In New Jersey, there are various laws against possessing illegal drugs. N.J.S. 2C:35-10(a)(4) addresses possession of a small amount of marijuana:
(a) It is unlawful for any person, knowingly or purposely, to obtain, or to possess, actually or constructively, a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog, unless the substance was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order form from a practitioner, while acting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by P.L.1970, c.226 (C.24:21-1 et seq.). Any person who violates this section with respect to:
(4) Possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana, including any adulterants or dilutants, or five grams or less of hashish is a disorderly person.
For a disorderly persons offense, a defendant can be sentenced to jail for up to six months.
The process of being charged with possession of marijuana starts with an arrest. After a person is arrested for suspected possession of illegal drugs, that person is taken to the police station to be processed. Bail may be set by a municipal court judge for release from custody. At the time of release, the police should give the defendant a copy of the criminal charges and a summons to appear in court for a preliminary arraignment.
At the preliminary arraignment, the judge will advise a defendant of the charges and the penalties associated with the charges. The judge should also advise the defendant of the right to have an attorney, the right to remain silent and the right to have a trial. A new court date will be given in order to allow the defendant time to hire an attorney.
If a person has no prior criminal record, then that person will be eligible to be placed into the conditional discharge program for a possession of marijuana offense in New Jersey. The conditional discharge program under 2C:36A-1 allows a defendant to be placed into a probationary program at the municipal court level without admitting guilt to the possession of marijuana charge. The municipal court will order that the defendant pay fines and costs in excess of $700. There will be a term of probation imposed that cannot exceed three years and there may be random drug testing during the period of probation.
Many times, a defendant is not eligible for the conditional discharge program or does not want to participate in the program. In those instances, the defendant has the right to proceed to trial. There are a number of different defenses to a possession of marijuana charge. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to discuss all of the ways of attacking and winning a marijuana possession charge.