drugs and guns

Weapons and Controlled Dangerous Substances Offenses


Possessing weapons unlawfully is a crime in and of itself in New Jersey. Under some circumstances, possessing a controlled dangerous substance is also a criminal offense that can lead to a state prison sentence. But when these two offenses are committed simultaneously, if convicted, it may bring about disastrous results. Under New Jersey criminal law, possessing firearms and other weapons while committing certain offenses involving controlled dangerous substances can result in enhanced penalties and punishments. The crimes related to the designated drug offenses while in possession of weapons do not merge, meaning it is possible for you to receive separate sentences for each conviction and spend more time in jail than you would have, had you only committed a singular offense.

The Hudson County criminal defense lawyers at William Proetta Criminal Law often see clients facing multiple charges involving drugs and guns in connection with the same case. When such serious consequences leave our clients’ futures in jeopardy, we do everything in our power, from investigation of all of the evidence, police reports, witness and informants’ statements, video surveillance, and more, to crafting the best defense approach for litigating the case, and aggressively negotiating for a more favorable outcome if need be. If you have been charged with possession of weapons amidst controlled dangerous substance crimes in Jersey City, Hoboken, Secaucus, Union City, Bayonne, Weehawken, Kearny, or another town in the Hudson County region, call our local office for answers and assistance at (201) 793-8018. We offer free consultations and have been practicing criminal defense in Hudson County and New Jersey for years.


One of the most commonly charged crimes in conjunction with the above statute is possessing a weapon while in the course of committing a drug distribution offense. Standing alone, possession of a controlled dangerous substance can be charged as either a felony crime or disorderly persons offense. The degree as charged relies upon the amount of the substance that you possess as well as the nature of the substance (i.e. marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs). However, for the crime of possession of a weapon while committing a CDS offense, the police must allege that you did more than simply “possess” a substance. Specifically, to be charged, the accused must be said to have possessed CDS with the intention to distribute, actually distributed the substance, or manufactured the drugs involved.

Under this section of the law, it is an offense to possess a firearm while in the middle of committing, attempting to commit, or conspiring to distribute drugs in various circumstances. Likewise, it is an offense to have a weapon while possessing drugs with the mere intention of distributing them. A firearm is considered a weapon in New Jersey. As such, possessing a firearm while committing a distribution related crime is a high level felony, namely a second degree. For many, simply having a firearm without a permit exposes the accused to other criminal charges such as possession of a weapon for an unlawful purposeunlawful possession of a weapon, and certain persons prohibited from owning or possessing weapons. Although most of us think specifically of firearms when we hear the term “weapon,” the reality is that guns are not the only weapons that give way to a second degree crime. In fact, possessing any “weapon” with the intention of using it against another in the course of committing a CDS distribution related offense is a second degree crime.


The criminal code allows for criminal charges to be filed in many situations. Some of the offenses allow for the imposition of enhanced punishment when the offense is alleged to have been committed while possessing a weapon. Aside from straight drug distribution-related charges, enhanced punishment ensues when you possess a weapon and commit the offenses of:


As with everything under the criminal code, the term “weapon” is defined by statute. In accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:39-1 weapons include:

  • Antique firearms
  • Destructive devices (anything designed to explode, propel, fire projectile, be ignited);
  • Defaced firearms
  • Explosives (chemical compounds meant for causing explosions, fires, or detonation)
  • Shotguns, handguns, rifles, machine guns, automatic or semi-automatic weapons or anything that can cause projectile in the form of a bullet, slug, ball, missile, gas or any devices designed to propel an object by vapor, spring loaded mechanism, elastic, gas, compressed air etc. (pellet gun, BB gun, air gun)
  • Firearm silencers
  • Gravity knives
  • Machine guns
  • Handguns
  • Switchblade knives
  • Other weapons: any item that can cause serious bodily injury or can be lethal. Aside from guns, it means, gravity knives or other dangerous knives, dirks, daggers, billies, bludgeons, blackjacks, sandclubs, metal knuckles, slingshots, cesti (bands studded with metal)
  • Stun guns
  • Weapons that release gas such as tear gas or that which is designed to cause discomfort.

Possessing any of the above objects permits the police to charge you with the additional crime of possession of a weapon while committing a narcotics offense involving drug distribution. You may also be charged with a crime if you possess the weapon while committing other drug offenses, as referenced above.


Possessing a firearm or another weapon in the midst of committing a controlled substance offense is a crime of the second degree. All second degree felony offenses allow for jail time of 5-10 years as well as $150,000 in fines. These penalties will be implemented in addition to any underlying offense that has also been charged in a given case. In other words, if you are charged with drug distribution in the third degree, you could receive 3-5 years in jail and you may be sentenced to 5-10 years for the weapons offense as well. The effect is that you have two individual sentences, not one.

The distinction of these offenses from others under the code is that it is designed specifically to provide additional punishment for those possessing weapons while committing other crimes. Ordinarily, if you are charged with two offenses that are almost identical except for one element, the charges may “merge” into one for sentencing purposes. But here, the law clearly states that they shall not merge and shall be two distinct crimes with two distinct punishments. Ultimately, this amounts to a convicted defendant being forced to serve individual sentences consecutively, meaning one after the other. This removes the concurrent sentencing option, for which a person can serve sentences for two crimes at the same time.


Weapons offenses, as well as drug charges, can be tricky and require careful review, analysis, and questioning. When these crimes are alleged in conjunction with one another, the need for a meticulous and skillful defense is even more important. Our criminal defense team in Hudson County has represented many people charged with some of the most extreme crimes involving controlled substances and firearms under New Jersey law, and we are here to assist you with your case as well. Simply contact our local Jersey City law office at (201) 793-8018 to receive a free consultation and further details as to what we can do to protect your rights.