Fighting Marijuana Possession charges in NJ
Marijuana almost became legal in New Jersey this year.
As it turns out, the excitement was short-lived.
After many headlines, nothing changed.
Marijuana Possession continues to be a crime in the Garden State.
Just curious, if we are known as the “Garden State”, shouldn’t we be allowed to consume the world’s most famous plant?
In New Jersey, Marijuana is considered a Controlled Dangerous Substance. If you are caught with tiny amounts, you will be charged criminally. If you are caught with larger amounts, you will also be charged criminally, but chances are you will spend a part of your life in prison.
As NJ drug lawyers, we handle hundreds of Marijuana Possession cases each year.
Even if it seems like society has pretty much accepted weed, it’s still illegal.
So, what do we do when get hired for a Marijuana Possession case?
One of the first things we do is answer the most common question clients ask is.
“How can you win my Marijuana Possession case?”
In this blog post, we will share 5 of the ways we use to fight Marijuana Possession charges in New Jersey.
1. Challenging the legality of the traffic stop
There’s a statistic that over 90 percent of all criminal arrests are made pursuant to a traffic stop.
Although I don’t trust statistics because of how they can get twisted, indeed it seems like over 90% of our Marijuana Possession clients get arrested during a traffic stop.
If this is the case, the first thing we do is investigate to see if the Traffic Stop OR the Search were legal.
We start each Marijuana Possession case with the following questions:
Why was our client pulled over?
Was the vehicle searched?
Was Consent given for the search?
Did the police have Probable Cause to search?
Where in the vehicle was the Marijuana found?
Did our client receive a Miranda Warning?
If any of our client’s Constitutional Rights were violated, we file a Motion to Suppress the Evidence.
Once the judge decides that the Police Search was unConstitutional, then that evidence cannot be used at trial.
Every time we win a Motion to Suppress, the Prosecutor dismissed the case because they cannot prove their case.
Long story short, if the Search was illegal, you won your Marijuana Possession case!
2. Was the canine unit involved in you marijuana arrest?
Who called the dogs out???
Remember that song?
“Either you cooperate OR I have to get the canine unit out here!”
Did this happen to you?
Were you given an ultimatum to either cooperate OR get in worse trouble?
Police threaten to bring the canine unit all the time.
The irony is that many police departments don’t even have canine units.
They don’t have the funding. It’s all a bluff.
Yet, citizens agree to “searches” of their car because they believe they will be punished if they exercise their right to refuse.
Were you told that you had a right to refuse the search?
On the other hand, if you refuse the search of the vehicle and they did get the canine unit, how long did it take the canines to arrive? Was your initial traffic stop over by the time the canine’s arrived?
These answers will determine if the evidence can be suppressed.
If the Marijuana evidence is suppressed, the case will get dismissed.
Starting to see a pattern here?
3. Were you charged with Marijuana Possession for Having a Pipe?
Marijuana must be in your possession to be charged with possession.
Pretty simple right?
You cannot be charged with Marijuana Possession for having a bong or pipe or cigar or apple or whatever…
That’s a different crime, with different elements and different penalties altogether.
We had a client who was traveling with a hookah. A hookah is a really fancy water pipe used mostly in Middle Eastern countries. It is used for smoking tobacco.
The cops saw him with it, arrested him, confiscated the pipe, and charged him with Marijuana Possession and Paraphernalia.
Where was the Marijuana?
You can figure out who won this case.
4. Was the Marijuana Properly tested?
Whenever you are accused of having a drug like Marijuana in your possession, the Prosecutor has to prove that it is Marijuana.
How are drugs like Marijuana tested?
All of the evidence (Marijuana) is sent to the New Jersey State Police Laboratory. Once it gets to the lab, it has to get tested in many ways.
Each test has to be done by a qualified scientist.
The people testing the drugs have to test it a certain way and with certain equipment.
They also have to keep records of every test.
Once the tests are completed, those records are provided to the criminal defense lawyer.
If the Marijuana is not tested properly and by the right person in the right way, we will once again file a Motion to Suppress.
A few years ago, the State of New Jersey had a lot of trouble with a person who worked at the laboratory. Instead of testing the Marijuana evidence properly, this employee was lying about it. All of the cases where this happened lost their evidence.
“Hey, you never know!”
Wait, that’s New York.
5. Arrested with Co-Defendants? Whose Marijuana is it Anyway?
People smoke in groups.
No surprise here.
But can 4 people ALL be in “Possession” of ONE Marijuana cigarette?
Or, what if you gave someone a ride and they were in Possession of Marijuana?
Here’s another possibility:
Someone you gave a ride to in high school dropped a roach in your backseat.
You get pulled over for speeding and the canines “alert” or find marijuana in your car.
Should you be charged with a crime that has a perfectly logical explanation?
Can the Prosecutor prove that the roach belonged to you?
If one of your co-defendants takes responsibility for the marijuana in your car, then we file another Motion to Dismiss the charges against you.
Are you starting to see the many different strategies we use to fight your marijuana possession charges?
Bonus Q & A
How Do I Get My Marijuana Money Back?
If you were arrested for Marijuana Possession, chances are that all of the money that you had in your pockets was confiscated.
You must be concerned about getting it back.
Well, I’ve got some bad news.
99% of the time you will not get your money back.
The County Prosecutor’s Office where you were arrested has something called an “Asset Forfeiture Unit”.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit enforces the New Jersey laws that allow police to “maintain custody” of property that has been seized from a criminal defendant (you).
Even if we win your Marijuana Possession case, the State can still bring asset forfeiture proceedings against your property.
Forfeiture proceedings are Civil and completely different rules apply. It’s an uphill battle.
We have outlined 5 simple ways to fight & win your Marijuana Possession charges in NJ.
Every case is different.
Sometimes it takes one way to win.
Sometimes it takes all five ways to win.
And sometimes, we can’t win no matter how many ways we try.
The important thing is to never go down without a fight.
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