Penalties and Sentencing for Narcotics Possession

June 4, 2024

consequences of narcotics possession

Unlawful possession of narcotics or controlled substances can lead to criminal charges, which may result in a conviction. A conviction for controlled substance possession usually results in a sentence that includes some amount of jail or prison time. However, the length of time that a person convicted for controlled substance possession will spend incarcerated can depend on the circumstances of the offense.

What Is a Controlled Substance?

A controlled substance refers to any drug that is listed on the schedules of the federal Controlled Substances Act or in New Jersey law. Both the federal government and New Jersey classify controlled substances into one of five Schedules, based on a drug’s accepted medical uses and its risk of addiction. Schedule V drugs have the most widely accepted medical uses and the lowest risk of addiction, while Schedule I drugs are considered to have no medical uses and the highest risks of addiction. 

Many controlled substances may be legally possessed by people who have a valid prescription from a doctor. Some controlled substances, such as cocaine or heroin, are never prescribed for any medical use and therefore possession of those substances is always considered to be illegal.

Possession of Narcotics

Possession of narcotics or controlled substances occurs when a person has knowing or intentional physical control over the drugs. Possession does not require that drugs be located on a person’s body or in their bag or in a vehicle. Possession may be charged if controlled substances are found in a person’s home or bedroom, even if they are not currently at home. All that is required to establish possession is that a person had knowledge of the existence and location of drugs and the ability to exercise control over them, including moving them, using them, or transferring control over them to another person. 

Distribution of Narcotics

A person may also be charged with possession of narcotics or controlled substances with intent to sell, deliver, or distribute them, a much more serious criminal offense. Possession with intent to distribute is often charged when the circumstances of the case support an inference that drugs were intended for distribution or sale rather than the defendant’s personal use. Relevant factors may include:

  • The quantities of drugs found.
  • Whether drugs were individually packaged.
  • Whether drugs were found with distribution or packaging materials, such as scales or bags.
  • Whether the defendant was also in possession of large amounts of cash, indicative of being engaged in drug transactions.

Penalties for a Narcotics Conviction in New Jersey

In New Jersey, a conviction for possession of a Schedule V drug carries a potential prison sentence of up to 18 months, while possession of any drug in Schedules I through IV can result in the imposition of a sentence of three to five years in prison. Second and subsequent convictions can double the maximum prison sentences.

Possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute can have potential penalties that vary with the quantities of drugs involved. At a minimum, PWID can result in a charge of a third-degree crime, which carries a prison sentence of three to five years. As the quantity of drugs increases, a person may be charged with a second-degree crime, which carries a prison sentence of five to 10 years, or a first-degree crime, which has a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Contact an Experienced Marlton Drug Defense Attorney About Your Drug Crime Charges in New Jersey

Have you been charged with a drug crime in New Jersey?  A drug crime conviction can carry with it heavy fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension!  That is why it is imperative that you speak with a qualified drug defense lawyer about your case. The Law Office of John B. Brennan represents clients charged with use, possession, production, narcotics distribution, and related drug offenses in Mount Holly, Mount Laurel, Pemberton, Cherry Hill, and throughout New Jersey. Call (856) 988-5443 or fill out our confidential online form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 10,000 Lincoln Dr. East, Suite 201, Marlton, NJ 08053.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.