Interviewer: What about controlled substances, like heroin cases? How’s that going to be different?
James Abate: When we’re deal with controlled substances such as heroin or cocaine, again, that’s going to come under 2C:35-2. Once you’re dealing with heroin, even a small amount can get you in tremendous trouble. Possession of heroin for personal use (less than half an ounce) is a third-degree crime for which you can be sentenced to 18 months up to 5 years in prison along with a fine of as much as $35,000 and a mandatory six-month suspension of your driving privileges. If they feel that it’s possession of less than half an ounce with the intention to distribute, you’re still talking about a third-degree crime up to five years in prison, but the fine jumps up to $75,000.
If it’s more than half an ounce and up to five ounces, you’re now dealing with a second-degree crime and you’re looking at 18 months to five years in prison. Once you get up to second- or third-degree crime, you’re no longer eligible for a pretrial intervention program. If it’s a first offense, you’re going to jail if you’re convicted. If the police can prove the charges, you’re going to jail for a long time. You’re not going to go into pretrial intervention. You’re not going to go into a diversionary program. You are going to jail and no matter how bad the judge or anyone else feels, you’re going to jail.
Once you’re over five ounces, you’re now dealing with a first-degree crime. Up to $500,000 fine and a fixed prison sentence of 10 to 20 years. If you are found guilty of heroin trafficking, it’s a 25-year minimum before parole. Selling in the school zone is always going to make crimes worse for you. In the case of heroin, it’s a fixed prison term and a fine of up to $100,000. Heroin is really not something you’re ever going to be in a good situation with when you’ve been found in possession of it, whether it’s for your personal possession, whether it’s for distribution, or whether it’s for trafficking.
Keep in mind these are where the charges start. There are some occasions where you start accused of a third-degree crime and we’re able to convince the prosecutor to reduce it to a fourth-degree crime wherein you become eligible for pretrial intervention. When you get a result like that, that’s assuming you can’t defeat the charges and your attorney has done a really miraculous job to keep you out of jail.
Interviewer: What about legal or prescription drug cases? How are those handled? Are those handled any differently?
James Abate: Even if you’ve got legal drugs on you, you can still get into minor trouble by transferring them from your own prescription bottle to another bottle. That’s actually against the law. Or not being able to document that they were prescribed. A new wrinkle is what if you buy prescribed marijuana in Colorado or a state that has medical marijuana and then bring it to New Jersey.
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