If the police in Ocean County have arrested you for possession of a drug or controlled dangerous substance (CDS) in Ocean County, New Jersey, your best move is to contact an experienced Ocean County criminal defense lawyer right away. However, too many people facing drug charges wait until far too long before before hiring a lawyer. This is almost always a very bad decision.
For example, if you were arrested in any township, borough or city in Ocean County, you will probably be scheduled for a first appearance in the local Municipal Court having jurisdiction over that municipality. If you are only charged with possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana or possession of drug paraphernalia, your case remain at the municipal court. However, if the charges against you included crimes, or indictable offenses, the case will be sent to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office for their review. These cases include possession of cocaine, heroin, pharmaceutical pills, ecstasy, or distribution or possession with intent to distribute any controlled dangerous substance. If the prosecutor’s office decides to keep your case, it will be assigned to a particular team within the office.
An experienced Ocean County drug arrest lawyer can communicate with the prosecutor’s office at this early juncture to advocate for you, including trying to have your case assigned to the Pre-Indictment Court, where the most favorable plea resolution can usually be reached. If you do not retain an attorney at this point, your case may simply be presented to a grand jury. If the grand jury returns an indictment against you, this puts you at a serious disadvantage and limits the options available in resolving the case. Most drug cases in Ocean County that are litigated are done do through what is known as motion practice.
A “motion” is your attorney asking the court to do something, which would typically include throwing out the evidence that was found on you in a drug case. This is known as a motion to suppress evidence. Your attorney will argue that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle, that there was not probable cause to search and arrest you, etc. If your case features the use of a search warrant, the sufficiency and accuracy of the warrant or the underlying probable cause statement may also be challenged.
Many drug cases involve the use of confidential informants. Your attorney may also make a motion to reveal the identity of that informant. There are other defenses available to drug charges in Ocean County. Most of these defenses are raised before trial. Trials in drug cases are relatively rare, since most of the important issues in the case are usually resolved through the use of motions.
Drug charges in New Jersey are governed by New Jersey’s Criminal Code, embodied mostly in N.J.S.A. 2C:35. Also See N.J.S.A. 2C:35(a); N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2, et seq. Drug charges are classified as either disorderly persons offenses (Possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, loitering) or indictable crimes. Almost all drug related offenses include a minimum driver’s license suspension of six months to two years unless a severe hardship to you can be demonstrated.