New Jersey considers cocaine distribution in a public building to be a separate offense, over and above the distribution offense itself. The particular statute that defines this offense is N.J.S. 2C:35-7.1. That is the same statute that prohibits distribution on or near public housing, and on or near public parks.
For purposes of this statute, “Public building” has a very specific meaning. It does not mean city hall, or your local fire house, or even municipal court. Rather, what “public building” means is any publicly owned or leased library or museum.
Regardless of its definition, this separate offense exists when the offense occurs within 500 feet of the library or museum. And the separate offense applies to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, even when no actual distribution occurs. It is no defense that the person was unaware that he was in or within 500 feet of the library or museum. Further, the intent to distribute, itself, need not have been within the 500 foot distance. These enhanced penalties apply so long as it was within the indicated area that the possession with intent occurred.
As indicated above, the cocaine distribution, or possession with intent to distribute in the public building, or within 500 feet of it, is actually considered to be a separate offense from the distribution itself, or the intent to distribute. This separate offense is a second degree crime. Upon conviction, sentence to state prison becomes a virtual certainty. The normal New Jersey State Prison term upon conviction for a second degree crime is five to ten years. Under some circumstances, this normal range can be doubled.
Allan Marain and Norman Epting, Jr. are New Jersey cocaine lawyers. They have successfully representing numerous clients who faced public building-related cocaine charges. They are available to discuss your situation in a no-charge no-obligation office conference. Call them!
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