In New Jersey, drug crimes are considered some of the most serious offenses. They often carry severe penalties that can affect not just your immediate future but the rest of your life. Even the simple act of possessing drugs for personal use can result in significant jail time and fines.
Don’t let a mistake follow you for the rest of your life. A Mercer County drug crime lawyer from Keith Oliver Criminal Law can build a strong defense on your behalf and fight aggressively to protect your future. At our law firm, we have a long track record of obtaining successful outcomes for clients, including dismissals or reduction of charges and sentences with little or no jail time.
If you have been arrested and charged with a drug crime in Mercer County, get the legal help you need. Reach out to Keith Oliver Criminal Law for a free and confidential case review to learn more about how a Mercer County drug crime lawyer can make a difference in your case.
How Our Mercer County Drug Crime Attorneys Can Help
When you are charged with a drug crime in Mercer County, an experienced criminal defense attorney from Keith Oliver Criminal Law can help you fight for your rights by:
- Going over your charges, your legal rights, defense strategy options, and potential outcomes so that you know what to expect and feel confident in how your case is being handled
- Independently investigating your case to recover additional evidence that can help build a solid defense
- Identifying and pursuing factual and legal defenses, including challenging the admissibility of the prosecution’s evidence or testing the sufficiency of the state’s case by filing motions to reduce or dismiss your charges
- Exploring alternatives to criminal prosecution that can help you avoid the worst consequences of conviction, such as applying for admission to drug court if eligible
- If appropriate, negotiating with prosecutors to try to reach a plea agreement that can reduce your exposure at sentencing
- Advocating in your defense if you choose to fight your charges at trial
Don’t let the weight of a drug charge bring you down. At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, we will fight fiercely for the outcome you need to move forward with your life.
We Handle All Types of Drug Crime Cases in Mercer County
At Keith Oliver Criminal Law, our seasoned legal team can assist you if you are facing drug charges involving:
- Drug possession, or possession of drugs for personal consumption
- Drug distribution, including possession of drugs with intent to distribute
- Drug use or being under the influence, including DUI
- Drug paraphernalia, including offenses related to possession or sale of paraphernalia
- Drug trafficking, or the transportation of illicit substances across state or national borders
What Are the Penalties for Drug Crime Convictions?
The penalties for simple possession of illegal drugs in New Jersey vary depending on the type of drug and, in certain cases, the quantity. Maximum sentences for simple possession include:
- Schedule V drugs: Fourth-degree crime, with a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a potential fine of up to $25,000
- Schedule I-IV drugs: Third-degree crime, with a maximum sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $35,000
Distribution of LSD carries penalties of:
- One ounce or less: Second-degree crime, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000
- Over one ounce: First-degree crime, with a maximum sentence of 20 years and a fine of up to $500,000
Distributing methamphetamine has penalties that include:
- Five ounces or less: Second-degree crime, with up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000
- Over five ounces: First-degree crime, with a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $300,000
Distribution of marijuana has maximum penalties of:
- Less than an ounce: Fourth-degree crime, with 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- One ounce to five pounds: Third-degree crime, with up to five years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $25,000
- Over five pounds to 25 pounds: Second-degree crime, with a maximum of 10 years and a fine of up to $150,000
- Over 25 pounds: First-degree crime, with up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $300,000
These penalties can also be enhanced under certain aggravating circumstances, such as being in possession of drugs on or near school property or distributing drugs to minors.
Categories of Controlled Substances Under New Jersey Drug Laws
Controlled substances are categorized into one of five schedules under the New Jersey Controlled Substances Act. The schedules include:
- Schedule I – Schedule I drugs are defined as substances that have a high potential for abuse and either have no accepted medical use or lack accepted safety standards for use under medical supervision. Examples of Schedule I drugs in New Jersey include heroin, LSD, MDMA, marijuana, mescaline, peyote, and psilocybin.
- Schedule II – Substances categorized under Schedule II include those that have a high potential for abuse but have a currently accepted medical use in treatment or medical use with severe restrictions. Abuse of Schedule II substances can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Examples of Schedule II drugs include fentanyl, methadone, levorphanol, Vicodin, and cocaine.
- Schedule III – Controlled substances listed in Schedule III include all substances that have a lesser potential for abuse than those listed in Schedule I or II, have accepted medical uses, and have a risk of moderate to low physical dependence or high psychological dependence if abused. Drugs falling under Schedule III include amphetamine, methamphetamine, lysergic acid, and ketamine.
- Schedule IV – Drugs in Schedule IV include those that have a low potential for abuse compared to Schedule III drugs, have currently accepted medical use, and may lead to limited physical or psychological dependence if abused. Examples of Schedule IV control substances include barbital, chloral hydrate, and phenobarbital.
- Schedule V – Substances falling under Schedule V include those with a lower potential for abuse and lower physical and psychological dependence than substances in Schedule IV and have accepted medical uses. Schedule V substances include narcotics with limited quantities of codeine, ethylmorphine, diphenoxylate, or opium.
What Are the Common Defenses to Drug Charges in Mercer County?
No matter how strong the state’s case against you seems, you may have factual and legal defenses available to help you fight your drug charges in Mercer County. Defenses commonly used in drug crime cases include:
- Lawful possession, such as when you have a prescription
- Unlawful stop, which occurs when police stop you without reasonable suspicion or probable cause that you have committed a criminal or motor vehicle offense
- Unlawful search and seizure, including warrantless searches of persons, vehicles, or homes without an applicable exception to the warrant requirement
- Lack of proof of actual or constructive ownership, such as when drugs are found in a container, vehicle, or room in a building that you did not own, possess, or otherwise have access to
- Unreliable evidence, when a seized substance has not been laboratory-tested or errors in testing make the results scientifically unreliable
- Insufficient evidence, such as when drugs seized during an arrest are lost or a break in the chain of custody means that the state cannot prove that drugs presented at trial were the same substances seized during your arrest
Can the Police Seize My Assets for a Drug Case in N.J.?
If law enforcement believes that specific items were either used during the commission of a crime (i.e. vehicle) or were fruits of the crime (i.e. cash) they can seize those items. In order to keep those items, the county prosecutor must file for a forfeiture of those items.
If that occurs, a formal hearing must be conducted, and it will be the prosecution’s burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the items were either purchased by illegal proceeds or used to during the commission of the offense. This hearing will be separate from any criminal charges and must be litigated in the Chancery Division of the Mercer County Superior Court.
Typically speaking, these types of hearings are stayed pending the outcome of the criminal case, and information derived from the forfeiture proceeding could be used against the individual in a criminal proceeding.
When Does the Judge Set Bail on a Drug Charge in Trenton?
The vast majority drug possession cases will be issued on what is known as a Complaint-Summons, and the individual will not be required to post bail. Conversely, most drug distribution cases will be issued on a Complaint-Warrant, and the individual will thus be subject to New Jersey’s Bail Reform Act.
New Jersey uses what is known as a risk assessment when it comes to determining what (if any) bail an individual should be granted. Once an individual is arrested and taken to the county jail, pretrial services will conduct its risk assessment. This usually takes 24 to 48 hours. Once the assessment is complete, the individual will be scheduled for their Central Judicial Processing Hearing (CJP).
At this hearing, the prosecutor will have to advise the court whether they will be agreeing to release the individual on bail conditions or whether they will be filing for detention. If a detention motion is filed, then a formal hearing must take place. It will then be up to the Judge to determine whether the individual will be released on bail or detained without bail.
Your Defense Comes First: Get Help from a Mercer County Drug Crime Lawyer Now
Don’t leave your future to chance when facing prosecution for drug charges in Mercer County. A criminal defense lawyer can help you fight for a favorable outcome to your case. Contact Keith Oliver Criminal Law today for a free, confidential consultation to go over your legal options with a trusted Mercer County drug crime lawyer.