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What Are the Penalties of a First Drug Offense in New Jersey?

February 2, 2021 by

What Are the Penalties of a First Drug Offense in New Jersey?

Longstanding views on certain drugs and drug-related crimes are slowly changing around the country. But laws don’t always change as quickly as society’s attitudes about certain crimes. Drug offenses still carry stiff penalties in New Jersey. You should take it seriously if you’ve been accused of a drug crime. Even for first-time offenders, the penalties for drug crimes can be severe. At The Law Office of Jason A. Volet, we know how to handle all types of New Jersey drug offense cases. Volet is a former prosecutor who’s also certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a criminal trial lawyer. During his time as both a prosecutor and defense attorney, Volet has handled thousands of drug cases, giving him inside knowledge that he now uses to help his clients. Volet exclusively focuses on criminal law, dedicating his law practice to clients who most need his help when they’re facing the wrath of the justice system. To get your free and confidential initial consultation, call us or visit our firm’s contact page.

Penalties for a First-Time Drug Offense in NJ

The potential penalties for a first-time drug offense in New Jersey depend on several factors. The biggest factors are:

  • What drugs were allegedly found in your possession?
  • How much of the substance did you allegedly have on you?
  • Can the police argue that you intended to distribute those drugs?

The penalties for possessing drugs other than marijuana — cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, ecstasy, opiates, etc. — are much harsher. In New Jersey, the potential penalties for possessing any amount of these drugs include:

  • Up to 5 years in prison
  • A fine of up to $35,000

In addition to the penalties listed above, a conviction for a drug offense can also lead to your driver’s license being suspended and your vehicle being seized by police. Furthermore, possessing large amounts of these drugs may constitute evidence of possession with intent to distribute. Though the specifics vary depending on the drug in question, a conviction for possession with intent to distribute carries much harsher penalties, including:

  • Heroin
    • For amounts less than half an ounce, you could go to jail for up to 5 years and need to pay a fine of up to $75,000.
    • For amounts between half an ounce and 5 ounces, you could go to jail for up to 10 years and need to pay a fine of up to $75,000.
    • For amounts greater than 5 ounces, you could go to jail for up to 20 years and need to pay a fine of up to $300,000.
  • LSD
    • For amounts less than 100 milligrams, you could go to jail for up to 10 years and need to pay a fine of up to $75,000.
    • For amounts greater than 100 milligrams, you could go to jail for up to 20 years and need to pay a fine of up to $300,000.

For other drugs, the penalties for possession with intent are very similar to what is listed above.

Will I Face Jail Time If It Was My First Drug Offense?

You could face jail time even for a first-time drug offense. If you show remorse and have no prior criminal charges, there’s a chance that police and prosecutors will go a little easier on you, but there’s no guarantee. Any drug offense, including a first-time offense, should be taken extremely seriously.

Options You May Have

New Jersey has a few options for drug offenders that can allow them to avoid a trial and the harshest criminal penalties. These include:

  • Pre-trial intervention – Pre-trial intervention is a diversionary treatment and rehabilitation program aimed at helping drug addicts break the cycle of addiction. It is available only for first-time drug offenders who have not committed other crimes.
  • Conditional discharge – In some drug cases, defendants can plead guilty but avoid having a drug conviction on their permanent record by serving probation, rather than a sentence, and meeting other conditions. Once these conditions are met, the case is dismissed.
  • Drug court – Some first-time drug offenders can be placed into the drug court program, where they will need to enroll in a treatment program and meet other conditions to avoid the harsher penalties that come with most drug offenses. However, unlike pre-trial intervention or a conditional discharge, the defendant is required to plead guilty and the offense will go on their permanent record.
  • Veterans diversion program – New Jersey recognizes that some veterans face unique challenges after leaving the armed forces and offers them an alternative to the traditional justice system. Like the other options mentioned above, this program generally requires offenders to enroll in counseling and some kind of treatment program.

How Can a Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Help?

A conviction for drug crimes in New Jersey can have a disastrous impact on your life – even if it’s a first-time offense. That’s why hiring a drug crimes lawyer is crucial. If you’re accused of a drug offense, here’s some of what The Law Office of Jason A. Volet can do for you:

  • Examine your case to see if any evidence was obtained through an illegal search and attempt to have that evidence thrown out. Your case could be dismissed.
  • Negotiate with police and prosecutors to get into some kind of alternative sentencing program, such as pre-trial diversion or a conditional discharge.
  • Provide you with aggressive representation if your case goes to trial.

Speak with our team today for free by calling us or by visiting our firm’s contact page.

About the Author

Jason A. Volet
Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a criminal trial attorney, Jason A. Volet focuses his practice exclusively on criminal and municipal defense in New Jersey and New York. He earned his B.A. in political science from Rutgers College in 1995 and his J.D. from the Hofstra University School of Law in 1998. Mr. Volet began his career in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, where he gained extensive experience prosecuting both juvenile and adult offenders. Now, as a criminal defense attorney, he uses that experience to fight for the rights of individuals who have been charged with a crime.

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