Our criminal defense law firm represents a number of individual’s charged with a variety drug crimes in New Jersey. Similar to Pennsylvania, the severity of a drug crime in the Garden State depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the person’s arrest.
In New Jersey, the possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) (Schedule I, II, III, and IV) is a crime of the 3rd degree under 2C: 35-10a (1). While marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, possession of it is normally graded as a crime of the 4th degree under 2C: 35-10a (3). The possession of a controlled dangerous substance with the intent it distribute or manufacture is dependent on the weight, but if the drug is marijuana (greater than 10 ounces but less than 5lbs) it is a crime of the 3rd degree. Keep in mind that drug possession and possession with the intent to deliver or distribute are indictable offenses in New Jersey which would end up in the Superior Court in New Jersey as opposed to its Municipal Court in most situations.
Controlled Dangerous Substances and Drivers’ License Suspensions
One of the lesser known consequences of a controlled dangerous substance offense (CDS) is the potential for a driver’s license suspension. In New Jersey, a judge is permitted to impose a license suspension ranging from 6 months to 2 years depending on the severity and circumstances along with the person’s prior criminal record. Unlike Pennsylvania, this isn’t a mandatory minimum suspension and so it is a good opportunity for your criminal defense lawyer to advocate for you to avoid the suspension because of work or family hardship. While it is a criminal conviction, the license suspension is NOT mandatory.
While a criminal conviction under 2C: 35-10(a) is a consequence for any person who unlawfully, knowingly, or purposely possesses (actual or constructive) controlled substances, the possibility of a license suspension makes the conviction worse. There is specific case law in New Jersey, State v. Bendix, which specifically allows a New Jersey judge discretion with regards to a license suspension.
CDS Possession vs. CDS in a Motor Vehicle (Traffic Offense)
It is important to understand that this offense is different from possession from a CDS in a motor vehicle under NJSA 39-4-49.1. Possession of a CDS in a motor vehicle is a traffic offense (non-criminal) but there is a mandatory minimum license suspension. This is major difference between the criminal and traffic charge.
Unlike the criminal possession charge, there is no discretion and therefore no opportunity to make a hardship application to the judge for reducing or eliminating the suspension. If you are found guilty of a CDS in a motor vehicle, you will lose your license in the Garden State. Even if you don’t have a New Jersey driver’s license, the state will suspend your driving privileges in Jersey and will likely notify Pennsylvania (PennDot) of the suspension. PennDot can take administrative action which could lead to a license suspension in the Commonwealth. In most situations, however, Pennsylvania will NOT suspend your drivers license because Pennsylvania doesn’t suspend licenses for drug convictions while it did previously do so
Driving on a Suspended License (CDS Related Suspension or Drunk Driving, Driving While Intoxicated)
If you disregard the suspension and drive while on a suspended license, as the result of a CDS offense, the court will impose a $500 fine and an additional 6 month license suspension in addition to completing your current suspension.
Driving while on a suspended license is actually a crime of the 4th degree under 2C: 40-26 if the suspension is the result of a DWI or driving without insurance offense. A 2nd or 3rd conviction under this act will result in a mandatory minimum 180 day county jail sentence with no parole eligibility along with an additional 12 month and 1 day license suspension.
For more information on New Jersey drug offenses and crimes please keep reading my blog
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