What Are the Penalties for Cocaine Possession in New Jersey?

gavel and two books

A great deal of research has been done on the historically unjust nature of drug possession penalties in the United States. We know, for instance, that the less addictive and costly crack received higher penalties than the comparatively more addictive, harmful, and expensive cocaine, largely in part due to the racist societal perception of cities and crack users as “lawless” and “dangerous,” as compared to higher income neighborhoods where cocaine predominated. Partially in recognition of harmful legacies like these, the New Jersey legal system has implemented a couple of programs to address cocaine and other drug possession charges from a more rehabilitative, rather than punitive, perspective. Keep reading to learn more about these measures, and call a Bergen County drug crime lawyer immediately if you are facing charges for drug possession.

How Is Cocaine Possession Punished in New Jersey?

In countries like Mexico, Peru, and Brazil, cocaine possession up to a certain amount is legal. This is in part because of deeply rooted indigenous traditions involving the use of the coca leaf in agriculture, from which cocaine can be made. In the United States, by contrast, cocaine possession is illegal, and this includes New Jersey. N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10 indicates that any possession of cocaine is considered a third-degree felony offense.

As such, if you are convicted, you may face three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $35,000, and having your license suspended for six months.

Introduction to New Jersey Rehabilitative Efforts

Not exclusive to drug crimes, most third-degree felony crimes require what is known as “a presumption of non-incarceration.” This means that those accused of third-degree felonies may be able to avoid prison through Drug Court, Pre-Trial Intervention, or probation.

Judges are also permitted some discretion during sentencing, if none of the above initiatives prove successful in a given case. Judges may consider facts of the case such as how much cocaine is alleged to have been possessed as well as your prior criminal record, if any.

Rehabilitation in New Jersey: Drug Court

Drug court was set up in Camden and Essex Superior Courts in 1996 with an important mission: approach drug crimes from a rehabilitative perspective. Drug Courts function as a part of the Superior Court system. In Drug Courts, we can find specialized teams of mental health professionals, probation officers, lawyers, and substance abuse evaluators.

Another Approach at Rehabilitation: Pre-Trial Intervention

Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) exists to allow defendants, most often first-time offenders, with an alternative path of prosecution. PTI provides rehabilitative services to defendants early in their addiction process. The program acknowledges that there are causal connections between alleged drug offenses and the medical needs of someone suffering from addiction as well as the social, cultural, and economic conditions that may lead to crime. Notably, PTI is available to those accused of several different kinds of felonies, not just drug crimes.

Instead of prosecution, PTI reroutes cases into a carefully monitored program. The program is designed to help defendants avoid the circumstances which led them to be accused of a crime. Once the individual completes the PTI program, their crimes are expunged.

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