Is Cocaine Possession a Felony in New Jersey?
Edison Third Degree Cocaine Charge Lawyers
New Jersey has some of the toughest drug laws in the country on its books. These drug laws apply to you with full force if police find you in possession of cocaine, which is classified as a Controlled Dangerous Substance under New Jersey law and as a Schedule II drug by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. New Jersey law enforcement agencies pour vast resources into drug investigations and state prosecutors vigorously litigate these cases in court. Cocaine cases are no exception. So, is possession of cocaine a felony in New Jersey? And what does that mean if you are facing cocaine possession charges? Here, our criminal defense lawyers explain these and other important things about possession of cocaine in New Brunswick, Woodbridge, South Brunswick, Old Bridge, East Brunswick, Piscataway, Metuchen, and throughout NJ. If you have been arrested on felony drug charges for cocaine possession in Middlesex County, call (732) 659-9600 for the help you need today. An attorney at our local criminal defense firm will listen and explore how best to handle your case.
Is Cocaine Possession a Felony Charge in NJ?
To fully understand whether possession of cocaine is a felony in New Jersey, you must first understand New Jersey’s unique system for classifying various crimes. Unlike other states, New Jersey does not use the common terms “misdemeanor” and “felony” to describe criminal charges. New Jersey law instead categorizes less serious criminal offenses as “disorderly persons offenses,” similar to misdemeanors, and more serious criminal offenses as “indictable offenses, similar to felonies. The question of whether possession of cocaine is categorized as a felony in New Jersey is actually the question of whether that conduct amounts to an indictable offense (i.e. a felony-level offense) in New Jersey. The answer is yes, as described further below.
What Degree is a Cocaine Possession Offense in New Jersey?
If police find you in possession of even a small amount of cocaine in your possession, or any trace of the drug at all, (any amount less than half an ounce), you can be charged with a third degree crime in New Jersey, a serious felony-level charge. Given the harsh nature of New Jersey’s drug laws, a third degree indictable offense is likely the least serious charge you will face for cocaine possession in New Jersey, as opposed to a less serious fourth-degree indictable offense or disorderly persons offense).
If you are found with between half an ounce to five ounces of cocaine in your possession, you can be charged with a second degree indictable (felony) offense for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. And if you are found to possess over five ounces of cocaine, you will likely be charged with an even more serious first degree crime for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. For reference, the most serious crimes in the state, including murder and sexual assault, are categorized as first degree indictable offenses. Regardless of the degree of the charges, cocaine possession and possession with intent to distribute charges should never be taken lightly.
What Happens if Convicted of Cocaine Possession in NJ?
The penalties associated with cocaine possession charges increase in severity as the degree of crime increases. Even the lowest degree of cocaine possession charge, a third degree felony offense, carries severe penalties. If you are convicted of third degree cocaine possession, you can be sentenced to five years in New Jersey state prison. You can also be fined between $35,000 and $75,000. If you possessed the cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, you can also be ordered to complete an additional 100 hours of community service upon conviction. Under New Jersey law, you may also lose your driver’s license for a period of months following your drug conviction. And you will may even be ordered to complete expensive and mandatory drug rehab programs or substance abuse classes.
If you are convicted of an even more serious second-degree offense for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, you can face a staggering fine of up to $150,000. The judge can also sentence you to up to ten years in a New Jersey state prison.
Finally, if you possess over five ounces of cocaine and are convicted of first degree possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, you will face among the most severe penalties in the state. These penalties include up to twenty years in prison. You can also be fined up to $500,000. And you will have a first degree felony conviction on your permanent record, making it very difficult to obtain employment and other opportunities following your release from prison.
Arrested for Cocaine Possession? Defend Your Case
If you are arrested for any cocaine possession crime in New Jersey, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney who can assist with evaluating your case and your options. Sometimes these harsh outcomes can be avoided if you qualify for a program called Pretrial Intervention, or perhaps your lawyer may be able to work out a deal with reduced penalties. There may even be arguments to be made to suppress evidence illegally obtained or your rights were violated, in which case your case may be dismissed altogether. Consult an experienced cocaine defense lawyer at our firm to learn more. Call (732) 659-9600 or contact us online for a free consultation.