New Jersey Mandatory Minimum Drug Offenses
Unlike Pennsylvania, New Jersey has many mandatory minimum sentences for illegal drug and narcotic offenses within the state. The following statutes require parole disqualifiers for certain drug offenses. These offenses include the following:
- Leader of a narcotics trafficking network— N.J.S.A. 2C:35-3 requires that a New Jersey court impose a life sentence with a 25 year period of parole ineligibility;
- Maintaining or operating a controlled dangerous substance production facility—N.J.S.A. 2C:35-4 requires a period of parole ineligibility between one-third and ½ of the sentence imposed;
- A first degree manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing certain controlled, dangerous substances—NJSA 2C:35-5(b)(1) and (6) require a period of parole ineligibility between one-third and ½ of the sentence imposed;
- Employing a juvenile in a drug distribution scheme—N.J.S.A. 2C:35-6 mandates a period of parole ineligibility of at least one-third and 1/2 of ½ sentence imposed or 5 years, whichever is greater;
- Manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled dangerous substance on or near a school— N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 provides that if a crime involves less than one ounce of marijuana that the period of parole ineligibility must be between one-third and ½ of the sentence imposed or 1 year, whichever is greater, and all other cases (drugs) the parole ineligibility must be between one-third and ½ of the sentence imposed or 3 years, whichever is greater.
School Zone Mandatory Minimum Waiver
It’s important to keep in mind that the minimum school jail term may be waived upon consideration of the defendant’s prior record, the seriousness of the offense, the location of the offense in relation to the school, and whether school was in session when the defendant committed the crime. The statute however doesn’t permit a waiver if the defendant used or threatened violence, possessed a firearm, committed the offense on a school bus, or on school property.
Extended Term of Incarceration
In addition to these mandatory minimum terms, a New Jersey court under NJSA 2C:43-6, that upon application by the prosecutor, the court may impose an extended term of parole disqualification against anyone convicted of the following crimes if the defendant also has a prior conviction for manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, or possessing with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (drugs):
- Manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, or possessing with the intent to distribute a dangerous substance
- Maintaining or operating a controlled dangerous substance production facility
- Employing a juvenile in a drug scheme
- Being a leader of a narcotics traffic network
- Distributing, dispensing, or possessing with the intent to distribute within a school zone
What the Prosecutor Must Establish For the Extended Term
It’s important to keep in mind that if prosecutor seeks the extended term, he or she must establish the grounds for imposing the sentence at a hearing, which may occur at the time of sentencing.
Presumption of Incarceration
It’s important to keep in mind that in New Jersey, there is a presumption for incarceration if the defendant is convicted of a first degree crime, second degree crime, and a third degree crime, if the court finds (a) the defendant is involved in organized criminal activity, (b) the offense involved an act of domestic violence in the presence of a child under 16 years of age, or (c) the offense involved an act of domestic violence and the defendant committed at least one act of domestic violence on more than one occasion.
There’s a presumption of non-imprisonment for any other crime other than a first or second degree who has not been previously convicted of an offense unless having regard to the nature and circumstance of the offense and the history, character, and condition of the defendant, it is in the opinion of the court that imprisonment is necessary for the protection of the public.
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