Interviewer What if someone doesn’t get representation and what does it look like for their future? Are employers little bit more understanding with drug charges?
Lauren Scardella: There’s a bill that was passed and signed into law in New Jersey in 2014 that requires employers to avoid questions about criminal convictions until after they’ve interviewed the job applicant. They have to basically decide that they want to see somebody and actually interview them before they can ask about criminal convictions. Once they know about convictions then it is what it is. Employers can choose to discriminate against somebody for a criminal conviction, just not before interviewing them.
Retaining an Attorney for Your Drug Case Helps Ensure That You Attain the Best Possible Outcome
If a person just goes in and pleads guilty and doesn’t hire a lawyer, they are missing out on the opportunity to make the State prove its case, and they are giving up a valuable constitutional right – the 6th Amendment right to an attorney. What happens is that they end up with a conviction that maybe they didn’t need. It could have been a plea bargain or maybe they were eligible for a first offender’s program. Or they’d end up serving time in jail but they could have gone into Drug Court. It’s just a bad idea.
The Nature and the Quantity of Drugs Possessed or Distributed Determines the Severity of the Drug Charge
Interviewer: Is there a difference between harsher drugs as compared to marijuana as far as the severity of what someone’s going to be charged with?
Lauren Scardella: It completely depends on what the drug is and what the quantity of it is. Certain drugs are always more serious, and all cases can be enhanced. By enhanced, I mean made more serious by whether or not somebody was in a school zone or a park zone and whether they were distributing or not. There are many different permutations of drug charges and the severity can depend on how much and what kind of drug you’re possessing or selling or giving to somebody. Distribution does not just mean selling. It can also mean giving drugs to someone or sharing them with other people. It’s one of those things where you really need to talk to a lawyer, read them the charges against you and have the lawyer look it up.
Distributing Drugs in a School Zone or a Park Zone Enhances the Charges
There are so many different subsections and sentencing provisions that to deal with how a person has to be treated under our drug laws. We had a client who was charged with distributing marijuana in a school zone and his original plea offer was 5 years in State Prison. It was at night and there were no children there but the simple fact of it being in a school zone made it a second degree offense with a mandatory minimum period of incarceration of 3 years. Because it was a second degree offense, he couldn’t just be sentenced to 3 years, he had to get the full sentence of 5 to 10 years. So he was offered the least amount of prison time for a second degree offense but he was going to have to serve 3 years of that. That’s an example of how these things can be made more serious by being in a school zone or a park zone.