding how the law works, many people believe that they are capable of handling their own defense if charged with a crime. However, even minor criminal convictions can have significantly greater effects than a person may first realize. Additionally, criminal defense cases can prove complicated in some cases, virtually requiring professional legal help.

When you are arrested for a crime, the prosecution will likely take an aggressive stance to try to convict you as quickly and as severely as possible. You need an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer who understands your rights and criminal charges and can fight back in your defense. A criminal attorney can help you through all steps of your criminal case, from advising you during police questioning to gathering evidence and testimony in your defense.

How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Me?

Attorneys can provide invaluable services during a person’s criminal defense case. Some defendants may not see the point in hiring an attorney, however. This is especially the case if they intend on pleading guilty or don’t believe that the penalties are serious enough to warrant a legal advisor’s help. However, a lawyer can provide the following important services:

  • Work through important legal procedures and paperwork.
  • Prepare a strong legal defense against a criminal charge.
  • Take some of the burden of dealing with legal problems.
  • Provide advice when difficult decisions arise.

Even seemingly minor criminal charges can have long-term consequences for a person, making his or her criminal defense case all the more important.

If you’re facing criminal charges and are thinking about representing yourself in court, you may want to at least speak with an attorney first to learn more about your options. For a confidential consultation, contact me today. Once I have learned about your case I can explain the options available.

Having a knowledgeable, competent lawyer on your side during your criminal trial can make all the difference in your case. Our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys understand the ins and outs of the criminal system and will work aggressively to pursue a favorable resolution for your case.

What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney

When a person is facing prosecution for criminal charges, they may want to find a legal defender who can provide a strong defense for their rights. The criminal defense process can be particularly complex at times, making it all the more important for a legal defender to have a strong understanding of the law and how to use it to defend a client. With this in mind, it’s important for a person facing criminal accusations to find a worthwhile attorney.

There are thousands of criminal defense attorneys in the state of New Jersey, making the choice of picking a single representative more difficult. However, there are some important indicators that a person may want to look for when searching for legal help. These things include:

These important pieces of information can help a person get a clearer picture of who an attorney is and how capable they are of successfully working with clients.

Who is the Best New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Case?

When searching for the best New Jersey criminal defense lawyer for a case, people often turn to the Internet to look for search rankings or some other type of objective criteria, such as a list. As with all professions, there is not a single objective measure of what constitutes the “best.” There are, however, certain criteria that may be important for you or your case, such as the following:

Certification by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Criminal Trial Attorney

In New Jersey, experienced criminal trial lawyers can apply to be certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Criminal Trial Attorney. To learn more about New Jersey criminal trial attorney certification, please read the articles on this site. Certification requires meeting a number of standards, including recognition by other attorneys. I am one of a limited number of attorneys in New Jersey who have been certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Criminal Trial Attorney.

Litigation and Trial Experience

Another aspect to consider in choosing a criminal defense lawyer is the amount of experience that the lawyer has. I have been an attorney focused on criminal law matters for more than 15 years, and have worked on more than 2000 cases, starting as a former Assistant Prosecutor in Monmouth County. Having formerly served as a prosecutor, I know what it’s like to practice criminal law as both a prosecutor and defense attorney.

Trust and Dedication

Criminal matters are serious. If you’ve been charged with a crime, you need an attorney not only whom you can trust, but one who will work tirelessly in seeking to achieve for you the best outcome possible given the facts and circumstances of your case.

I and my firm have the experience, dedication, and trust that are often highly sought after in searches for a criminal defense attorney. We provide all of our clients with tenacious representation and full attention to their matter.

If you need a criminal defense lawyer, we would look forward to meeting with you and learning about the events pertaining to your charge, whereupon we can explain how we can help if we are retained. Please call our firm to schedule an appointment at your convenience.

Never Try to Represent Yourself Against a Serious Criminal Charge in Criminal Defense Case

In the legal world, there is a saying that “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” This adage recognizes that even lawyers should retain legal counsel in serious legal matters rather than representing themselves.

If a lawyer, who has the legal education and perhaps many years of legal practice, should retain another lawyer instead of representing himself or herself, so too should non-lawyers retain a lawyer for a legal matter.

In criminal matters, the law is complicated and prosecutors work hard in seeking to convict. They want their conviction rate to be high so that their record looks good. Their job is not to care about how a legal conviction may affect the life or family of a person charged with a crime.

An experienced criminal defense attorney often will have years of practical experience and be in a much better position to advocate strongly and develop solid legal strategy than a person who has no training in the law.

Experienced criminal lawyers know how to spot evidence that may be inadmissible, and how to move to seek that such evidence is never introduced at trial. In the case where the prosecution’s main evidence is likely to be inadmissible, a criminal attorney may remind the prosecutor of the prosecutor’s legal duty to dismiss a case if there is not credible and admissible evidence upon which a conviction may be obtained. Experienced criminal lawyers thus not only focus on winning a case at trial, but also on strategies to have cases dismissed or charges reduced wherever possible prior to trial.

When charged with a crime, you should never try to go it alone.

The stakes are usually too high. If you’ve been charged with a crime, please call our office to schedule an appointment to learn how we may be able to help.

This informational blog post was brought to you by Jason A. Volet, an experienced New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer.

Lab Tech’s Alleged Improper Testing Casts Doubt on Thousands of N.J. Drug Cases

Many New Jersey drug-related crimes have recently been called into question due to a lab tech in the state who allegedly faked results in drug evidence, according to a report from The Bergen Dispatch.

According to the report in The Bergen Dispatch, the Passaic County Deputy Public Defender released details concerning allegations of fraud last month. Specifically, the memo alleges that Laboratory Technician II Kamalkant Shah “was observed writing ‘test result’ for suspected marijuana that was never tested.”

In short, the county claims that the lab tech provided false test results in marijuana cases. This lab tech was employed by the State Police Forensic Lab (SPFL) in Little Falls, and according to the report, “many law enforcement agencies across multiple N.J. counties” relied on this lab for accurate results. However, given the allegations against the lab tech, “all of his ‘results’ have been called into question.”

In Passaic County, it is possible that about 2,100 cases may be called into question as a result of the allegations. But that figure does not include the numerous other counties across the state that relied on this lab for accurate test results. Indeed, as the report notes, Shah was employed for about a decade at the State Police Forensic Lab, during which time he was involved in more than 7,800 drug cases.

Advocates Call for Investigation and Review of Lab Tech’s Cases

Another article in the West Orange Patch explained Shah’s allegedly “dry labbed” cases, meaning that he wrote out test results without ever testing the evidence. That article described the drug evidence results for cases in which Shah was involved as potentially tainted. And an online petition has already called for a “full investigation and full review of all the close to 8,000 cases involving Kamalkant Shah and the immediate vacating of convictions that resulted from the evidence tainted by this corrupt crime lab official.”

Defense attorneys emphasize that the state cannot trust drug evidence if it was improperly handled. If you were charged with a drug crime in New Jersey, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to cite the recent allegations against the SPFL tech to cast doubt on your case.

Contact a Monmouth County Criminal Defense Attorney

When you or someone you love has been charged with a drug crime, it can be difficult to know what to do next. The most important first step in beating a drug charge is to work with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer. A criminal defense attorney may be able to use questions about drug evidence testing to defend a drug charge and to help you win your case.

At The Law Office of Jason A. Volet, we know how important it is for drug evidence to be handled properly. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist with your criminal defense case.

New Jersey Criminal Lawyer Discusses Proving a DWI of Drugs

I am often asked as a New Jersey Criminal Lawyer how a DWI for drugs is proven. A DWI in New Jersey is not simply a matter of ‘have you been drinking or not.’ You can be found guilty for a DWI in New Jersey if they can prove that you are under the influence of some type of drug; whether it be marijuana, whether it be cocaine, whether it be heroin or any type of drug that would impair your ability to drive a vehicle. How do they prove that you’re under the influence of a drug as opposed to finding that you’re driving while intoxicated for alcohol?

In New Jersey, the police departments have what are called drug recognition experts, and those drug recognition experts will do certain tests at the police station in order to prove that you are guilty of driving while intoxicated for being under the influence of a drug. It’s important that you find a New Jersey drug crime lawyer who is experienced in dealing with both the drug recognition expert and the drug recognition reports in order to properly defend you against these charges.

If you have been arrested for a DWI for drugs in New Jersey, contact our experienced New Jersey Criminal Lawyer to fight for you.

This informational blog post was provided by Jason A. Volet, an experienced New Jersey Criminal Lawyer.

New Jersey Criminal Lawyer Discusses a Conditional Discharge

A conditional discharge is a program that is offered by the courts for first time drug offenders who are charged with disorderly person offenses. Essentially, a condition discharge is a program where you are on a formal period of probation. You would have a probation officer, you would have to have random urine tests, you would pay fines, but as long as you completed that period of probation, and  you had no new arrests, at the end of that year the charges against you would be dismissed. It’s important to hire an experienced New Jersey drug crime lawyer who has an intimate knowledge of whether or not you are eligible for a program like this in order to get the best results for you. If you have been charged with a drug offense, contact our experienced New Jersey Criminal Lawyers in Monmouth to help you fight your case.

This informational blog post was provided by Jason A. Volet, an experienced New Jersey Criminal Lawyer.

New Jersey Drug Crime Attorney on Stealing Your Doctor’s Prescription Pad

A very common problem that I see throughout my practice as a New Jersey Drug Crime Attorney are people who are addicted to drugs, and when they are addicted to drugs they do things that they normally would never consider doing. One of those things is stealing prescription pads from a doctor’s office that they may have been at and try write a prescription and pass that off at a pharmacy in order to obtain whatever drugs they are addicted to.

If this is something that you have been accused of, you must understand the serious nature of the offenses for which you could be convicted. You can be convicted for the theft, you could end up being convicted for a forgery, for signing that doctor’s name, and you could be charged with possession of whatever drugs if you obtain them. I advise clients as a New Jersey Drug Crime Attorney that you must understand that this could result in a period of incarceration. It’s important that you hire a New Jersey Prescription Drug Lawyer who has dealt with these types of cases in the past and has dealt with that prosecutor’s office and the police in order to try to obtain the best result for you, which could ultimately be some type of help.

If you have been charged with stealing your doctor’s prescription pad, contact our experienced New Jersey Drug Crime Attorney.

This blog was provided by Jason Volet, an experienced New Jersey Pharmacy Theft Attorney.

Penalties for Possession of Heroin

Similar to federal law, New Jersey divides controlled substances into five categories, or “schedules.” Schedule I controlled substances have a high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use in the United States. Heroin is considered a Schedule I controlled substance.

Heroin charges are among the most serious types of drug charges a person can face in New Jersey. This is because heroin is viewed as an extremely dangerous drug that poses a danger to society. Prosecutors often seek maximum penalties for alleged offenders in these cases.

Were you recently arrested in New Jersey for alleged possession of heroin? If so, it is crucial that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. A lawyer with a history of defending people accused of drug crimes will know how to protect your rights and pursue all options for getting the charge reduced or dropped altogether.

The Law Office of Jason A. Volet defends people accused of heroin offenses in communities throughout New Jersey. Former prosecutor Jason A. Volet understands the system from both perspectives and knows how to mount a defense for heroin charges. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn about all of your legal options.

Actual vs. Constructive Possession

To convict a person of heroin possession – or possession of any other type of controlled substance – a prosecutor must show present evidence that proves “actual” or “constructive” possession beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the prosecutor does not need to show that police found the heroin on a defendant’s person such as in their hands, pockets or backpack, which would be actual possession. Instead, the prosecutor can show that the heroin was found in an area that a defendant had control over such as in the defendant’s home or automobile.

The key issue is whether person “knowingly” possessed the heroin. So, if the heroin is found in next to a person in the home, and nobody else lives there, it could lead to a reasonable conclusion that the person knew that the heroin was there. On the other hand, a prosecutor may have a tougher time showing knowing possession if the heroin was not found near the person in the home, and the person shared the home with other people.

Heroin Possession Defenses

If you are charged with heroin possession, your attorney should explore all possible defenses. For instance, if the heroin was seized as the result of a traffic stop or car search that was unconstitutional, the attorney can argue that the heroin should be “suppressed,” or not admitted as evidence. If that occurs, a prosecutor may be forced to drop the charge.

Additionally, your attorney can look at where the heroin was found and challenge whether you actually knew that the drug was in your car or on your property. If you did not have exclusive possession of the area, and no other incriminating circumstances exist that would link you to the heroin, this defense may be highly effective.

In some cases, a person may be charged with heroin possession when the substance in question is something else. The prosecutor should order scientific tests to be performed on any controlled substance evidence that the prosecutor plans to introduce. Your attorney can challenge whether those tests were properly conducted by a qualified forensic chemist and may even challenge the accuracy of the test results.

Heroin Possession Charges Can Lead to Serious Penalties

N.J.S. § 2C:35-10 establishes that it is unlawful for any person to possess, actually or constructively, a controlled dangerous substance. Under N.J.S. § 2C:35-10(1), a violation involving a controlled substance classified in Schedule I (such as heroin) is a crime of the third degree. Additionally:

  • A conviction is punishable by a fine of up to $35,000. A Drug Enforcement Demand Reduction penalty of $1,000 can also be imposed.
  • A third-degree conviction is punishable by three to five years in prison. However, in some cases, the court can sentence an alleged offender to probation instead of prison.
  • People facing criminal charges for the first time could be sentenced to a Pretrial Intervention program that may last up to three years. Upon successful completion, the criminal charges may be dismissed, and the records may be expunged (removed) from the person’s record.
  • Possession of heroin with intent to distribute is also a major crime. Heroin possession with intent to distribute involving a half-ounce or less is a crime of the third degree punishable by a fine of up to $75,000 and three to five years in prison.
  • Heroin possession with intent to distribute involving more than a half-ounce but less than five ounces is a crime of the second degree punishable by a fine of up to $150,000 and up to 10 years in prison. Heroin possession with intent to distribute involving more than five ounces is a crime of the first degree punishable by a fine of up to $500,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

As evidenced above, the penalties for heroin possession can be stiff, which is why you need a skilled and experienced lawyer protecting your rights if you are charged with this offense in New Jersey.

How an Experienced NJ Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer Can Help You

When you are charged with any heroin crime, you will want to make sure that you work with an attorney who will try to negotiate a plea agreement or fight to have the criminal charges reduced or dismissed. Jason A. Volet can meet with you and help you to devise a defense strategy that works best for you and the facts of your case.

Jason is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a criminal trial lawyer, and he has more than 20 years of experience. He can immediately conduct an independent investigation into your arrest to determine whether law enforcement violated your rights, or if any other errors were committed in the handling of your case. Every case is different, so a unique defense could apply to your situation.

If you were arrested for alleged possession of heroin in New Jersey, make sure you retain legal counsel as soon as possible. There is no substitute for experience when your freedom and livelihood is on the line.

The Law Office of Jason A. Volet exclusively handles criminal defense cases, and Jason and handled more than 2,000 cases as a prosecutor and defense attorney. He is ready to fight for you. Call or connect with us online today to schedule a free consultation.

Rehabilitation, Drug Addiction and Drug Crimes in New Jersey

Many instances of drug possession and other drug crimes in New Jersey are a direct result of people becoming addicted to drugs. These people are not necessarily a “bad,” nor are they seeking a life of crime to become rich. Instead, as they became hooked on drugs, they may have turned to selling small quantities of drugs or burglary or similar crimes solely as a method for obtaining the cash required to support their habit.

In these circumstances, incarceration does not benefit either society or the person who has become addicted to drugs. Incarceration is expensive, typically costing tens of thousands of dollars to lock up a person for as little as six months. Further, incarceration often creates a huge strain on the person’s relationship with family members and loved ones, who may be vital in the person’s battle with drug addiction.

Instead of incarceration, diversion and treatment programs are often much more effective and beneficial for the person who has become addicted and for society. When the sole purpose of engaging in crime is to obtain the money necessary to fuel drug addiction, stopping the drug addiction will stop the crime. Once the drug addiction ends, the person may again become a productive member of society, which is the ultimate goal.

When Possible, We Will Explore the Possibility of Diversion Rather Than Incarceration for Clients Who Need Help for Addiction

While our first strategy for clients charged with a crime is usually to see if we can get the charges dismissed, often this is not a possibility. If this is not possible, then in many cases it will be advantageous to see if a plea bargain can be reached involving diversion rather than to go trial and potentially face incarceration.

As the facts and circumstances of each case are different, so too will be the opportunities that are available for diversion. Diversion instead of incarceration usually depends upon seeking a deal with the prosecution, but if diversion can be achieved, it is often in the best interest of our client to agree to such resolution.

This informational blog post was brought to you by Jason A. Volet, an experienced New Jersey Drug Crimes Lawyer.

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