Defenses for Drug Charges in NJ
If you have been charged with a drug offense in New Jersey, it is highly advisable to enlist an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can aggressively argue your defense. Depending on the drug offense you were charged with and the facts of your case, you may be successful using one or more defense arguments. At Proetta & Oliver, our highly skilled criminal defense attorneys have successfully defended thousands of clients charged with drug possession and distribution in Hudson County and throughout New Jersey. In this article, we will explain some of the available defenses for drug charges that may be used to have your case dismissed. If you would like a free consultation with an experienced NJ drug defense lawyer about your specific case, contact our office in Jersey City at (201) 793-8018 or contact us online today.
Evidence was Obtained through Unlawful Search and Seizure
In order to secure a conviction in a drug case in New Jersey, the prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Typically, in order to do so, they must produce physical evidence. When facing charges for drug possession, intent to distribute, or a similar crime, one critical piece of evidence is the actual controlled dangerous substance involved, whether it be marijuana, heroin, cocaine, a prescription medication, or another type of CDS. The key question is: how was the evidence obtained?
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable search and seizure of property by the government. This right is so important that if law enforcement violates your 4th Amendment rights, the court will not allow the prosecution to introduce any of the evidence that they obtained as a result of that unreasonable search and seizure. To conduct a lawful search, law enforcement must have a search warrant or you must give them consent, with a few designated exceptions. When law enforcement does not have authority to conduct a search, evidence seized is inadmissible because the search violated your 4th Amendment rights. Some of the circumstances in which an unlawful search and seizure can occur include during a traffic stop, a street stop, an arrest, or a warrantless search of your home.
In order to conduct a traffic stop, a law enforcement officer must have reasonable suspicion that you are violating a law. However, in order to search your vehicle for anything beyond what is in plain view, the officer must have probable cause that you are violating the law and that a search of the vehicle will produce evidence or contraband. If the officer conducts a search of the vehicle without probable cause, they are violating your 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. Without probable cause for the search, any drugs that they find in the vehicle are inadmissible as evidence in court.
If you are stopped by police on the street, they may only pat you down if they suspect you have a concealed weapon, not drugs. If you are walking down the street and a law enforcement officer stops you and pats you down because they suspect you might have drugs on you, any drugs they find may be inadmissible as an unlawful search and seizure.
If you are being arrested, law enforcement does not need a warrant to search you or the immediate area around you. This is called a search incident to lawful arrest. However, even if you are under arrest, evidence seized might still be the product of an unlawful search and seizure in certain situations, such as if you have already been taken into custody and the police go back into your house to try to collect evidence. Also, if the arrest itself was unlawful (the police did not have probable cause to arrest you), then evidence seized incident to that arrest will be inadmissible.
Law enforcement may not search your home without a warrant. In order to get a warrant, they must demonstrate probable cause to a judge and detail the scope of their search. The search must be limited in scope to the area and property described in the warrant. If the police search your home without a warrant or your consent—unless they have a warrant for your arrest and conduct a search incident to a lawful arrest—any evidence they obtain will be inadmissible as an unlawful search and seizure.
You Have a Prescription for Controlled Dangerous Substance
If you have a prescription for a controlled dangerous substance in your possession, then your possession may be lawful. Keep in mind that even if you have a prescription for a particular controlled dangerous substance, your prescription for that type of drug will not be a valid defense to additional amounts you obtain illegally. A prescription is also not a defense to distributing the controlled dangerous substance to others. Lastly, you must keep the prescription in its original bottle in order to avoid criminal charges.
The Drugs Belong to Someone Else
In a drug possession case, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly or purposely possessed a controlled dangerous substance. Therefore, a potential defense is that you did not know the drugs were there, they do not belong to you, and you also did not have dominion or control over the drugs. This is often an effective defense when you are arrested for drug possession while driving someone else’s car or when several people are charged with drug possession after a motor vehicle stop and one takes responsibility for the drugs.
Lack of Intent
In a charge for possession with intent to distribute, the prosecutor must prove that you intended to sell or distribute the drugs in your possession. A defense to this is that the drugs were for personal use and you did not have the intent to distribute them. Of course, this can be much more difficult to prove when you have significant amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or another drug in your possession. The State can also use scales, drug packaging materials, cutting agents, and cash to support the contention that you intended to distribute the drugs.
Evidence Seized Was Not a Controlled Substance
In order to prove a drug crime, the prosecution must prove that the items seized were in fact a controlled dangerous substance. To do so, they send the evidence to a State lab to be analyzed. If the prosecution seeks to admit the lab certificate as evidence, the defense may object to the admission.
If the objection is justified, the lab technician will have to testify at trial as an expert witness about the findings of the report. Due to limited time and resources, the prosecutor’s office cannot produce lab technicians as expert witnesses in every case. If the State fails to produce the lab report within a given time frame, an effective criminal defense lawyer can submit a motion to dismiss the drug charge.
Finding the Best Defense for Your Drug Charges in New Jersey
Depending on the facts of your drug case, one or more of the aforementioned defenses may apply to you, in addition to other potential defenses. The most important thing to know is there are ways to beat drug charges in New Jersey, you just need to know what you’re looking for when you’re reviewing the evidence. If you have been charged with a drug offense in New Jersey, contact our experienced lawyers right away to review your case. One of our attorneys will answer all of your questions and discuss ways we can defend you against these charges. With offices in Jersey City, our criminal defense lawyers appear in courts throughout Hudson County on a regular basis, including in Kearny, Bayonne, Hoboken, Union City, North Bergen, and surrounding communities. Call (201) 793-8018 today for a free consultation.