Can I beat drug possession charges?
Yes! Just because you’ve been arrested and charged doesn’t mean you are guilty. Here are a couple of ways you can get out of possession charges:
- You could enter a diversionary program, like PTI or Conditional Discharge
- The charges could be dropped or dismissed before going to trial.
- You could claim immunity under NJ’s Overdose Prevention Act.
- You could take your case to trial and win.
Every case is different. The situation surrounding your arrest and your own criminal history will have a big impact on what defenses are available. Keep reading to learn more about your options.
Enter a Diversionary Program
New Jersey has special programs available to first-time drug offenders. These are meant to rehabilitate young drug users before they become addicted or move from using to dealing.
One of these programs is called Pre-Trial Intervention. If you are accepted into the PTI program, criminal prosecution will be tabled while you complete a rehabilitation program, including drug tests and community service.
This supervised rehabilitation will take 1-3 years. If you successfully complete the PTI program, the charges will be expunged from your record. But if you fail a drug test or break the conditions of your program, you could be sent back to court and will face criminal charges.
Conditional Discharges are granted at the discretion of the judge presiding over your case. Unlike the PTI program, you will have to enter a guilty plea first. But instead of sending you to a sentencing hearing, the Conditional Discharge program will prescribe drug testing and supervision for up to three years.
If you are not rearrested and do not test positive for drugs, your case will be expunged. But if you break the conditions of your program, you will be sent to a sentencing hearing and face fines and possible jail time.
Getting Possession Charges Dismissed
Even if you don’t qualify for a diversionary program, there are ways to avoid going to trial and facing jail time. Many cases are dismissed before they ever go to trial.
So how does that happen?
A criminal prosecution needs strong evidence; the burden of proof is on the State to prove you committed a crime. In drug cases, the primary evidence is often the drugs and paraphernalia that were discovered through a police stop.
But there are strict limits on how, when, and why police can search your person or seize evidence. Police might have obtained a confession either with threats or without informing you of your rights.
Your defense attorney can make pre-trial motions to suppress evidence and testimony if they were obtained illegally. If police or prosecutors made any extreme legal errors, it may be possible to have your case dismissed entirely.
The best defense lawyers will look at every aspect of your arrest and evidence collection for any violations that could lead to charges being dropped and your case dismissed.
The NJ Overdose Protection Act
In 2013, Governor Christie signed a law changing how New Jersey legally views drug abusers who overdose. Instead of seeing them as criminals, the Overdose Protection Act treats classifies them as vulnerable individuals with an acute need for medical treatment and intervention.
To encourage addicts to seek help for themselves and to make intervention by friends and family easier, the Act provides legal immunity for both the person who overdoses and any bystander who helps them seek medical care.
In other words, you can’t be arrested for taking an overdosed friend to the hospital or calling an ambulance, and the person who overdosed also can’t be charged with possession based on any drugs or paraphernalia on their person.
In light of the opioid epidemic, New Jersey has decided saving lives takes precedence over busting drug users.
Recent court decisions have affirmed that the Overdose Prevention Act can be raised as a defense in cases where a person was charged with evidence collected during medical treatment. If you have been charged with possession while seeking assistance for an overdosed friend or while being treated for an overdose, a defense attorney may be able to have your charges dismissed by invoking the Act.
Can you go to jail on your first drug offense?
Absolutely! Even if it is your first time (and hopefully last time) being arrested for drug use, even if you have an otherwise clean criminal record, it is possible to serve jail time for your first drug offense.
Illegally possessing small amounts of Schedule I narcotics, like heroin or cocaine can lead to sentences of up to five years in state prison and up to $35,000 dollars in fines.
If you are caught with enough drugs on you to constitute intent to distribute, or you are caught selling or manufacturing Schedule I drugs. you could face up to 10 years in state prison–and while the state is moving towards leniency for drug users, most judges still throw the book at those who make and sell drugs.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking the court will go easy on you just because it’s your first time. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer represent you is important if you are looking for the best outcome when charged with drug crimes.
Do you need help getting your charges dismissed?
South Jersey Defense Attorney Kenneth D. Aita has been defending clients against all kinds of criminal accusations for decades. If you have been charged with drug crimes and need a criminal defense attorney, call Aita Law LLC for a consultation at (856) 287-7800.