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What you should know as a first-time drug offender in NJ

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Being arrested or accused of being in possession of drugs can be scary and overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time offender. This is because you most likely don’t understand the charges and how they may impact your life.

Drug offenses carry harsh penalties in NJ, even for first-time offenders. For example, the penalties for being in possession of drugs other than marijuana may carry a fine of up to $35,000 and up to five years in prison.

Should you plead guilty?

Giving in to the drug charges and pleading guilty is rarely the best option. This is because there are ways that you can defend the charges. There are also alternatives to penalties such as a diversionary program.

Some of the options you may have include:

Pretrial diversion program

Depending on your case, you may go through a pretrial diversion program that will fulfill the state-mandated requirements. This class is only available for first-time drug offenders and will help you break the cycle of addiction.

Drug court

The drug court program in NJ is another diversion program that can help you avoid a criminal conviction by enrolling in a treatment program. However, this option is typically only available for first-time offenders with no prior conviction. In addition, you should also be willing to participate in the treatment. Unfortunately, this option may require you to plead guilty, which means the offense will go on your record.

Conditional discharge

The conditional discharge program may allow you to avoid a conviction for possession of drugs, but you may have to complete certain conditions. The court will only withdraw the conviction if you have no prior criminal conviction, if your offense is non-violent and if you plead guilty. However, you will be required to serve probation. Upon completing your probation, the charges might be dismissed, and you could even get the matter expunged from your record.

There are defense strategies for drug charges

As a first-time drug offender, you have a number of defense strategies. However, these defense strategies will depend on the charges you face and the evidence presented in court. Therefore, you will need to seek legal guidance to determine the best defense strategy for your case.