Most know that selling drugs and possessing drugs are serious crimes in New Jersey. However, what some do not know is that selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school could result in a harsher penalty and a worse stigma than a regular conviction for a drug crime. Consequently, it is vital for all individuals to read the following information and to contact an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney if you are ever charged with selling drugs on or near school grounds.
Understanding the Crime
According to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7, you can be guilty of a serious crime if you distribute, dispense, or possess with the intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance while:
- on school property that is used for school purposes,
- within 1,000 feet of such school property or a school bus, or
- on any school bus.
Remember, the prosecution bears the burden of proving his case beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to be convicted of selling drugs on or near a school zone, a prosecutor will need to prove several things and have substantial evidentiary support. First and foremost, the prosecutor must be able to prove that you actually distributed, dispensed or possessed with the intent to distribute a controlled and dangerous substance or similar drug.
It is crucial to understand that simply proving possession is not enough to get convicted. Second, the prosecutor will have to prove that your conduct occurred on school property, within 1,000 feet of school property, or on a school bus.
If the area is not regularly or actually used for school purposes, you will likely have a solid defense against a conviction. (After all, the statutory language clearly states that the school property must be “used for school purposes.”) Additionally, the prosecutor usually is required to present a map establishing that the location where your alleged conduct took place is, in fact, school property or a school zone. Moreover, if you think you can get away with the crime by claiming ignorance as to how close to a school you were, think again.
Selling drugs on or near school property is a strict liability offense. This means you can be convicted whether you knew where you were or not. Simply being in the school zone is enough.
Penalties for Selling Drugs on or Near School Grounds
A conviction for this crime is considered separate and distinct from all other drug-related offenses and will not merge with them. This means you will likely face two charges: one for distribution and one for distribution in a school zone. As such, you could face higher fines, more time behind bars, and parole ineligibility. In most cases, being convicted of violating N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 is a third degree crime.
However, a school zone offense carries with it a minimum period of parole ineligibility that ranges from one-half and one-third of the sentence imposed or three years, whichever is greater. Nevertheless, if the drug involved is one ounce or less of marijuana, the minimum term of parole ineligibility will be between one-third and one-half of the sentence or one year, whichever is greater.
It is very important to note that this mandatory minimum term of imprisonment may be waived by the court after a consideration of a several factors, including your prior criminal history and whether children were actually present at the time of your conduct.
Who Should You Contact?
If you or a loved one has been charged with selling drugs on or near school grounds in New Jersey, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of The Rosenblum Law Firm today. His team of New Jersey criminal defense attorneys will do what they can in order to protect your legal rights and fight to keep you out of prison. E-mail or call 888-815-3649 today.