A typical 3rd or 4th degree drug distribution crime (based on the quantity of drugs found) will be automatically upgraded to a 2nd degree indictable offense if the alleged distribution or intent to distribute took place within 500 feet of a public park or public building. This applies across the board to any “controlled dangerous substance” you are found with including Marijuana, Heroin, Cocaine, and Prescription Drugs. So for example if you are arrested for possession with intent to distribute a half ounce of marijuana, a crime of the 4th degree – it will automatically be upgraded to a 2nd degree if the offense took place in a park. The significance of this is staggering because a 4th degree carries a presumption of non-incarceration for first time offenders and up to 18 months in state prison, while a 2nd degree crime carries 5 – 10 years in state prison with a presumption of incarceration even if it is your first time ever arrested. Moreover, under the Brimage Guidelines an extended term of incarceration can be imposed if you have a prior criminal record involving distribution or intent to distribute drugs. Under the guidelines, the minimum term of incarceration will be fixed at between one-third and one-half of the total sentence, or three years, whichever is greater, and the defendant will not eligible for parole for the first eighteen months. In addition, the court will seek to suspend your driving privileges for not less than six months or more than two years and can impose thousands in fines. Representation by an experienced criminal attorney is often essential in minimizing or avoiding these penalties.
Although the statute was most likely originally enacted to prevent the image of the proverbial drug peddler in the park from selling to kids it rarely has that affect. In fact, the vast majority of our clients are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. This can include driving in your car and unknowingly passing a park or public building or even being in your home or apartment at the time of the arrest. The criminal defense attorneys at Proetta & Oliver are experienced in defending clients against charges for drug distribution within 500 feet of a public park. Depending on the facts of the case, these charges can often be downgraded or dismissed altogether by challenging the state’s proof issues. In the alternative, we can explore other viable options such as securing non-custodial probation and Pre-Trial Intervention for our clients. To learn more about how we may be able to help you or your loved one, contact our office today at (201) 793-8018 to set up a free initial consultation with an experienced lawyer.