Here in the Garden State, possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle (by a driver) is subject to stiff penalties if one is stopped by the police and charged with same. In terms of strict “possession,” if a traffic stop reveals that a driver has pot inside his vehicle, a summons for possession will likely be forthcoming. As New Jersey DWI and drug DUI defense lawyers, my colleagues and I are prepared to defend individuals accused of impaired driving, as well as simply having drugs on one’s person during a police stop.
In addition to defending motorists hit with a drug charge following a traffic stop on the parkway, interstate or in town, my legal team is skilled in handling traffic tickets issued for drug possession, including those for weed and other illegal or controlled dangerous substance (CDS). According to the New Jersey legal statutes — specifically N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1 — the law prohibits any individual from driving a car, truck or motorcycle while knowingly being in possession of marijuana, cocaine, meth or other CDS. That said, it needs to be explained that this particular law is solely focused on the driver and not the passenger of a motor vehicle.
When attempting to prove such a violation, a municipal prosecutor is obliged to establish several key facts in order to win his case against a defendant. First, the state must prove that the accused was in control, or otherwise operating a motor vehicle. Second, a police officer must have found the weed or other drug on the driver’s person. Finally, it must be proved that the motorist “knowingly” possessed the illegal substance. A skilled attorney can sometimes find fault with the state’s case if the operator of the vehicle was not within what the law describes as “wingspan” of the physical control of the pot or other CDS. One common situation is when the substance was on the person of another occupant of the vehicle.
In the unfortunate circumstance where a driver is found guilty of marijuana possession in a motor vehicle, the most significant penalty described by New Jersey law is a mandatory two-year license suspension. That two-year suspension entails a total ban from operating any motor vehicle for the duration. Unfortunately, there are no provisions for a so-called “work license” or “conditional” operator’s license.
Events such as one that took place last month can threaten to cause some severe and life-altering consequences should a person be found guilty of any marijuana-related traffic offense, much less one involving other serious CDS charges. According to the news article we ran across not long ago, a Hackettstown, NJ, teenager was arrested by police following a standard traffic stop. Based on news reports, the teen was driving along Deerfield Way when police saw her Honda make a turn without signaling. Catching up to the driver on Rte 206, the cop stopped the 19-year-old by the roadside.
Following a brief investigation, officers determined that the teenager had on her person some quantity of marijuana as well as some related drug paraphernalia. Credit for the arrest must go in some way to the driver having consented to a search of her vehicle by police. The young woman allegedly handed over a baggie of marijuana to the officer, along with some paraphernalia. As a result, the teen was arrested and then taken to police headquarters where she was formally charged with CDS possession.
In another instance, a 22-year-old man from the Long Valley area was stopped by police officers from Mount Olive after they noted a Toyota operating on Rte 46 with a burned-out light. The officers effected a police stop a little after 1am, during which they detected the odor of weed coming from the car. Apparently, the driver allegedly swallowed approximately a 0.5g of marijuana prior to the police investigation. The man was arrested by the officers and taken to headquarters where he was charged with pot and related paraphernalia possession, as well as a summons for defective vehicle equipment. The man was eventually released on his own recognizance pending a hearing date.