Why Was I Charged with Intent to Distribute?

close up of addict buying dose from drug dealer

Possession with the intent to distribute is a somewhat confusing charge in New Jersey. Often, people are surprised to find out that police do not have to see you actually distributing or selling an illegal substance for you to be charged with this type of drug crime. Instead, they can make the assumption that you are going to sell it based on the circumstances of the possession. Here’s why.

When Simple Possession Becomes Intent to Distribute in NJ

Possession of a controlled substance is generally illegal in New Jersey, including prescription medications that are not legally prescribed by your doctor. The laws are slightly less strict for marijuana possession, but even having small, trace amounts of drugs like cocaine and heroin will result in heavy fines and jail time.

While possession is illegal, it is also against the law to manufacture or distribute controlled substances in New Jersey. These crimes include actually making or packaging the drug, in addition to selling it or providing it to others. However, possession with the intent to distribute means that you have not yet distributed any drugs yet, and you may not have made the drugs. Instead, it is the “intention” to do any of these things in the future.

Keep in mind that you do not have to be actually selling the drug to be charged with distribution. If you provide drugs to friends or family free of charge, you can still be charged with distribution because you are providing the illegal substance to others. In other words, you don’t need to make a profit or any many at all to be considered in violation of the law. The statute (NJSA 2C:35-5) purposefully includes “distributing, manufacturing, and dispensing” to encompass a wide range of ways to provide drugs to someone else.

How do they Prove I Planned to Sell the Drugs?

The State has a hard time proving intent to distribute simply by asking a defendant. Obviously, he or she will likely state that they did not have such an intent to avoid the higher penalties and fines associated with this type of charge. Instead, there are other ways that the State can attempt to prove intent to sell. Unfortunately, you simply stating that you did not have the intent to distribute will generally not be an effective defense in court.

The most obvious example is that the police find small bags with drugs in them, that clearly look like they were packaged and ready to be sold. However, other signs of distribution could include things like having scales, packaging materials (like bags or other small containers), and large amounts of cash. The circumstances of the case will dictate whether there is enough to show that you had the intention to distribute.

The more confusing case for individual defendants is when the charge arises out of simply having a large amount of a particular drug. You can be charged with intent to distribute because you have more of the illegal substance in your possession than would be reasonable for individual consumption.

For example, if you have five ounces or more of cocaine with the intent to distribute, that is a first-degree crime. Or if you have heroin in an amount larger than 0.5 ounce, it is a second degree crime for possession with intent to sell. Marijuana has its own rules when it comes to possession with intent to distribute. If you have that kind of quantity on you, the police may assume that you are not consuming that by yourself. Simply having this amount on your person could trigger an intent to distribute charge, even with no other indication that you are preparing the substance for sale or distribution. Charges based on quantity alone are not as strong as those that go along with scales, bags, and cash, for example. However, any of these circumstances can be used to justify the charge and then used against you in court.

Charged with Intent to Deal CDS in Ocean County, NJ

If you’ve been charged with intent to sell any kind of drug in Ocean County, NJ, you need an aggressive criminal defense attorney to help fight back against these charges. Our lawyers can help. Call (848) 238-2100 today for more information or to set up an appointment for a free consultation. You can also contact us online to start a discussion about your drug case.

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.