What Degree is a Drug Charge in NJ?
Indictable vs. Disorderly Persons Drug Offenses in NJ
In New Jersey, there are two types of charges that you may face for drug crimes. These are called “indictable offenses” and “disorderly persons offenses.” Technically, only indictable offenses are crimes in New Jersey. These are commonly referred to as “felonies” in other states. Disorderly persons offenses, on the other hand, are similar to criminal misdemeanors. Nonetheless, these offenses are still criminal in nature. You will have to go to court and you will have a criminal record if you are convicted. The following explains the distinctions between various levels of drug charges in NJ.
If you have been arrested for a drug offense, our highly skilled criminal defense lawyers have what it takes to defend your innocence. We have extensive experience defending those arrested for drug charges in Newton, Hackettstown, Belvidere, Sparta, Phillipsburg, Hopatcong, Franklin Township and Borough, and throughout the New Jersey. To speak with a lawyer at our firm about your drug case, call 973-755-1695 or contact us online today. We provide free consultations 24/7.
Drug Crime Classifications in New Jersey
There are just two main drug-related offenses that are considered disorderly persons offenses. These include possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. A less common disorderly persons drug offense is possession of a hypodermic needle or syringe, and there are a few others such as loitering or wandering in a drug zone. Most other drug-related offenses are classified as indictable crimes, with much more severe potential penalties. The criminal process for each type of offense is distinct as well.
What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony Drug Charge in NJ?
Because indictable crimes are more serious, the procedure for these cases is very different compared to disorderly persons offenses. There are also other significant differences in the possible punishments, as previously mentioned. When it comes to courts, disorderly persons offenses are heard in your local Municipal Court. They will be heard wherever the offense occurred. An indictable crime is heard by the Superior Court, usually in the county where the incident happened.
Moreover, indictable offenses involve a grand jury proceeding before you are formally indicted. Then, if indicted, you are also entitled to have your full case heard by a jury of your peers. There are no juries permitted for disorderly persons offenses. The judge alone will listen to your charge and determine the outcome of the case, and grand juries are not involved either.
Charged with a Drug Offense, How do I know What I’m Facing?
An indictable crime has a prison sentence attached to it, as opposed to a county jail sentence with a disorderly persons offense. Many drug crimes fall into the range of a second, third, or fourth degree crimes. Possession of over 50 grams of marijuana is a fourth-degree crime, for example. On the other hand, possessing under 50 grams of weed is a disorderly persons offense. In general, only crimes related to distribution will be classified as second or first degree drug crimes.
While you can go to jail for a disorderly person’s offense, the penalties are not as steep. The most time you can spend in jail for this type of offense is six months. There is even less prison time required for a petty disorderly persons offense (maximum of 30 days). However, drug crimes in New Jersey are not generally classified as petty disorderly persons offenses. Indictable drug crimes have prison time attached, and the term of incarceration in state prison can range from 18 months to 20 years. The specific degree of the drug charge determines the specific sentencing range. For example, possession of cocaine and heroin possession are both third degree crimes with a prison sentence of up to 5 years.
The fines that can be imposed vary a great deal depending on whether the drug charge is a disorderly persons offense or an indictable crime. An indictable drug crime can have up to a $350,000 fine. In comparison, disorderly persons offenses only have a maximum fine of $1,000.
Can You Expunge Drug Charges in New Jersey?
You can apply to expunge a disorderly persons offense three years after you complete your sentence (meaning pay fines, serve probation, get out of jail, whichever is latest) – if you were convicted, that is. You can remove an arrest, charge, and whatever disposition is reached in your case through the process of expungement. On the other hand, if your case was dismissed, you can apply for an expugement immediately. Lastly, if you are a first-time drug offender who gained enrollment in a program like conditional discharge, whereby you can have your charges dismissed upon successful completion of all requirements, you will be eligible for an expungement 6 months after your conditional discharge is complete.
In general, indictable crimes can only be expunged 6 years after successful completion of the sentence imposed. You are only eligible to expunge 1 indictable crime from your record unless several offenses involved the same course of conduct or were charged in connection with the same incident. That means that if you have more than one felony on your record, then you will not usually be eligible for an expungement in New Jersey.
It is also important to note that there are certain certain that cannot be expunged ever. Also, drug charges are unique in that if you enroll in and complete Drug Court, your entire criminal record can be expunged immediately. In addition, if you have no prior criminal record and use Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) to have your charges dismissed, you will be eligible for an expungement 6 months following successful completion of the PTI program. Again, if convicted, the waiting period is six years, unless you are eligible for early pathway in five years.
Getting Help with Your Drug Case in Newton NJ
If you or a loved one has been accused of a drug crime, you should get legal help from an experienced criminal defense attorney. Our long-standing criminal lawyers are here for you. Learn more and discuss your case in a free consultation by contacting our team today. We encourage you to call 973-755-1695 day or night for assistance.
Other drug related charges you may have questions about: