Defining Drug Crimes in New Jersey
Drug crimes have been among the most common and most controversial offenses in the American criminal justice system over the past few decades, particularly since the beginning of the government’s “War on Drugs” in the 1980s. However, over the past couple of years, criminal laws regarding drugs have been changing across the country, mostly at the state level. As a result, it is important to have an understanding of the criminal laws relating to drugs.
Dealing with Drug Charges at the State vs. Federal Level
Criminal laws at both the state and the federal level prohibit the unlawful possession, manufacture, distribution, and sale of certain controlled substances. When people think of illegal drugs, they often picture drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and ecstasy. Of course, certain drugs are perfectly legal under certain circumstances. For example, it is legal for a person to possess and use prescription drugs that are prescribed by a doctor; but if a person possesses or uses those drugs without a prescription, they are likely doing so in violation of the law.
While both the states and the federal government have their own sets of criminal laws regarding drugs, in practice federal drug charges tend to focus more on the manufacturing, trafficking, and distribution of illegal drugs, while state drug charges often focus on the sale of drugs and possession by drug users. At the state level, most drug arrests and convictions involve marijuana. However, this trend is changing as 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, while most other states have legalized marijuana for licensed medicinal use. Because marijuana is still fully illegal at the federal level, legalization of marijuana to some degree in most states has created a conflict between state and federal policy.
Finally, another important difference between federal drug laws and state drug laws is the severity in sentencing following conviction. Federal drug convictions tend to carry longer sentences and heavier fines than state drug convictions. At the state level, simple possession convictions are often treated as misdemeanors and many states have programs that move offenders into treatment programs and drop criminal charges following successful completion of treatment.
Defining “Controlled” Substances
When drug laws define a substance as “controlled” it means that distribution and use of the substance is governed by law. Controlled substances are often categorized by state and federal law into different “schedules” depending on the danger for abuse and addiction and/or whether the drug has any medicinal value. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, upon which many states’ drug laws are modeled, controlled substances are categorized into five schedules, with Schedule I drugs (such as cocaine, heroin, or ecstasy) being the most dangerous drugs due to their high risk for abuse and addiction and having no safe medicinal uses, and Schedule V drugs (such as cough suppressants having small amounts of codeine and certain CBD formations) being the least dangerous controlled substances due to a low risk of abuse or addiction and due to these substances having currently accepted medical uses.
What is Distribution
If a person is charged with “distribution” of controlled substances, it means they are accused of delivering, providing, or sellingcontrolled substances in an illegal manner. While some people are arrested in the act of selling controlled substances, many people are charged with possession with intent to distribute when they are arrested with significant quantities of controlled substances or with drugs that are packaged for sale, such that it is plainly clear that the drugs are not meant for the arrestee’s personal use. Drug distribution convictions tend to impose the most severe penalties of all drug offenses, especially when there are factors like the presence of firearms or proximity to school or certain public property.
Contact an Experienced Hamilton Township Drug Defense Attorney About Your Drug Crime Charges in New Jersey
Have you been charged with a drug crime in New Jersey? A drug crime conviction can carry with it heavy fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension! That is why it is imperative that you speak with a qualified criminal defense lawyer about your case. The attorneys at The Davis Law Firm, LLC represent clients charged with use, possession, production, distribution, and related drug offenses in Trenton, Ewing, Lawrence, Princeton, and throughout New Jersey. Call 609-587-9100 or fill out our confidential online contact form to schedule a consultation about your case. We have an office located at 2653 Nottingham Way, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.