As police officers and prosecutors build a case against you, they will do everything they can to increase the severity of your charges. Even the tiniest factor can quickly turn a simple possession charge into possession with intent to distribute, which carries much stiffer penalties. You can be charged with intent to distribute, even if you did not successfully make a sale.
In New Jersey, possessing a small amount of most drugs, such as a single tablet of ecstasy or less than a half ounce of marijuana, can be argued as being for recreational use. This is not always the case with drugs that are treated more seriously under the law, including cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. In these cases, being caught with even small amounts can turn your possession charge into intent to distribute.
Being charged with intent to distribute is largely based on two key factors:
New Jersey law allows for additional penalties if you are found holding drugs within 1,000 feet of a school bus or school, or within 500 feet of a housing project or public park, even if you did not know these places were close to you.
The penalty for an intent to distribute conviction in New Jersey depends on the type of controlled substance, how much is found, and the factors explained above. For example, if you are found trying to sell less than one ounce of marijuana, you are facing up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $15,000. Being in possession of more than 25 pounds, however, comes with a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Along with prison time and fines, you may also be left with an indictable crime (felony) on your criminal record. You may be required to pay restitution, forfeit your job if you are a public office employee, complete community service, and lose your right to vote.
When you are charged with possession with intent to distribute, the prosecutor must first prove that you were in possession of a controlled substance. Next, the prosecution must show that you either distributed or planned to distribute the drugs, which means transferring the controlled substance to another person, with or without payment. Unless law enforcement officers actually saw the drugs distributed, the prosecutor will use the opinion of the police officer. This opinion may be based on packaging, the quantity of drugs found, money found with the drugs, and other factors.
The prosecutor must also prove that you acted knowingly and purposefully to distribute or plan to distribute the drugs, which means you must have known you were in possession of a controlled substance.
Given the severity of this charge, it is very important to seek representation from an experienced drug defense attorney. Mark Bernstein will review your case and work with you to craft the best possible defense to get your charges dismissed or reduced. Contact the Law Office of Mark A. Bernstein at (609) 665-3338 to discuss your case during a free consultation.