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What are the penalties for selling meth in New Jersey?

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

 

The Penalties for Selling Meth in New Jersey

Selling methamphetamine is a very serious crime in New Jersey that comes with some of the harshest penalties of any drug crime. Meth is an incredibly dangerous and addictive substance that causes a lot of harm, so prosecutors and judges tend to throw the book at meth dealers. This article will break down the specific laws and penalties around meth distribution in NJ, the defenses that a good lawyer might use, and the real-world implications for someone facing meth charges.

Distribution Charges and Penalties

There are a few different ways you can get charged with distributing meth in New Jersey:

  • Possession with intent to distribute – This is when you have meth in your possession and the prosecutor believes you planned to sell or distribute it to others.
  • Actual distribution – This means you were caught in the act of selling or giving meth to someone else.
  • Maintaining a drug manufacturing facility – This applies if you operated a lab or other facility where meth was made.

The penalties get much harsher as the amount of meth increases. For example:

  • Less than 1/2 ounce – 3rd degree crime, 3-5 years in prison
  • 1/2 ounce to 5 ounces – 2nd degree crime, 5-10 years in prison
  • 5 ounces or more – 1st degree crime, 10-20 years in prison

In addition to years in prison, meth distribution convictions often come with fines up to $150,000 or $300,000 depending on the amount. The fines can actually be much higher than what the statutes say – one man in Camden County was fined over $1 million for operating a meth ring.

School Zone Penalties

One thing that can make the penalties even worse is if you distribute meth within 1,000 feet of a school zone. This can add 3-5 years to your sentence and is taken very seriously by judges.

There was a case in Middlesex County where a 19-year old gave a small amount of meth to an undercover cop who was standing about 900 feet from a school. He ended up getting sentenced to 7 years in prison even though it was his first offense.

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The school zone enhancement shows how tough NJ is when it comes to protecting kids from meth. Even if you don’t directly sell to minors, just being near a school is enough to get extra prison time.

Juvenile Penalties

Speaking of minors, the penalties get even harsher if you distribute meth to someone under 18. This can upgrade the crime by one degree, so a 2nd degree distribution charge becomes 1st degree with a juvenile involved. You may also face additional child endangerment charges.

There was one case where a Mercer County man got sentenced to 22 years in prison for selling meth to teenagers. So definitely don’t expect any leniency if you sell to underage kids.

Leader of a Drug Trafficking Network

If prosecutors can prove you were the leader of a meth trafficking network, you will get hit with 1st degree charges no matter the amount. This is reserved for kingpins who organize large distribution operations.

One example was a duo that was sentenced to 20+ years for running a trafficking network that distributed over $1 million worth of meth and cocaine.

So if you’re operating a large meth ring with multiple dealers and distributors working under you, expect a very long prison sentence if convicted.

Prior Drug Distribution Convictions

If you already have a past conviction for selling or distributing drugs, that will definitely come back to haunt you. Prosecutors will file for an “extended term” which can double the ordinary sentence.

For example, a second-time meth dealer in Atlantic County was sentenced to 20 years instead of the normal 10 year maximum for a 2nd degree crime.

Judges tend to have very little patience for repeat drug dealers, so your past record is definitely not in your favor.

Aggravating Factors

In addition to the factors already mentioned, there are other things that could increase your penalties if convicted of selling meth. For example:

  • Selling to a pregnant woman
  • Selling near public housing complexes
  • Possessing firearms or other weapons
  • Using violence or threats

So the amount of meth and your past record are not the only things judges will look at. Any kind of aggravating factor related to the crime can potentially bump you into a higher penalty range.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

One other thing to know is that many meth distribution charges carry mandatory minimum sentences. This means the judge does not have discretion to give you less than the minimum.

For example, anything over 5 ounces of meth carries a 10 year mandatory minimum. Even if the judge wants to be lenient, their hands are tied by the mandatory minimum laws in NJ.

These mandatory minimums used to be even tougher – up to 25 years – before NJ relaxed them a bit in 2020. But they still force judges to give long prison terms regardless of mitigating factors.

Fines, Fees and Asset Forfeiture

In addition to prison time, meth distribution convictions often come with major fines and fees. As mentioned earlier, some meth kingpins have been fined over $1 million.

The fines are no joke – one Burlington County dealer ended up owing over $300,000 in fines and fees after conviction.

You may also have assets seized through civil forfeiture if police believe they are connected to drug crimes. This could include cash, vehicles, electronics, jewelry and more.

Police and prosecutors go after assets aggressively in drug cases. So you can expect major financial penalties on top of any prison sentence if convicted.

Probation and Parole

If you manage to avoid prison and get sentenced only to probation, make no mistake – probation for meth crimes is still very strict. You will be subject to:

  • Frequent drug testing
  • Strict curfews
  • Ongoing probation fees
  • Restricted travel and activities
  • Required counseling and rehab

Violating any of the probation terms can land you straight in prison. Parole after release from prison is similarly strict.

So don’t think of probation as getting off easy. It still involves a major lifestyle disruption and loss of freedoms.

Criminal Record

Lastly, a meth distribution conviction will leave you with a permanent criminal record. This can have many negative effects that last for years or even your whole life:

  • Difficulty finding employment – Many employers automatically reject applicants with drug felony convictions.
  • Loss of professional licenses – You may lose licenses needed for jobs in medicine, law, real estate, etc.
  • Ineligibility for public housing and benefits – A drug distribution conviction may restrict access to public housing, food stamps, cash assistance, etc.
  • Loss of student aid and loans – Drug convictions can make you ineligible for financial aid, scholarships, grants, and student loans.
  • Loss of voting rights – Convicted felons lose their right to vote in New Jersey until finishing parole and probation.
  • Loss of gun ownership rights – Those convicted of meth distribution lose their Second Amendment right to own firearms.
  • Difficulty traveling abroad – Some countries bar entry to people with drug convictions.
  • Social stigma – There is a social stigma around having a felony record that can affect relationships.

As you can see, a meth conviction in New Jersey has consequences that go far beyond just prison time. The criminal record penalty and collateral damage can last for years or even life. It’s very difficult to fully put the pieces back together after a serious drug conviction.

Possible Defenses

Now that you understand the severe penalties for meth distribution charges in NJ, let’s discuss possible defenses that a skilled attorney may use to fight the charges:

  • Illegal search – If police violated your rights by searching you or your property illegally, evidence may be suppressed.
  • Entrapment – Undercover cops cannot coerce you into committing a crime you wouldn’t normally commit.
  • Misidentification – Eyewitnesses accusing you may be mistaken or gave a false identification.
  • Planted evidence – You may claim police planted drugs or other evidence to frame you.
  • Lack of intent – Prosecutors must prove you intended to distribute meth, not just personally use it.

A good lawyer will thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your case to identify potential defenses. While meth charges should always be taken very seriously in New Jersey, you may have more legal options than you realize.

Takeaways

Dealing meth in New Jersey comes with some of the harshest criminal penalties possible. The prison sentences are measured in decades, not years, and that doesn’t even account for massive fines and a lifelong criminal record.

If you are being investigated or charged with meth distribution, immediately consult with a criminal defense attorney. An experienced lawyer understands the complex laws, penalties, and possible defenses related to your charges. With skilled legal help, you may be able to negotiate a better plea deal or even beat the charges at trial.

Don’t wait and hope the problem goes away – meth crimes are aggressively prosecuted in NJ. Take action quickly to protect your rights and future.

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