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New Jersey Possession Of Drugs In An Automobile

Were you aware that there are specific laws regulating the possession of drugs while in a vehicle? Although most people know there are laws regulating the possession and use of certain controlled substances, many do not know there are additional laws for possessing drugs in a vehicle in New Jersey. Someone with drugs in his or her possession while operating a vehicle could face a DUI charge, criminal drug possession charges, and a charge of operation of a motor vehicle while in possession of a controlled dangerous substance under N.J.S. §39:4-49.1.

N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1 reads:

Drug possession by motor vehicle operator

No person shall operate a motor vehicle on any highway while knowingly having in his possession or in the motor vehicle any controlled dangerous substance as classified in Schedules I, II, III, IV and V of the “New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act,” P.L. 1970, c. 226 (C. 24:21-1 et seq.) or any prescription legend drug, unless the person has obtained the substance or drug from, or on a valid written prescription of, a duly licensed physician, veterinarian, dentist or other medical practitioner licensed to write prescriptions intended for the treatment or prevention of disease in man or animals or unless the person possesses a controlled dangerous substance pursuant to a lawful order of a practitioner or lawfully possesses a Schedule V substance.

A person who violates this section shall be fined not less than $50.00 and shall forthwith forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle for a period of two years from the date of his conviction.

This charge would be in addition to any other applicable drug law that the driver may be guilty of breaking. In addition to the published controlled substances, certain prescription drugs are prohibited if not used legally. Drugs prescribed by dentists, doctors or even veterinarians are considered illegal if they are not accompanied by a prescription. Luckily, for most people, prescriptions are included on the bottle.

The charge of operating a vehicle while in possession of a controlled substance requires three things to be proven by the state. First, the state must show that a motor vehicle was actually being operated. Sitting in a car that is not being operated is not valid for this law. In that situation, it would be a possession charge, but not one associated with the operation of a vehicle.

The second requirement for a charge of operating a vehicle while in possession of a controlled substance is the actual presence of a controlled substance. Being under the influence of a controlled substance is different than possessing it. If a driver has ingested a drug, but there is no evidence of it in the vehicle, then it might be a charge of driving under the influence (DUI or DWI), rather than a possession charge. If the driver is both impaired and in possession of illegal substances, both charges might apply.

The third, and possibly most complex requirement for this charge, is the clause that the driver must be immediately aware of possession. This means that the driver must know at the time of arrest that he or she had possession of the controlled substance. If the controlled substance is not in the driver’s possession, chances are the charge will not stick.

If you are found guilty of operating a vehicle while in possession of a controlled substance in the State of New Jersey, then your license will suspended. A conviction for this charge will result in a minimum of a two year license suspension. There is no work or conditional license. A conviction of this traffic offense may not seem like a big deal, but a two year license suspension can really be damaging.

Leckerman