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Middlesex County Drug Charges

In Middlesex County, illegal drugs are referred to legally as controlled dangerous substances. Criminal charges involving these substances can run the gamut from mild to life-altering in terms of severity and potential consequences. Simple possession of a controlled substance may be treated as a disorderly person violation, but many drug offenses are treated as serious fourth, third, second, and even first-degree crimes.

If you are facing allegations of a drug offense, it may benefit you to understand the nature of your charges as well as how to protect your legal rights and avoid compounding the offense. The statutes in New Jersey pertaining to controlled dangerous substances are complex, but a general overview of Middlesex County drug charges could still give you a good primer on what to expect. Contact an established drug attorney could help you prepare for trial if you are facing criminal narcotics charges. 

Classifying Drug Penalties

Offenses involving controlled dangerous substances are treated more seriously by Middlesex County courts if the substance has no accepted medical use and a great potential for abuse. Based on these two criteria, New Jersey law divides substances into five different schedules and also provides additional individual statutes setting penalties for offenses involving particular substances.

Possession or Use of Controlled Dangerous Substances

Illegal possession of most controlled substances—in other words, possessing or controlling such a substance without a valid medical prescription—is considered a third-degree crime under New Jersey Statutes §2C:35-10. The statute specifies that those convicted may be fined up to $35,000.

However, possession of a substance on Schedule V, which includes the substances least likely to be abused such as cough syrups with low amounts of codeine, is a fourth-degree offense with a comparatively lower maximum fine of $15,000. Third-degree crimes are punishable by prison terms of three to five years, and fourth-degree crimes are punishable by prison terms of up to 18 months.

Treatment of Marijuana Possession in Middlesex County

Marijuana is one of the substances treated separately under the laws in New Jersey. Possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana or five grams of hashish is treated as a fourth-degree crime carrying a maximum fine of $25,000, while possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana is considered a disorderly person violation—the equivalent of a misdemeanor in other jurisdictions.

The penalties for possession of this small quantity of marijuana include up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Use of a controlled substance is also treated as a disorderly person violation.

Severity of Possession with Intent to Distribute Drugs

Compared to the penalties for simple possession, other drug crimes are treated much more severely under New Jersey law. N.J. Stat. §2C:35-5 prohibits individuals from knowingly taking actions that can be considered as manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing controlled dangerous substances.

Manufacturing is defined in a way that includes activities such as packaging or labeling a substance. This statute also specifies that possessing or controlling such a substance "with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense" that substance is a violation of the law.

How Quantity and Type May Impact Someone’s Case

In many cases, possession of a certain quantity of drugs leads to a presumption that the individual found with those drugs must intend to sell or distribute those substances to others. Therefore, a possession charge may become the more serious charge of possession with intent to distribute, which is punished just as severely as manufacturing or distributing.

Depending on the type of substance and quantity involved, a manufacturing, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute offense may be treated as a first, second, or third-degree crime. Maximum terms of imprisonment range from ten to 20 years for a first-degree crime to three to five years for a third-degree crime. Fines may be up to $75,000 or more.

What is Conspiracy to Commit Drug Offenses?

In addition to crimes pertaining only to controlled dangerous substances, law enforcement officials also frequently add conspiracy charges in drug cases. A conspiracy may be found when two or more people agree to undertake a criminal act. 

Those involved in planning such an act may be found guilty of a conspiracy even if the planned crime never takes place—it is the act of planning the crime that itself constitutes a separate crime.

For more information about Middlesex County drug charges, get in touch with a knowledgeable drug attorney who could explain the various charges as well as applicable defensive strategies.