A third degree drug distribution charge under 2C:35-5 will be upgraded to a more serious second degree offense if you are arrested for distribution or possession with intent to distribute drugs within 500 feet of a public park, public housing, or public building under statute 2C:35-7.1. Under the statute it does not matter what type of controlled dangerous substance you have in your possession – it could be Marijuana, Cocaine, Prescription Drugs, or Heroin. The only exception to the rule is if the confiscated drugs are marijuana and the total weight is under one ounce then the crime will be graded as a third degree. This significance of upgrading a distribution charge to a second degree crime is extremely severe and can be quite devastating. A 2nd degree felony carries a presumption of incarceration for even a first time offender with no prior record and extends the range of incarceration to 5 – 10 years in state prison. To put that in perspective, a third degree charge carries a presumption of no incarceration and only a maximum of 3 – 5 years incarceration. These charges do not normally involve the proverbial drug peddler in the school playground selling to kids but actually just people in the wrong place at the wrong time such as parking lot or even in your own house or apartment. Our criminal defense lawyers take these charges very seriously and we will challenge the state’s case against you. In fact, we are usually able to work with the county prosecutor’s office to negotiate a downgrade of the charges and secure our clients probation or even Pre-Trial Intervention in certain cases so the charges are dismissed upon completion. To learn more about how we may be able to help you or your loved one, contact our office today at (908) 838-0150 to set up a free initial consultation with an experienced lawyer.
Marijuana Distribution Within 500 Feet of Public Park
As mentioned above, intent to distribute drugs within 500 ft of a public park or public housing is a second degree indictable offense punishable by 5 – 10 years in prison. The case will be handled at the Union County Superior Court since the charge is a felony crime. Moreover, under the Brimage Guidelines an extended term can be imposed if you have any prior convictions of manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, or possessing with intent to distribute drugs. The minimum term of incarceration will be fixed at between one-third and one-half of the total sentence, or three years, whichever is greater, and the defendant will not eligible for parole for the first eighteen months. In addition, the court will seek to suspend your driving privileges for not less than six months or more than two years and can impose thousands in fines. To combat these penalties our attorneys will work with the prosecutor and judge to seek a waiver of any extended term implications and petition the court with compelling reasons to establish a hardship exception to save your license based on travelling for employment and or transportation from school.
Drug Charges: Public Park Zone vs. School Zone
Similar to Intent to Distribute in a School Zone, it is not a valid excuse or legitimate defense that you did not actually know you were within 500 feet of a public housing facility, a public park, or a public building. Moreover, it does not matter if you are only within the zone as a result of the police stopping you in that specific spot or as a result of an undercover buy. Continuing on the same rationale, courts have held that you do not need to actually have the drugs on you to be arrested under the constructive possession doctrine. An example of this is that you are in the park but have the drugs stashed nearby over 500 feet from the park or public building. In both scenarios (distribution in a school zone or public park) the prosecution must produce the defendant with a municipal or county map prepared by an engineer which depicts the boundaries of the area to prove that the defendant was in fact within the zone at the time of the offense. Most importantly, distribution within in school zone is a third degree charge exposing a defendant to 3 – 5 years incarceration while distribution within 500 feet of public property is a second degree offense punishable by 5 – 10 years in prison. Moreover, a conviction for Intent to Distribute within 1000 feet of School Zone will merge with a conviction for possession of drugs with intent to distribute within 500 feet of public property. These charges very serious and can be extremely complicated and dangerous without experienced guidance and representation. Our criminal defense lawyers can review the facts of your case and explain your options and formulate a defensive strategy to challenge the state’s allegations. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you, then contact our office at (908) 838-150 for a free consultation with an experienced criminal attorney who can answer questions and address your concerns.