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Repeat drug possession convictions implicate severe punishments

New Jersey’s sentencing structure, like other jurisdictions, increases in severity for repeat offenses. A recent drug arrest provides context. 

A 47-year-old New Jersey man recently appeared in court regarding a possession with intent to distribute heroin charge. According to the allegations, the man had 15 bags of heroin within 1,000 feet of a school. Unfortunately, the man has a prior criminal history, including previous drug offenses. In addition, authorities also claim there is a warrant out for the man’s arrest, arising from two separate issues: trespassing and a violation of probation. Given that history, the court set his bail at $50,000.

A drug conviction in New Jersey typically becomes part of a defendant’s permanent criminal record. That record allows authorities to determine whether a subsequent arrest is a repeat offense. Unfortunately, it may also present obstacles when an individual is applying for jobs or even certain types of housing or apartment applications. A criminal record may also result in lost voting and firearm carrying privileges, as well as present a barrier to applying for certain professional licenses.

Regarding today’s story, an arrest for heroin possession may implicate both federal and state criminal charges. Federal law makes a distinction between first, second and third convictions. A third conviction for heroin possession results in a minimum fine of $5,000 and jail time between 90 days and 3 years.

Yet New Jersey state law can be even more severe, with even a first offense for heroin possession translating into a third degree charge. If convicted, state law provides a punishment of up to five years. Possession with intent to distribute implicates even more serious punishments, in the event of conviction. Given those potential consequences, it is imperative that a criminal defendant obtains the skilled representation of a criminal defense attorney.

Source: NJ.com, “More drug charges for Jersey City felon with multiple drug convictions,” Michaelangelo Conte, July 28, 2015

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