New Jersey Possession of CDS in a Motor Vehicle Defense Lawyers

Charge with violating N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1 for possession of a controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle.A charge for possession of a controlled dangerous substance (“CDS”) in a motor vehicle is one of the most serious traffic violations you can face in municipal court. You are subject to some of the most extreme of penalties under the motor vehicle code if it is found that you possessed marijuana or another drug in a car or truck. This is a major reason why you need to retain a knowledgeable NJ traffic ticket attorney if you want to avoid a driver’s license suspension and thousands in fines and financial consequences.

The attorneys at our firm, The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, are former prosecutors who are highly skilled in the defense of possession of CDS in a motor vehicle summonses. We know what it takes to undermine the state’s case against those accused of this variety of ticket anywhere in the state. Contact us today at 877-450-8301 for a free case consultation to get started and learn more about how to minimize the repercussions of a conviction.

Understanding New Jersey Law: Possession of CDS in a Motor Vehicle

It is illegal under N.J.S.A 39:4-49.1 for anyone to operate a motor vehicle while in possession of a CDS unless they have a valid prescription for the drug from a physician, dentist, or veterinarian. All drugs set forth in Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV and Schedule V of the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substance Act are prohibited in this fashion including:

  • Cocaine;
  • Heroin;
  • Methamphetamine;
  • Marijuana;
  • MDMA; and
  • Prescription Drugs

If a person is found to be operating a motor vehicle while having one of these substances in their possession, they are subject to the penalties set forth in 39:4-49.1. These consequences apply in addition to those which are triggered for criminal possession in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10.

Penalties for Drug Possession by Operator of Motor Vehicle

As previously stated, the penalties if you are convicted of possession of drugs in a motor vehicle are extreme. At the time of sentencing, you will be subject to the following:

  • A fine of not less than $50.00; and
  • A driver’s license suspension of two years

The latter consequence – a driver’s license suspension of two years – is the longest period of revocation that someone can face under the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code for a first offense of any kind. This ramification can cause significant hardship by limited your ability to travel to work, transport children, or otherwise maintain the same quality of life.

Defenses to Controlled Dangerous Substance in a Motor Vehicle

The prosecution has the duty to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant in question was operating a motor vehicle at the time of charge, that the operation occurred on a highway, and that the person had knowledge that they were in possession of CDS drugs (and that these drugs were on the person or within the vehicle). As such, the prosecution is tasked with proving various elements in order to secure a conviction. This is good news for a charged person, as some of the elements of a CDS in motor vehicle charge can be difficult to establish. Some strong defenses to a CDS in motor vehicle charge include:

  • Lack of knowledge. Remember, the law states that a person who is in operation of a motor vehicle is only in violation of the CDS in vehicle law if they had knowledge of the drugs being in the possession. If the defendant was driving a vehicle that was not theirs, or/and otherwise had no knowledge of the presence of controlled substances, then they have not committed a crime.
  • Lack of operation. Another defense to a controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle charge is establishing lack of operation. For example, if a CDS was indeed within the vehicle, but the vehicle was neither turned on nor in motion, the defendant may be able to prove that because they were not operating the vehicle, they did not commit the specific crime for which they are being charged.
  • Legal possession. In some cases, those charged with the crime of controlled dangerous substance possession in a motor vehicle were indeed in possession of the CDS in question, but were in possession legally. For example, if you had a prescription, or if you were in the possession of a prescription drug for a member of your family, you have not broken the law.
  • Not driving on highway. The statute is very specific in its language, reading that, “no person shall operate a motor vehicle on any highway….” If the defendant was not driving on a highway or public road at the time of charge, and was instead on private property, then, they may be able to have charges against them dropped or reduced.
  • Illegal search and seizure. Police officers only have the right to search a vehicle in the event that they have a warrant from a court to do so, or they have probable cause, such as actually seeing the drugs from the window. A police officer cannot search a person’s vehicle just because they feel like it or think that the person may be in possession of a controlled dangerous substance, nor can they detain an individual for an excessive amount of time in order to acquire a warrant or have drug-sniffing dogs arrive on scene. If any of the above (illegal search and seizure, unreasonable detaining) occur, a defendant’s constitutional rights have been breached, and their attorney should move to have evidence withheld and charges against the defendant dismissed. This is also true if the initial stop of the car was illegal; again, police officers cannot stop a vehicle just because they feel like it – they must have probable cause to do so. Stopping a car without probable cause is against the law.
  • Lack of proof of controlled dangerous substance. The state also has the burden of proof of establishing that the substance seized was indeed a controlled dangerous substance. This is not a foolproof system; crime laboratory procedures and drug identification technology accuracy can be challenged.

In nearly all cases, it is best to enter a plea of “not guilty” and explore one of the defenses listed above. If one of the defenses is not possible, your attorney can help to protect your rights in other ways. For example, if the prosecution requests a motion for adjournment in order to take time to gather more evidence against you, your attorney can protect your right to a speedy trial, thereby (potentially) preventing the adjournment from occurring. An attorney will also explore in depth the way that evidence against you was acquired, and can file motions for dismissal or motions to compel evidence if your constitutional rights were violated. If a judicial error occurs throughout the proceedings, your attorney can also make this known, thereby protecting your right to a fair trial.

Contact Our Experienced Traffic Attorneys For Immediate Assistance

Remember, when you are charged with a CDS in motor vehicle charge, it is very likely that you will also be charged with other related drug charges, such as possession of a controlled substance. It is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible when facing charges such as this – a conviction can result in large fines, a revocation of your driver’s license, points on your driver’s license, and even jail time (if convicted of a related crime). The sooner that you meet with an attorney and begin exploring your options for your defense and building a case, the stronger your chances are of your case being resolved in your favor.

At the law offices of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, we strongly believe that every person charged with a crime in New Jersey deserves to have their right to competent legal representation protected. We also believe in your right to a fair and speeding trial, and are passionate about the concept of the presumption of innocence. When you are facing controlled dangerous substance in motor vehicle charges, we will get to work immediately on building a strong defense.

Our law firm has the resources and experience that your case deserves. To schedule your free and confidential consultation with our law offices today, contact us online or by phone now. If you are unable to travel to our location during business hours, we offer weekend and after-hours appointments as well, and are able to travel to your location when necessary.