Distributing, Dispensing, Selling, or Possessing Drugs with Intent to Distribute in a NJ School Zone
Essex County Drugs in a School Zone Defense Lawyers
New Jersey, like the rest of the nation, is undergoing a massive change in its drug laws with the advent of legal, recreational marijuana. Unlike marijuana, other drugs are still illegal. Even still, the distribution of drugs, including marijuana, is still illegal and capable of leading to severe punishment for those charged with these offenses. Distributing drugs in a school zone has even harsher penalties, especially in New Jersey. The distribution of illegal drugs in a school zone has several unique characteristics in New Jersey when it comes to sentencing. The crime is automatically elevated to a third degree indictable offense and carries a mandatory term of imprisonment. Also, if you are convicted of this crime, this sentence does not merge with any other consequences that may be imposed for distributing cocaine, heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, prescription drugs, or other controlled dangerous substances.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer is integral to the success case when defending against a drug distribution in a school zone charge because of the affirmative defenses and reasonableness that the statute calls for in determining what is a school property. School zones can, and often are, difficult to discern if the alleged crime did not take place in a school or near a school. The location of the alleged crime, if not immediately apparent to be a school zone, can often be refuted by only the most accomplished criminal lawyers when it comes to these crimes. Many factors are taken into consideration, and it is your attorney’s job to make sure that these factors are properly and meticulously conveyed to the court in your favor. Contact us for help challenging your drug distribution in a school zone charges in Bloomfield, South Orange, Livingston, Millburn, Maplewood, Montclair, Nutley, Short Hills, or elsewhere in Essex County, NJ. You can reach us online or by contacting 201-654-3464 for a free consultation.
Governing Law on Drug Distribution in a New Jersey School Zone
Under 2C:35-7 of New Jersey Statutes Annotated, it is illegal to distribute a controlled and dangerous substance on any school property or within 1000 feet of a school property. Drug, or CDS, distribution is governed by another statute, NJSA 2C:35-5, and it states that the dispensing or distributing, or merely the possession with the intent to distribute any illicit, illegal narcotics is a violation of this statute. This is a crime in and of itself, but if it is done on school property, then the penalties are dramatically enhanced and there are two separate charges that apply.
What Must the State Do to Sustain a Conviction for Distributing CDS within 1000 Feet of School Property in NJ?
The school zone statute was developed in order to protect minors under the age of 18. Besides the actual elements that the prosecution must prove in order to sustain a conviction for drug distribution, the prosecution must also prove that this crime occurred on school property for purposes of the statute. To get a conviction for this crime the prosecutor must prove two elements. First, that the prohibited conduct occurred on school property or in a 1,000-foot radius of an elementary school, secondary school, and/or any property leased or owned by the school board. For purposes of this crime, a school zone is any property that is actually and regularly used for school purposes or is owned and/or leased by the school board of the municipality. School zones also include school buses and any school property that is usually used for school purposes. Secondly, the prosecutor must prove that the property that the alleged crime occurred on is used for purposes related to the school system.
The prosecutor, as per the statute, is required to display a map that establishes that the conduct took place in the school zone in question or within 1,000 feet of the school zone. The particular map used by the prosecutor must be approved for the purposes of proving that the zone existed during the commission of the crime and the boundaries of the school zone. The original copy of the map used by the prosecutor must also be filed with the county clerk.
Can I Claim that I was Unaware I was in a School Zone?
In New Jersey, distributing CDS in a school zone is a strict liability crime. This means that it does not matter if the accused had knowledge or intent that they were in a school zone when the alleged crime took place. All that matters is the location, not what the accused was thinking.
Punishment and Sentencing for Drug Distribution in a School Zone
If a person is convicted of this offense under NJSA 2C:35-7 of, they are exposed to paying a fine up to $150,000. Notably, a crime of this magnitude also carries a prison term of 3 to 5 years.
However, depending on what was being sold and the quantity, the degrees of the other crimes you are being charged with can have different consequences. These underlying offenses can only be more severe in penalty if the alleged crime took place in a school zone. First-degree charges carry a possible sentence of 10-20 years incarceration while a second-degree charge carries a 5 to 10 year term of incarceration. The degree of the additional charges will be determined by the type of CDS and the amount. The penalties for a typical drug distribution or manufacturing offense must be served in addition to the penalties for drug distribution on or near school property.
Common Charges Associated with NJSA 2C:35-7
Other charges that are often associated with NJSA 2C:35-7 are NJSA 2C:35-5 charges, or drug distribution charges that were previously mentioned. Title 35 covers all drug related offenses and these charges are not merged with NJSA 2C:35-7 charges which means that an individual can be charged with both possession with intent in addition to drug distribution in a school zone. This “non-merger” characteristic of the statute is another unique quality of New Jersey’s tough drug laws.
Let our Lawyers Defend Your School Zone Drug Distribution Case
The defense lawyers at our firm can create the most compelling defense if you have been arrested for distributing or selling drugs within 1000 feet of school property in Essex County, New Jersey, including in West Orange, Newark, Verona, Caldwell, Essex Fells and other municipalities. Call 201-654-3464 to talk to an attorney today.