Penalties for drug distribution or possession with intent to distribute are automatically enhanced if you are arrested in a “school zone” or “park zone”. School zone essentially means being within 1000 feet of school property. On the other hand, park zone refers to being within 500 feet of a public park, public building or public housing. For both crimes, it is not a valid excuse or legitimate defense that you did not actually know you were within a school zone or park zone. Moreover, it does not matter if you are only within the zone as a result of the police stopping you in that specific spot or as a result of an undercover buy. Continuing on the same rationale, courts have held that you do not need to actually have the drugs on you to be arrested under the constructive possession doctrine.
Under both statutes the enhanced penalties apply across the board to all controlled dangerous substances. However, the most important difference is that distribution within in school zone is a third degree charge exposing a defendant to 3 – 5 years incarceration while distribution within 500 feet of public property is a second degree offense punishable by 5 – 10 years in prison. Moreover, a conviction for intent to distribute within 1000 feet of School Zone will merge with a conviction for possession of drugs with intent to distribute within 500 feet of public property. These charges are very serious and can be extremely complicated so it is always recommended that you seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. To learn more, contact our office today at (201) 793-8018 for a free consultation where we can answer your questions and address your concerns.