Possession of a Controlled Substance in New Jersey

All states regulate and control the possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for possession. New Jersey classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocai

All states regulate and control the possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for possession. New Jersey classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine as CDS, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.

This article discusses the illegal possession of CDS only. Illegally making or selling CDS carries different penalties. For more information on illegal CDS manufacture and sale, see Sale of Controlled Substances in New Jersey.

Also, while marijuana is considered a CDS, this article does not cover New Jersey’s marijuana possession and sale laws. To learn more about that topic, see New Jersey Marijuana Laws.

How New Jersey Classifies CDS

New Jersey divides CDS into five “Schedules.” Schedule I lists the most dangerous drugs, which have a high probability of abuse and addiction, and no recognized medical value. Schedules II, III, IV, and V decrease in dangerousness and probability of abuse, and increase in recognized medical uses.

If you’ve been arrested for illegal CDS possession, you’ll need to consult the New Jersey Code that lists precisely which drugs fit into each group. Go to the statute (N.J. Stat. Ann. § § 24:21-5, -6, -7, -8, & -8.1) and find the substance you're charged with possessing -- it will be listed under one of the five schedules.

Penalties for Possessing CDS

It is illegal in New Jersey to possess CDS for personal use without a valid medical prescription. Penalties vary according to the type and amount of CDS involved in the violation, as described below. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:35-10.)

Crime in the third degree

Possessing any amount of a schedule I, II, III, or IV CDS incurs a fine of up to $35,000, at least three (and up to five) years in prison, or both.

Crime in the fourth degree

Possessing any amount of a Schedule V CDS incurs a fine of up to $15,000, up to 18 months in prison, or both.

Disorderly person offense

Using or being under the influence of any CDS not for the purpose of treating a sickness or injury (as legally prescribed by a licensed physician) incurs a fine of up to $500.

Possession of CDS Near School Property

It is illegal to possess CDS on or within 1,000 feet of school property, or while on or within 1,000 feet of a school bus. If not sentenced to time in jail or prison, the defendant will have to perform a mandatory minimum 100 hours of community service (in addition to any fine that the judge imposes).

Second and Subsequent Convictions

Penalties for a second or subsequent conviction include up to twice the penalties otherwise allowed for the underlying offense. For example, the normal penalties for a first offense that is a crime of the fourth degree include a fine of up to $25,000, up to 18 months in prison, or both; however, if the violation is a second or subsequent offense, the applicable penalties increase to a fine of up to $50,000, up to 36 months in prison, or both. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 24:21-29.)

Talk to an Attorney

CDS possession convictions can incur harsh fines and long periods of incarceration. A local lawyer who practices CDS defense will review the facts of your case, explain your options, and advise you of the possible consequences.

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