Possession of Weapon During the Commission of a CDS Offense in Middlesex County, NJ
New Brunswick Drugs and Guns Charges Attorneys
It’s safe to say that nobody wants to be charged with a gun crime, and also that nobody wants to be charged with a drug crime either. After all, New Jersey has some of the country’s strictest drug & gun laws and the harshest penalties for these offenses. But what happens when you are charged with both crimes at the same time? In New Jersey, you could be subject to even more severe consequences than usual, including mandatory prison time. That’s because there is a statute that specifically addresses the unique intersection of weapons offenses and drug offenses. NJ legislators passed this law in order to discourage violent crimes and to minimize the risk posed to public safety when a drug deal goes bad and one of the participants uses a firearm. Once you have been charged, you should understand that criminal cases involving both drugs and guns can be incredibly complicated, and they often require extensive preparation and nuanced legal strategies at trial. Considering this, anyone who faces charges that include a gun & drug violation, specifically a charge for N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1, needs to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.
If you need assistance with a case in which you or someone you know has been charged with possession of a weapon during a drug offense in Middlesex County or around New Jersey, such as Edison, Piscataway, New Brunswick, Monroe, Metuchen, Plainsboro, and Woodbridge, contact the team of criminal defense lawyers at Proetta & Oliver to find the type of talent and commitment you’ll need defending your case. Please feel free to request a free consultation by contacting us online or at our local office in Edison, NJ. Call (732) 659-9600 today.
What Is a Charge for Possession of a Weapon During a Drug Offense in NJ?
The charge for possession of a weapon during a drug offense is addressed in the New Jersey Criminal Code by N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1. The statute explicitly prohibits the possession of any firearm by someone committing or attempting to commit one of the following drug offenses:
- N.J.S.A. 2C:35-3 – Leader of a Narcotics Trafficking Network
- N.J.S.A. 2C:35-4 – Maintaining or Operating a Controlled Dangerous Substance Production Facility
- N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5 – Manufacturing, Distributing, or Dispensing a Controlled Dangerous Substance
- N.J.S.A. 2C:35-6 – Employing a Juvenile in a Drug Distribution Scheme
- N.J.S.A. 2C:35-11 – Possession or Distribution of Imitation Controlled Dangerous Substances
- N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1 – Distribution Within 500 Feet of a Public Park or Housing
- N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 – Intent to Distribute in a School Zone
Some of the most common drugs that may be involved in the above charges include cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs, methamphetamine, and marijuana. Even though possession of a small amount of marijuana is now legal in New Jersey, it is still possible to be charged with this unique weapons offense when the underlying drug offense involved illegal distribution of a large amount of marijuana. Basically, the presence of a gun while committing many a crime involving a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) could result in a charge for possessing a weapon during a narcotics violation.
Degree of the Charges & Penalties for Possessing a Gun During a Controlled Dangerous Substance Crime in New Jersey
Whether you were charged with using a firearm to carry out a drug deal involving heroin, or you were merely charged with having a handgun in the glove compartment of your car next to an amount of marijuana large enough to trigger intent to distribute charges, the consequences of a conviction on a gun & drugs charge could be catastrophic. In most of these situations, a charge for possessing a gun during the underlying drug crime is classified as a second degree indictable offense (a felony). This means that the charge carries severe penalties, including a sentence of 5-10 years in state prison. Moreover, there is a presumption of incarceration for anyone who is convicted of this charge, as well as a minimum mandatory term of incarceration because the offense is covered by the Graves Act. The bottom line is that a gun charge will increase the severity of the case and lead to a sentencing enhancement, as you will face a sentence of up to 10 years just for the gun & drugs offense. That sentence will need to be served consecutively with any other sentences imposed by the judge for the underlying drug and/or weapons charges.
In addition, possessing a weapon other than a firearm, such as a knife, with the intention to unlawfully employ it while committing a drug offense is also a second degree crime. Lastly, possession of a weapon under any other circumstances that satisfy the criteria in the law is a third degree crime. This is a lesser degree of the charge for 2C:39-4.1 but still carries with it a prison term of 3-5 years and a $15,000 fine maximum.
What is Required for a Conviction for N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1?
In order to secure a conviction under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1, the prosecution must prove that the defendant possessed a firearm or other weapon, and that the defendant was either committing, attempting to commit, or conspiring to commit one of the drug offenses mentioned in the statute. Importantly, it won’t matter that you did not actually use the firearm while committing the drug offense. The statute stipulates that an offender is subject to this additional charge merely for having a firearm in his or her possession. In other words, the prosecutor does not need to prove that you actually fired the weapon, brandished the weapon, or otherwise used it against someone else during the drug offense.
Common Companion Charges in Drugs and Weapons Cases
Keep in mind that when you are charged with using a handgun or other firearm during the commission of a narcotics offense, this charge is in addition to the other charges that you are likely to face. For example, if you were apprehended with a firearm while attempting to sell heroin or cocaine, you will probably also face criminal charges for illegal drug distribution. Beyond that, if you did not have a valid firearms ID for the gun, you could be charged with unlawful possession of a weapon. Some of the most common companion charges that come along with a drug & gun violation in New Jersey include the following:
- Drug Distribution: NJ law prohibits most unlicensed individuals from distributing, dispensing, or manufacturing a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, or prescription drugs. Depending on the weight of the illegal narcotics, or the number of prescription pills, an offender could face felony drug distribution charges and many years in prison if convicted.
- Intent to Distribute Drugs: It’s also possible to be charged with intent to distribute a CDS even if you did not actually distribute or sell the drugs. That’s because the law assumes that anyone who possesses a large quantity of narcotics is likely to distribute those narcotics at some point. Depending on the type of drugs involved, the penalties for this felony-level offense could involve significant prison time.
- Unlawful Possession of a Weapon: Unlawful possession of a weapon doesn’t just cover illegal possession of firearm such as a handgun, shotgun, or rifle, but it also covers the unlawful possession of just about any object that can be used to cause bodily injury, such as a knife, a baseball bat, a broken bottle, brass knuckles, etc. Depending on the type of weapon involved, a conviction on an unlawful possession of a weapon charge could result in a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for this charge alone.
- Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose: Even if you had a legal right to possess and/or carry a firearm, you could still be charged with a crime for intending to use that weapon against someone during a drug offense. This also applies to guns, knives, and just about any object that might be considered a “weapon.” The penalties for possessing a weapon for an unlawful purpose can go as high as 10 years in prison if the weapon was a firearm.
Any companion charges that are filed against you will carry additional penalties, and those penalties could be imposed consecutively, meaning the prison sentences for each charge would be stacked on top of each other, so that you end up having to serve time in prison for all of the offenses for which you are ultimately found guilty. This would include an additional sentence of 5-10 years in prison for the specific charge of possessing a gun during a drug offense.
Seek Counsel from Edison NJ Drugs and Weapons Defense Lawyers
There are certain criminal cases that go above and beyond the typical realm of punishment in New Jersey, and possession of a gun or weapon during the commission of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) offense ranks among them. When you have been arrested on drugs and weapons charges, contact the Middlesex County criminal defense lawyers at our office in Edison, NJ at (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation. We can meet you in the jail if necessary and walk you through the entire legal battle ahead, from detention hearing to trial and beyond. We serve all of Middlesex County, including Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, Carteret, East Brunswick, South and North Brunswick. Reach out anytime for answers and defense counsel.