Penalties for Arrests in School Zones

text on the pavement denots a school crossing.

Arrested in a School Zone in NJ, Is it Worse?

New Jersey law is highly protective of schools and schoolchildren. As a result, if you are convicted of certain crimes committed in close proximity to school property—an area known as a “school zone”—the penalties that you face are often much harsher than the penalties you would have faced if you committed the crime elsewhere. Here is the essential information you need to know about some of the criminal charges that are subject to enhanced penalties in school zones and how prosecutors can prove “school zone” charges against you. If you have been charged with a drug crime or DWI in a school zone in Ocean County, NJ, get specialized legal guidance relevant to your case by contacting our local Ocean County criminal defense attorneys with offices in Point Pleasant today. You can call us at (848) 238-2100 or contact us online for immediate assistance and a free consultation. With our experience and dedication, we are dedicated to providing your best defense.

Charged with Selling Drugs in a School Zone Brick NJ?

As you might expect, it is illegal under New Jersey law to sell drugs in a school zone. The Drug Free School Zone law, codified in N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7, enhances the penalties applicable to drug distribution or possession with intent to distribute crimes, as opposed to “simple” drug possession offenses committed in or near schools. School zones generally encompass actual school property and property that is used for educational purposes. This includes property that:

  • Is owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school or school board;
  • The area within 1,000 feet of such school property or any school bus; and
  • The area within a school bus itself.

If law enforcement and prosecutors can prove that you intended to distribute controlled dangerous substances (from meth to cocaine to marijuana to opioids) in a school zone, you face significantly enhanced penalties, over and above the penalties you would face if you had sold drugs in another location. Prosecutors will generally rely on maps and photographs of the area where you were arrested, in addition to testimony of investigating or arresting officers, to establish that you were selling drugs in a school zone. They may also use a variety of strategies to prove intent to distribute, either by pointing to a large quantity of drugs in your possession, eyewitness observation of you giving drugs to schoolchildren or to persons within 1,000 feet of a school zone, or based on other physical evidence, such as baggies or scales, that point toward drug distribution.

Selling drugs in a school zone is charged as a third degree indictable offense. The penalties for a third degree crime generally include three to five years in prison, a strict mandatory minimum amount of prison time that you must serve before you are eligible for parole, and fines of up to $150,000.

Got a DWI in a School Zone, What are the Penalties in Toms River?

Penalties for driving under the influence are also significantly enhanced if you drive drunk, high, or otherwise intoxicated in a school zone. New Jersey law, specifically N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(g), states that a school zone includes school property owned or leased by an elementary or secondary school or school board and used for school purposes; the area within 1,000 feet of such property; the portion of a road near a school building; school crossings designated by school signs; or any portion of a road that schoolchildren must cross to get to school.

To prove a DWI in a school zone charge, prosecutors will generally introduce photographs and maps of the area where police arrested you for driving while impaired. Officers can testify that they stopped you within a few feet of a school or near a school crossing, and they can also testify that the maps introduced by the prosecutor accurately depict the area where you were found. Arguing that you did not know you were driving in a school zone does not prevent the court from enhancing the penalties for your DWI offense. Enhanced penalties for DWI in a school zone can include from 60 to 180 days in county jail, loss of your license for 1 to 10 years (depending on how many times you have been convicted for DWI), and thousands of dollars in fines.

Attorney Needed for Seaside Heights School Zone Charges

If you are arrested for distributing drugs or DUI in a school zone, you are facing even more severe consequences than typical charges. Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at William Proetta Criminal Law to learn more about potential penalties and defenses that may apply in your case. With local offices in Point Pleasant, we defend clients in Manchester, Lacey, Brick Twp, Point Pleasant, Toms River, Berkeley Twp, Seaside Heights, and throughout Ocean County, NJ. Call (848) 238-2100 for a free consultation.

William Proetta

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.