If you have heard that New Jersey officials have been changing their approach toward marijuana and possibly moving to decriminalize possession of the substance, you might be wondering what this means for your rights or your pending case. Here’s what you need to know about New Jersey’s new policies on marijuana possession. For additional information and a free consultation, contact experienced NJ marijuana defense attorney, contact our Union County law firm at (908) 838-0150.
The first thing to keep in mind is that there has not actually been any change to New Jersey’s existing laws on marijuana possession or the potential penalties imposed on marijuana related offenses. Rumors that New Jersey may soon move to decriminalize or even legalize the possession of marijuana began when New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced that marijuana possession cases currently pending in New Jersey municipal courts would be adjourned until September 4, 2018 or later.
Although the Attorney General’s announcement may indicate a trend toward the decriminalization of marijuana possession in New Jersey, the law has not yet changed and you can still be arrested for possession of any amount of marijuana anywhere in the state.
Charges for Marijuana Possession Remain in Effect
Currently, you can be arrested and charged with a disorderly persons offense if the police have probable cause to believe that you are in possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana. If charged, your case will be held in municipal court. However, if you have a marijuana possession case pending in municipal court right now or you are charged with N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(4) sometime between now and September 4th, your case will be adjourned and will not be rescheduled until the Attorney General issues its guidance for prosecutors on these cases.
At this time, it is unclear what changes, if any, will be made to enforcement policies regarding marijuana possession offenses. While the Attorney General’s guidance cannot change the penalties for possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana under New Jersey law, it can encourage prosecutors to exercise their prosecutorial discretion in these cases and dismiss the charges. Currently, under New Jersey law, if you are convicted of possession of 50 grams or less, you may face up to six months imprisonment and fines of $1,000.
If your case involves possessing more than 50 grams of marijuana, you may be charged with a fourth degree offense. These cases are not affected by the Attorney General’s recent directive and are heard in the superior court in the county where you are arrested. The potential penalties imposed for a fourth degree marijuana possession conviction include up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000. This is considered an indictable crime, often referred to as a felony in other states.
Expungement of Marijuana Arrests and Convictions in NJ
Whether your case for possession of marijuana was dismissed, you took part in a diversionary program like PTI or conditional discharge, or you were convicted of possession of marijuana, you may be able to have the record of your arrest or conviction expunged.
If the charges against you were dismissed, you are eligible for expungement right away. If you participated in PTI or conditional discharge, then you must wait 6 months before you can apply for an expungement. If you were convicted of or pled guilty to a disorderly persons offense for possession of marijuana, then you cannot apply for an expungement for 5 years. If you have a felony marijuana conviction, the waiting period for expungement will be 6 years beginning in October of this year.
While there may be an increasing trend away from strict enforcement of low-level marijuana charges in New Jersey, the law has not changed and you are still subject to all of the potential penalties described above. If you have just been charged with a marijuana offense or your case has been adjourned and you are uncertain of how to proceed, contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at William Proetta Criminal Law today. From our offices in Cranford, we represent clients arrested for marijuana in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Berkeley Heights, Linden, New Providence, Summit, Union Township, and throughout Union County, NJ. You can call (908) 838-0150 or contact us here 24/7 for a cost free consultation.