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An Overview Of Drug Related Charges In The State Of New Jersey

Interviewer: What is the most common kind of drug case that you see in your practice?

Lauren Scardella: People are using all kinds of drugs from Marijuana to Cocaine to Xanax, Ecstasy, Methamphetamine, Heroin and prescription drugs. There are many different kinds of drugs and the use of all of them occurs with varying degrees of frequency. Still, the most common drug case that we see is somebody being arrested and charged with possession of under 50 grams of marijuana.

The Common Scenario Resulting in an Arrest for Drug Related Charges

Interviewer: What would you say is one of the most common scenarios that you see where someone gets caught with a particular kind of drug?

Lauren Scardella: The most common scenario is someone is with their friends in a car and they get caught smoking marijuana and they get arrested. If one person doesn’t take responsibility for the ownership of the marijuana, then usually all of the occupants of the vehicle will be arrested and they’ll all be charged with the same thing.

The Major Differences Between Possession and Intent To Distribute Charges

Interviewer: What is the main difference between a straight possession versus an intent to sell or intent to distribute case? What are the major differences in the penalties?

Lauren Scardella: First of all, there are differences in the circumstances of how somebody gets charged with just straight possession versus why somebody might get charged with intent to distribute or distribution. Possession can be charged under any number of circumstances. They could find it in a car, they could find it on a person if they’re patting them down, they could find it in somebody’s house, etc. If it’s under a certain amount of a particular drug, the cops aren’t likely to come to the conclusion that the person is selling it. For instance, sometimes the cops will find just one joint. The cops aren’t automatically going to draw the conclusion that the person was going to sell that one joint because it’s pretty clear that that’s for personal use.

Items Such As A Digital Scale Or Large Amounts of Cash Hint Towards Distribution of Drugs

With distribution sometimes the police might catch someone in the act, or there might be an undercover cop who is engaging in controlled drug buys, or they might be using an informant, or they might just arrest somebody with a larger amount of a drug on them or they might have things on them that are traditionally viewed as indicative of drug distribution like having a digital scale or having a large amount of cash on them or having Ziploc baggies in their possession or all of those things combined. When a cop sees some or all of those things, he or she is going to draw the conclusion that the person has been dealing drugs. The differences in the penalties are great. There are first offender programs for some drug charges but not for others. For some drug charges there is mandatory jail time. You really need the expertise of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the court system on drug cases.

The Severity of Drug Charges is Determined by the Quantity of Drugs that are Confiscated

Interviewer: With possession cases, is there a certain amount where a certain level of penalties are imposed and the quantity determines the severity of charges?

Lauren Scardella: Yes, that’s exactly what happens. If somebody has under 50 grams of marijuana, that’s a disorderly persons offense. That’s probably the most common drug charge that we see. The maximum penalty for that is up to 6 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine whereas possession of over 50 grams is a fourth degree indictable offense where the maximum penalty is 18 months in State Prison. So, yes, the more you have, the more severe the penalties become.

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