NJ Legal Defense for First-Time Drug Offenders
Being charged with drug possession or distribution for the first time is no guarantee of leniency from the state prosecution or judge. Although many courts prefer rehabilitative programs as opposed to incarceration, people convicted of drug offenses for the first time in New Jersey have been sentenced to jail and hefty fines in the past. Hiring a skilled criminal defense lawyer significantly improves your chances of avoiding imprisonment and even maintaining a clean criminal record.
We all make mistakes and have lapses in judgment. Choosing Frank T. Luciano to coordinate your criminal defense will ensure that this one mistake won’t follow you around for the rest of your life. He will review all of your options and fight for the second chance that you or your loved one deserves.
Penalties for First-Time Drug Offenses
Contrary to popular belief, you may be facing jail time and fines for your drug offense, even if you’ve never had a prior conviction. While judges may show you some leniency, there is no guarantee of this, and it’s not something you should bank on, especially if you have not protected yourself with legal representation.
The severity of your sentence will be based on several factors, including the drug involved, the amount you allegedly possessed and if you’ve been charged with distribution or possession with intent to distribute.
A person who is caught with under 50 grams of marijuana may face a disorderly persons offense. This carries a potential penalty of a $1,000 fine, up to six months in prison, loss of your driver’s license and drug rehabilitation. Possession of over 50 grams of marijuana is a fourth-degree offense that carries a sentence of up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $15,000.
Possession of Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine and Other Illegal Narcotics
Possession of any amount of a controlled dangerous substance other than marijuana may lead to three-five years in prison and a fine as high as $25,000. Possession of unauthorized prescription drugs may also carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Based on the amount you are charged with distributing, you can be charged with anything from a fourth-degree offense (less than one ounce) to a first-degree offense (more than 25 pounds).
Attempting to sell harder drugs like cocaine or heroin is taken much more seriously than selling marijuana. You could face anything from a third-degree charge (less than a half-ounce) to a first-degree crime (more than five ounces).
Alternatives to Jail for NJ Drug Offenses
In New Jersey, there are programs that are specially designed to divert first-time drug offenders from becoming repeat offenders. These programs will allow a person charged with a minor drug offense for the first time to avoid jail. Rather than face a prison sentence, individuals in diversionary programs can complete a probationary period while meeting certain requirements to have their convictions wiped clean.
This program is reserved for first-time drug offenders convicted of minor drug offenses (like possession of marijuana). A person in this program (often a juvenile) must remain drug-free and offense-free for a six-month-to-one-year probationary period. After successful completion of the program, your conviction will be expunged.
Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI)
In order to be eligible for NJ’s PTI program, you must be a first-time offender, have never gone through PTI previously or received a conditional discharge, and you must have been charged with an indictable offense. This is a rehabilitative program that aims to prevent future drug use and can last anywhere from one-three years.
It may involve counseling, psychotherapy, employment training, drug education and/or supervised probation. Individuals who successfully complete this program without any violations will completely avoid the criminal system and have their records expunged.
Explore Your Options with Defense Attorney Frank T. Luciano
Depending on the specific nature of your first-time drug offense, you may be eligible for the aforementioned diversionary programs. However, being granted entry into these programs is up to the sole discretion of the judge and will be greatly influenced by the skill of your criminal defense attorney.
If you or someone you care for is facing a drug charge in New Jersey, your next step should be to contact criminal defense attorney Frank T. Luciano. He will advise you on what your best options are and your eligibility for any diversionary programs. He has spent the last 40 years fighting for the rights of people in your exact situation and has the experience and expertise to guide you to a favorable legal outcome. Contact him right away at 973-471-0004 for an initial consultation.