Classrooms, playgrounds and other buildings used for school purposes are meant to be safe places for the children that attend school. Possession of drugs on school property can pose a threat to both individuals and the community. Accordingly, New Jersey takes a hard stance on drug crimes that occur within school zones to protect children from exposure to drug-related activity.
What constitutes as school property?
While it is illegal to possess illicit controlled substances anywhere within the state, the penalties increase substantially if the offense occurs on or near school property. The law defines the offense as, “distribution on or within 1,000 feet of school property.” This includes:
- Elementary or secondary school buildings
- Other property regularly used for school purposes
- Property owned by or leased to the school board
- School buses
Keep in mind, municipal property used periodically by the school, such as a city park, would not qualify as school property.
Strict punishments in place
The act of dispensing or possessing controlled substances with the intent to distribute on school property is a third-degree crime. To help deter drug activity on or near school property, the state enforces harsh penalties.
This can include mandatory imprisonment upon conviction with a minimum period of parole ineligibility. The length of the sentence varies depending on the amount and type of drugs. In addition, the judge may require you to perform not less than 100 hours of community service and pay fines of up to $150,000. A previous criminal charge, the exact location of the alleged offense and the presence of children can affect sentencing.
Liable regardless of intent
Drug crimes that occur within a school zone qualify as a strict liability offense. This means the prosecution imposes criminal liability upon you, irrelevant of your intent or whether you knew the property qualified as a school zone.
Offenses that take place on or near school property significantly complicate what may otherwise have been a simple possession case. Ignorance is not an arguable defense; you need experienced help. If you’ve been arrested for a drug crime on school grounds email the firm or call 908-643-6801 to arrange a free initial consultation.