Monmouth County Drug DUI Update: New Jersey Drivers Arrested for Marijuana Possession — Part 2

As we mentioned a while back, it’s relatively easy to get pulled over for a traffic-related offense here in New Jersey. In fact, something as minor as not making a complete stop at a controlled intersection, or not signaling a turn properly can result in a traffic stop. But it’s after this initial police stop that can get a motorist in really hot water — that is, receiving a summons for drinking and driving.

It makes little difference whether one is stopped for a non-working brake light or cracked windshield, if you live in Hudson, Ocean, Bergen or any of the other counties throughout the Garden State, chances are you will at one time or another be pulled over for some type of traffic infraction.

Once a patrolman has stopped a motor vehicle, the driver may be interviewed as to the reason for the offense. If the police officer detects alcohol or drug use, a whole other line of questions may ensue, which may or may not lead to an arrest for DWI or drug DUI. A percentage of traffic stops may result in some kind of marijuana-related charge, depending on the circumstances.

Not surprisingly, cannabis (or weed) is one of the more common illegal substances encountered by law enforcement officers patrolling this state’s highways. Similar in nature to a drunken driving traffic stop, being pulled over and subsequently charged with a (marijuana-related) drug DUI, or simply possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) like cannabis, is more common than many people may realize.

As New Jersey drug DUI defense attorneys, I and my colleagues are represent numerous motorists every year who have been accused of possessing or being under the influence of illicit drugs, or even prescription medication.

Where marijuana-related offenses are concerned, the number and type of charges can vary widely. As marijuana defense attorneys, we know the law; depending on the type of charge — such as marijuana possession, intent to distribute, etc., — it’s never a good idea to go it alone. This is why we always recommend that people who find themselves in this kind of situation locate and consult with a qualified attorney.

One of the most common charges that can precipitate from a routine traffic stop is possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle. If a police officer finds marijuana in a person’s car or truck, a summons is typically issued. While this is not a DUI type of charge, it nonetheless represents a serious offense that requires expert advice.

The New Jersey statutes that speak to marijuana possession in a motor vehicle are covered in N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1, which strictly prohibits a motorist from operating a car, truck, motorcycle or other motor vehicle while knowingly in possession of marijuana. An important side note here is that this law applies only to the driver of the vehicle and not the passengers.

For the state to prove a violation of this law, it must be established in court that A) the accused individual was in fact operating a motor vehicle, B) that there was physical presence of marijuana on the driver’s person or inside the vehicle; and C) that the motorist knowingly possessed the marijuana in question.

One of the more important defenses in a case of possession in a motor vehicle is that the driver must have been within “wingspan” of physically controlling the marijuana. A good example of a defense would be that the marijuana was on the person of another passenger in the vehicle.

Needless to say, the penalties for possession in a vehicle are fairly stiff. New Jersey law calls for a mandatory two-year license suspension, which completely bars a driver from operating a motor vehicle for that period. More onerous is the lack of any provision under this law allowing for even a so-called work license or a conditional operators license. Fines and assessments, as well as other motor vehicle surcharges, will typically be levied against an individual who is convicted for possession in a vehicle.