As more and more states legalize or decriminalize the possession and use of marijuana, it can be easy to forget that some states, including New Jersey, still enforce laws that severely penalize marijuana offenses. Possession of marijuana is still prohibited by New Jersey’s general-purpose law banning the possession of all controlled dangerous substances without a valid prescription. Shockingly, this is the same law that applies to the possession of “hard drugs” like heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine. However, the grading of drug charges is unique when it comes to marijuana, with various weights and circumstantial evidence that may be used to upgrade a disorderly persons marijuana offense to a more serious first degree, second degree, third degree, or fourth degree marijuana crime. This article explains when possession of marijuana can be a felony offense in New Jersey and outlines the penalties you are exposed to if convicted of these charges. For more information and to speak with an experienced Ocean County drug possession lawyer about your specific marijuana case, contact our attorneys at (848) 238-2100. We are happy to answer your questions in a free consultation over the phone or schedule an appointment to meet with you at our local Point Pleasant office.
Is Marijuana Possession a Felony Offense in NJ?
New Jersey still criminalizes the possession of marijuana, enforces that law rigorously, and penalizes possession and distribution of marijuana severely. Recent legalization efforts have not changed any of these facts. Under current law, the degree of a marijuana offense is variable, based on the amount of the drug involved and possibly, other evidence that may be present at the scene of the arrest. Here’s how it works.
If you possess less than 50 grams of marijuana, you will likely be charged with a disorderly persons offense. This is not a felony offense and will be handled in the Municipal Court in the town where the charges were filed. On the other hand, if you have more than 50 grams (just 1.7 ounces or more) of marijuana, you can be charged with a felony-level crime, also known as an indictable offense. Specifically, getting charged with over 50 grams of weed is a fourth degree crime. If you are convicted of a fourth degree marijuana offense, you can be imprisoned for up to 18 months in a New Jersey state prison; you will also face fines of up to $10,000. Notably, some fourth degree marijuana charges can even result in fines totaling $25,000, but $10,000 is the more common figure. These penalties can be enhanced significantly if you are convicted of possessing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school. There is also a separate offense for possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle.
What if I was Charged with Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute?
If you possess marijuana that is packaged in baggies indicating that you intended to distribute or sell it, you are caught with scales or other paraphernalia associated with distribution, or if police observe you growing marijuana or manufacturing marijuana products, you can be charged with an even more serious crime for possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute.
If you are charged with a marijuana distribution crime, but police only found under an ounce of marijuana in your possession, you will likely face a fourth degree criminal charge. These offenses are subject to the same penalties as possession of more than 50 grams, with the caveat that you may be fined up to $25,000. If you have more than an ounce of marijuana on you, you will likely be charged with a third degree indictable offense with a potential sentence of five years in prison. When the amount of marijuana gets higher, specifically between 5 and 25 pounds, the charges become even more serious, exposing you to 5-10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine for a second degree crime. In the most severe cases involving over 25 pounds of marijuana, you can be charged with a first degree indictable crime that can result in 10-20 years in prison and a $300,000 fine.
Arrested for Felony Marijuana Charges in Ocean County NJ
In any situation where you are charged with a felony for marijuana, the case is handled in the Superior Court and prosecuted by the Prosecutor’s Office in the town where the charges were filed. In the case of a felony marijuana charge in Lacey Township, Jackson, Toms River, Seaside Heights, Lavallette, Brick, Manchester, or another town in Ocean County, you will be required to appear in Ocean County Superior Court in Toms River. If you have been charged with a felony for fourth degree, third degree, second degree, or fourth degree marijuana offense, you should seek out an experienced drug defense attorney immediately. The criminal process is highly complicated and you will likely have numerous appearances coming up. Don’t go it alone and face significant time in prison. Call (848) 238-2100 for help from an Ocean County drug defense lawyer with years of experience defending cases like yours.