Morris County Juvenile Drug Offense Attorneys
Unsurprisingly, increased availability and exposure to drugs have spiked an increase in juvenile arrests. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) drug-related crimes reached 42,280 in the juvenile system in the last year reported. That is four times more than robbery and twice more than vandalism cases. Drug arrests were only surpassed by theft and simple assault charges. The two drugs that have seen a major increase are methamphetamine and fentanyl. Still, marijuana continues to be the primary drug of choice for juveniles, especially now with the sale of edibles. According to the National Juvenile Justice System, teens between the ages of 12 and 18 admitted in a survey of 11,200 students that they used marijuana consistently between two and five times per week. An increase in vaping and marijuana cartridges for vapes has facilitated this use, according to interviews conducted by the same researchers.
When minors face drug charges in New Jersey, it can have a severe impact on their lives. That’s why it’s essential to have an experienced lawyer who can protect your child’s present and future. If your child is facing a juvenile drug case, do not hesitate to contact our Morristown law office for assistance from skilled defense lawyers dealing with juvenile offenses in Roxbury, Chatham, Madison, Dover, Rockaway, Florham Park, Kinnelon, and surrounding areas throughout Morris County. Call (908) 336-5008 or send us a message for a free consultation today.
Common Types of Juvenile Drug Offenses in NJ
Drug offenses are a wide-ranging category of illegal activities that deal with controlled substances. The types of drug offenses can vary depending on the type and quantity of the drugs involved. One such offense is drug possession, which consists in possessing illegal narcotics or controlled substances on one’s person, vehicle, or residence. Depending on the drug and the amount, this offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Selling, distributing, or trafficking drugs is an even more serious offense. This entails transferring or delivering illegal drugs to another individual. Drug distribution and sale penalties can be severe and often result in serious charges.
Engaging in the production or cultivation of controlled substances is yet another significant drug offense. Examples include operating methamphetamine labs, cultivating marijuana, or making synthetic drugs. Drug trafficking is an especially egregious activity that involves transporting, importing, or distributing illegal drugs across state or national borders. It often involves organized criminal networks and can result in substantial penalties.
Lastly, even possessing drug paraphernalia such as syringes, pipes, or other equipment used for drug administration could be considered a drug offense. Have you ever heard of forging prescriptions or doctor shopping? These actions fall under the category of illegally obtaining or distributing prescription medications, both of which are considered serious criminal offenses as well.
Controlled Dangerous Substances Involved in Juvenile Drug Cases in New Jersey
In New Jersey, there are five drug categories known as schedules. Each group is composed of like components such as the potential for abuse, potential for mental or physical addiction, and if they have an accepted medical use.
Schedule I: Schedule I substances pose the highest risk due to their extremely high potential for misuse without any approved medical use, accompanied by a complete lack of safety measures even when monitored under controlled environments by healthcare professionals. Some examples include heroin, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly). Marijuana is the exception as it follows separate regulations in the state.
Schedule II: The risk levels remain high in Schedule II drugs; however they do have approved medical uses, although they are severely restricted due to the increased potential for physical or psychological dependence associated with them. It includes opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone, methadone stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, and widely used ones like Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin.
Schedule III: Schedule III drugs present lower risks than those presented by the previously mentioned schedules yet still possess moderate chances of addiction depending on multiple factors ranging from personal to environmental influences. They’re currently approved for accepted medical purposes comprising of anabolic steroids, ketamine, and certain combination products containing codeine in lesser quantities. If you’re familiar with controlled substances, you might have heard about the schedules the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assigned to them.
Schedule IV: Two schedules that contain drugs with relatively lower potential for abuse than others are Schedule IV and V. For Schedule IV CDS, these include benzodiazepines such as alprazolam, diazepam, and lorazepam as well as sleep aids like zolpidem (Ambien).
Schedule V: Schedule V drugs contain the lowest amount of substance that could potentially lead to dependence or addiction when used improperly. They include cough medicines available over the counter in low doses of codeine as well as antidiarrheal medications like loperamide (Imodium).
Forms of Juvenile Drug Possession in NJ
There are two kinds of juvenile CDS possession charges. The first is actual possession. This occurs when the juvenile is found with drugs in their pockets, jacket, socks, shoes, or otherwise on their body. Constructive possession is when the juvenile knows the drugs are within reach, can be accessed, and intends to possess them. An example would be a group of friends playing basketball in the park and a duffle bag holding their street shoes, jackets, and other clothing containing illegal substances.
What is the Degree of the Charges Minors Face For Drug Possession in NJ?
If a juvenile is in possession of less than one ounce of any Schedule I or II drug, such as ecstasy or Adderall, it is a 3rd degree crime. A second degree charge is applied when the juvenile has more than an ounce of substances from that category. Less than five ounces but more than ½ an ounce of heroin or meth is also a second degree offense, while a first-degree crime is more than five ounces.
Severity of Juvenile Distribution Charges in NJ
Distribution of a CDS is not a simple charge. The amount of the substance determines the charge in the defendant’s possession and the type or schedule of drug involved. Methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin have specific grading. Possession of five ounces or more with the intent to distribute is a first degree indictable offense. A second degree felony crime is applicable to crimes involving under five ounces to one-half an ounce. Possession with the intent to distribute meth, cocaine, and heroin is a third degree crime if it is less than half an ounce of the drug in question. Possession with intent to distribute a Schedule I, II substance of one or more ounces is a second degree indictable offense. A third degree offense is reserved for less than an ounce. Lastly, distributing Schedule III, IV, and V substances can result in a fourth degree charge. All of these are the equivalent of a felony of various degrees in other states.
Possible Penalties For Juvenile Distribution of CDS in New Jersey
A second degree distribution charge of an ounce or more carries up to three years in juvenile detention for Schedule I and Schedule II substances. A third degree charge for intent to distribute drugs by a juvenile can lead to two years in detention and a fine of up to $75,000. If the juvenile has a quantity of five ounces or more of cocaine or heroin, they could face up to four years of detention and a fine of $500,000. If the individual has less than five ounces but more than ½ of an ounce of heroin, they are charged with a second degree crime and can receive up to 3 years in a juvenile detention facility.
If the individual has a quantity of less than ½ of an ounce, he or she could face up to 2 years in detention and a fine that may amount to $75,000. If the juvenile possesses five ounces or more of methamphetamine, it is a first degree offense that carries up to four years of detention and a fine of $300,000. If less than five ounces but more than half an ounce is in their possession, it is a second degree charge with a penalty of up to three years of detention. If there is less than half an ounce, it is a third degree offense and a 2-year potential sentence.
Distributing drugs in a school zone is an additional offense. A school zone is considered within 1,000 feet of school property (including school buildings, buses, or athletic fields). If the juvenile is older when the alleged offense occurred, the prosecutor may attempt to move the case to adult criminal court. If the case stays in family court, there is an automatic sentence of 100 hours of community service for this charge. However, a juvenile who is tried as an adult faces the same penalties as an adult for a drug crime, which are far worse than those imposed in juvenile cases.
How Do Juvenile Drug Cases Escalate Through the Legal System?
Usually, the police will take a minor into custody when there is probable cause to believe the juvenile has committed a crime. The juvenile may questioned and charged with a juvenile delinquency complaint. They can detained or placed in the custody of their parents. The court will only detain juveniles believed to be dangerous to themselves or the community. The case moves to family court, where a judge will review the facts to decide if the minor is guilty or innocent. If the minor is found guilty, they will be adjudicated a delinquent. The judge will give a sentence and/or disposition. Disposition is an alternative to detention. The courts prefer disposition options that are not incarceration to provide an opportunity for rehabilitation. Disposition options besides detention include probation, community service, counseling, rehabilitation programs, vocational training, mentoring programs, and psychological counseling.
When are Minors Prosecuted as Adults for Drug-Related Offenses in NJ?
When a juvenile is charged with a very serious offense, is a repeat offender with a long record, is 16 or 17 when the crime was committed, if a weapon was involved in the crime, and/or if past efforts for rehabilitation have been unsuccessful, it is more likely that they will be charged as an adult. In the eyes of the law, a third-degree possession charge of less than an ounce of meth for a 15-year-old is not the same as 12 ounces set up in baggies, and the juvenile, who is 17, has a firearm. The severity and potential for violence in these situations are apparent and considered as such by the state, which may lead to a minor facing adult court in their case. Juveniles who commit larger offenses are more likely to be tried as adults.
Why is it Important for a CDS Case to Stay in Juvenile Court?
A case seen in family court will more than likely receive a much lighter sentence than an adult court. Typically those with little or no criminal record and lower-level crimes will receive alternative sentences rather than detention. The state of New Jersey wants to provide an environment where growth and responsibility can result from its community programs rather than placing juveniles behind bars.
Contact a Rockaway Juvenile CDS Defense Lawyer for Assistance with Your Child’s Case in Morristown, New Jersey
Getting into legal trouble as a juvenile can be pretty scary. How will this affect your future? What about getting a job? You or your child may be worried if a juvenile drug charge for possessing, distributing, selling, or manufacturing controlled dangerous substances can limit the possibilities for your future. You need someone on your side who can help you in Denville, Randolph, Morris Plains, Mendham, Boonton, Netcong, and other towns in the Morris County, New Jersey area. Our team of attorneys understands the juvenile court system. We know that every case is different, and we will develop the strategies you need for a solid defense. Our experience and knowledge of juvenile law set us apart from other firms. Now is the time to call and get started on your juvenile drug case defense right away. Contact our Morristown office at (908)-336-5008 if your child is facing drug juvenile charges for an initial free consultation.