Drug Charges – New Jersey Law

Drug Charges - The Basics

Drug charges are mostly indictable (felony) charges.  Convictions for drug charges carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. The amount of prison time you face depends on the crime degree they charge you with.

However, the prison time will increase if they convict you on multiple drug charges. As you will see, we break drug charges down into several categories.
You can get a single drug charge or they can charge you with many.
These crimes range from:

  •  Simple Possession;
  • Possession with the Intent to Distribute;
  • Manufacturing;
  • Conspiracy; and
  • Trafficking

In New Jersey, we treat simple Marijuana Possession and Paraphernalia drug charges as Disorderly Persons Offenses (misdemeanors).

As New Jersey drug charges lawyers, we will help you all about drug charges, legal defenses, dismissing drug charges, and probationary options for drug charges.

Drug Charges - Possession

Marijuana Possession and simple possession are among the most common drug charges in New Jersey. As Hackensack criminal lawyers, we represent hundreds of people each year arrested for simply having marijuana on their person, home, or car. Even though this crime is a misdemeanor offense, you still face up to six months in jail, a $1,000.00 fine, and you’ll get a criminal record.

If you are charged with having less than 50 grams of marijuana you will face a $1,000- fine and up to six months in jail. You will also face “paraphernalia” charges.

Possession in excess of 50 grams is an indictable offense. The Bergen County prosecutors’ office prosecutes all indictable drug charges. Depending on the amount of drugs in your possession, you will face anywhere from 18 months to over ten years in prison. If you are facing first-degree drug charges, you will not be eligible for a diversionary program.

Most marijuana possession cases arise from everyday traffic stops. The police pull you over, ask for credentials, and smell weed. Next thing you know, you’re ordered to step out of your vehicle & the police search your car.
The search finds either a “personal use” amount (less than 50 grams) of marijuana or they find “weight”.

One of our clients (Alpine resident) committed a minor traffic offense. His car was searched and the Alpine police officer discovered marijuana, cocaine, Xanax pills, baggies, a scale, and a lot of cash. He was charged with the possession and distribution of CDS, paraphernalia possession, and possession of CDS in a motor vehicle.

If convicted, he faced serious consequences. We successfully got his drug charges dismissed and he avoided prison & getting a felony conviction on his record. Needless to say, he never lost his way again.

Drug charges are based on weight and drug type. The more weight, the more serious the drug charges. The more dangerous the drugs, the more serious the drug charges.

  1. Possession Under 50 Grams – You face up to six months in jail.
  2. Possession Over 50 grams – You face a minimum of 18 months in jail.

* In addition to jail, these charges carry other consequences like the loss of your driving privileges & getting a drug conviction. We created an entire page dedicated to marijuana possession.

Drug Charges - What is CDS?

CDS stands for Controlled Dangerous Substance. It is illegal to be in possession of CDS drugs. There is a federal law that regulates the United States’ drug policy. This law is the Controlled Substances Act. (CSA)

The CSA has an outline for how to regulate each drug. They then organize these drugs into 5 categories. It refers to the categories as “schedules”.

Remember this: the first, is the worst. Do you see how it rhymes? The first schedule includes drugs like heroin, meth, and LSD. We do not consider them to have any medical value.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has also identified these drugs as harmful because of their high addiction rate. The DEA publishes a complete list of CDS drugs. They are constantly updating this list.

Drug Charges - Penalties Chart

Marijuana Possession Penalties

Drug Charges - Distribution

Drug distribution charges have everything to do with “intent”.  If you have been found to be in possession of a large amount of drugs, you will be facing a lengthy prison sentence. It’s very difficult to argue that you had a kilo of cocaine for “personal use”. The government will try to prove intent by showing that you had baggies, scales, and other “distribution” tools at the time of your arrest.

If your cellphone was taken during your arrest, the government will exhaust all legal means to use your text messages to show that you are a dealer.

You will be facing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-degree felony charges.

Drug Charges - Conspiracy & Trafficking

Trafficking – These drug charges are felony crimes.
You do not necessarily need to be “in possession” of drugs to be charged with this crime.
If you are in any way involved in the transport or delivery of illegal drugs, you will be facing felony drug charges.

Conspiracy – These drug charges involve two or more people.
This means that you have charged with being part of a “team” that distributes drugs.
Again, these are felony charges that carry serious consequences. 

Simply being associated with a drug operation could drag you into grave legal consequences.

For both of these acts, you will be facing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-degree sentences.

Plea Bargaining Drug Charges

Drug charges in New Jersey can be resolved through plea bargaining. This does not mean that the charges will get dismissed. (See below) Rather, as drug charges lawyers we work out a plea deal with the county prosecutor’s office to reduce the original charge & therefore reduce the punishment.

For example, our Newark client was facing multiple distribution drug charges. He had a lengthy criminal record & the police were successful in executing their search warrant. The drug charges could not be dismissed on legal grounds & a jury trial was not an option. He would lose at trial.

Over 18 months we succeeded in reducing his prison sentence to 1/3 of the original plea offer. Instead of going to prison for 15 years, we negotiated a plea deal where he would only serve 5 years. It may not appear like a victory, but when facing multiple felony drug charges and a minimum 15-year prison sentence, it is an excellent result.

Dismissing Drug Charges

Drug charges in New Jersey can be dismissed.

The best way to fight drug charges is by challenging the way the police found the drug evidence. The drugs in your case are the main evidence against you. If the police obtained the evidence in an illegal manner, then the “exclusionary rule” applies and the drugs cannot come into evidence.

Keeping the drug evidence out of your case is achieved by filing a “Motion to Suppress” evidence.

Very simply, this means that the police officer or detective made a “legal” mistake in the way he searched your person, home, or vehicle. Once the judge agrees with us, the drugs are kept out of evidence. As a result, the State cannot prove their case and you win.

We represented a Hudson county client facing serious drug charges. The case stemmed out of Jersey City & the Hudson County prosecutor’s office was prosecuting our client. We investigated the case thoroughly and learned that the Jersey City police detectives conducted an illegal search of our client. We filed a motion to suppress before the Hudson County Superior court judge and he agreed with us. As a result, all charges were dismissed.

Probation for Drug Charges

There are three types of diversionary programs in New Jersey. Your eligibility for each program depends on the type of drug charges that you are facing. With the exception of drug court, you need to be a first-time offender to be accepted into probation. This means that you need to have a clean record.

The three programs are:

  1. Pretrial Intervention
  2. Conditional Discharge
  3. Drug Court

Pretrial Intervention

The New Jersey Pretrial Intervention program is only for certain felonies. Only 3rd and 4th-degree drug charges are eligible for PTI.

If you are charged with a 2nd-degree felony, we will do everything we can to get the charge downgraded to a 3rd or 4th-degree crime. Here’s a quick reference chart of NJ crime degrees.

In this way, you will have a fighting chance of getting into NJ PTI.

Suggested reading:
 Dismissing Criminal Charges: Top 7 Ways To End The Nightmare

Drug Court

Drug court provides an alternative to prison. If the police charge you with a non-violent crime and you are suffering from drug and/or alcohol addiction, drug court could be your best option.
If you are fortunate enough to get sentenced to drug court, you must work hard. It is a very demanding program with zero tolerance for nonsense.

However, the benefits are priceless.


You or a loved one have been arrested. Understandably, you are terrified & have a lot of questions. You’ve heard about plea bargains & probation, but the process is overwhelming. You want a local attorney near you to represent you.

Mr. Peyrouton is from Ridgewood & handles all types of criminal matters in New Jersey complex as well as nearby cities. The New Jersey Law Journal recently published one of his articles on the subject of criminal law.

How We
Can Help

Regardless of the criminal charges you are facing, we are here to defend & protect you. Whether you are facing a restraining order, drug charge, theft charge, or aggravated assault charge, we are here to help you. Even a DWI case can really complicate your life.

If we can’t get your charges dismissed, we can either get them downgraded or place you in a diversionary program. The point is, our criminal defense lawyers will fight tirelessly to get you the best result possible. Take advantage of our free consultation to see how we can help.

Get Help With Your Case

How Do Your Free Consultations Work?

There are plenty of excellent Hackensack criminal lawyers in our area. Most, if not all of them, offer free, 20-minute, consultations. However, our free consultations do not have a time limit. You will never feel rushed.

The best way for us to help you is to patiently listen to your side of the story. Your version of events will serve as the basis for your legal defense. It is during these initial meetings that your memory of the event is fresh in your mind. Why we would rush you during such an important aspect of your case.

We understand that your choice of attorney could mean the difference between your freedom and spending years behind bars. 

When you hire an attorney, you are entering a long-term relationship. For this reason, it is important that you feel comfortable with the team of Hackensack criminal lawyers that will represent you.

What our clients say about us:

Peyrouton Law
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So far so good....no complaints here...Very good people
17:41 11 Feb 21
I recently got into some legal trouble and was in the need of an attorney fast. Choosing a good attorney, is step 1 in achieving a favorable outcome in any case. And thankfully I made the right choice in choosing Peyrouton Law. Allan and his team are great. They set my mind at ease and they were there with me every step of the way. Allan and Samera always made themselves available for any questions or concerns I had and worked very hard to get me the best possible outcome in my case. They were very affordable and their service far exceeded the price. Thank you Peyrouton Law!
Nikki Pergaminos
Nikki Pergaminos
22:33 10 Feb 21
Mr. Peyrouton has been my attorney for the last ten years. He is very knowledgeable and has always been accessible. I am proud to know him and have him as my lawyer.
Erin Marrero
Erin Marrero
19:54 10 Feb 21
Super Helpful!!A few months ago my husband and I received a BOGUS! speed ticket. Came here explaining our situation long story short ! The ticket was dismissed and I would definitely recommend to anyone seeking professional help.
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Joy Alarcon
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Recently I had a need for a criminal attorney and I hired Peyrouton Law Firm. This was a very stressful situation for me to go through however the entire time I had great service and quick response from this law firm. I received exceptional service also from Samera of their legal team/ paralegal staff.She provided me with steps of the entire process and gave me information to put me at ease. Thankfully my issue is resolved now and I am recommending them to all of my friends and family.
johon cano
johon cano
01:10 10 Feb 21
I had got myself into some serious trouble with criminal charges and was going to lose my awesome job because you cant have a criminal conviction on your record at my job.First I went to some jersey city lawyer who treated me horribly and tried to scare me into paying an inflated fee! my mom was with me and he was even rude to her because she has an accent.We left his office and googled more lawyersWe got really lucky when we found Alan.The guy is so awesome!He fought for me at a third of the price of the other lawyer and I was able to keep my job.He's a gentleman fighter and I totally recommend him.
Madelyn Abdalla
Madelyn Abdalla
00:40 10 Feb 21
Last year was such a difficult year for all of us with the rise of Covid-19 and the pandemic. Most businesses and the Courts were closed for months! If you had a legal matter pending during that time...trying to speak to a live person at the Court to get information or questions answered was nearly impossible! So I finally decided to hire an attorney to help! Alan and Samera are such an amazing team. They took my case and started working on it from day one! They constantly corresponded with the Court through fax and email to stay on top of my case. They made several calls throughout the day and did not stop until someone picked up or called back with information on my case. They always kept me updated and were always so nice to me. My case was over a year old and nothing was being done. As soon as I hired Alan, it was closed within 3 months!!! I'm speechless. Thank you both for doing such great work and for being so diligent. And the result was the icing on the cake! God bless and stay safe.
00:03 10 Feb 21
Thank you Alan for saving the day...again! Lol From criminal cases to traffic tickets to immigration issues etc...you always come through for me! And you always get the best results! I wish you more and more success! You'll always have me as a client and as a referral!

A person extorts if he purposely threatens to:

a. Inflict bodily injury on or physically confine or restrain anyone or commit any other criminal offense;
b. Accuse anyone of an offense or cause charges of an offense to be instituted against any person;
c. Expose or publicize any secret or any asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute;
d. Take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action;
e. Bring about or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action, if the property is not demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act;
f. Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
g. Inflict any other harm which would not substantially benefit the actor but which is calculated to materially harm another person.

***It is an affirmative defense to prosecution based on paragraphs b, c, d or f that the property obtained was honestly claimed as restitution or indemnification for harm done in the circumstances or as lawful compensation for property or services.

Reasonable Articulable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion is a “search” standard that applies in criminal law.

When a police officer conducts a warrantless search, and does not have probable cause to justify the search, the courts look to see if the police had
a “reasonable & articulable suspicion” for the search.

A mere “hunch” is not enough.

In other words, a police officer has to provide an acceptable explanation for the search.

United States Constitution

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

NJSA - 2C:43-7.2.
Eligibility for parole;
persons convicted of certain violent crimes

a. A court imposing a sentence of incarceration for a crime of the first or second degree enumerated in subsection d. of this section shall fix a minimum term of 85% of the sentence imposed, during which the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.

b. The minimum term required by subsection a. of this section shall be fixed as a part of every sentence of incarceration imposed upon every conviction of a crime enumerated in subsection d. of this section, whether the sentence of incarceration is determined pursuant to N.J.S.2C:43-6, N.J.S.2C:43-7, N.J.S.2C:11-3 or any other provision of law, and shall be calculated based upon the sentence of incarceration actually imposed. The provisions of subsection a. of this section shall not be construed or applied to reduce the time that must be served before eligibility for parole by an inmate sentenced to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration. Solely for the purpose of calculating the minimum term of parole ineligibility pursuant to subsection a. of this section, a sentence of life imprisonment shall be deemed to be 75 years.

c. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary and in addition to any other sentence imposed, a court imposing a minimum period of parole ineligibility of 85 percent of the sentence pursuant to this section shall also impose a five-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the first degree, or a three-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the second degree. The term of parole supervision shall commence upon the completion of the sentence of incarceration imposed by the court pursuant to subsection a. of this section unless the defendant is serving a sentence of incarceration for another crime at the time he completes the sentence of incarceration imposed pursuant to subsection a., in which case the term of parole supervision shall commence immediately upon the defendant’s release from incarceration. During the term of parole supervision the defendant shall remain in release status in the community in the legal custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and shall be supervised by the State Parole Board as if on parole and shall be subject to the provisions and conditions

Felony Degree

Prison & Fines



1st-degree felony charges in NJ are reserved for the most serious criminal offenses. Prison terms start at a minimum of 10 years in prison.


2nd-degree felony charges carry 5-10 yrs in prison.
These charges can often be “downgraded” to 3rd or 4th-degree crimes.


3rd-degree felony charges carry 3-5 years.
You have a good shot at PTI if you are charged with a 3rd-degree.


4th-degree felony charges carry up to 18 months in jail. These cases can get “remanded” to a lower court. In this way, you will be out of “felony” danger.