The New Jersey statute that relates to possession of a “controlled dangerous substance” in a motor vehicle is N.J.S. 39:4-49.1. While the substance in question is typically marijuana, it can be any controlled dangerous substance including, of course, cocaine. Usually the vehicle is a car, although buses, trucks, and motorcycles equally qualify. This law does not apply when the person obtained the substance or drug from, or on a valid written prescription of, a medical practitioner licensed to write prescriptions.
New Jersey's possession of cds in a motor vehicle statute is violated only when the car is being driven. Having cocaine in a car that is parked is not sufficient to violate this statute. Under certain circumstances, however, the prosecutor could argue that cocaine found in a parked car was also there earlier when the car was being driven. Factors that the judge could consider, were that to become an issue, would be the area in which the car was parked; observations the arresting officer made before approaching the car; where, in the car, the marajuana or other contraband was found; and statements persons in the car may have made.
For the possession of cds in a motor vehicle statute to be violated, the car must be driven on a highway in New Jersey. “Highway” includes any street, avenue, drive, or other road publicly maintained and open to the public. The statute applies only to drivers. For that reason, passengers charged with this offense will normally be able to obtain a dismissal. Also, to obtain a conviction, the State must prove that the driver knew that the cocaine was in the car. When, unbeknownst to the driver, a passenger has the cocaine, both should be able to obtain dismissals of the charge. The driver should obtain the dismissal because he did not know that the cocaine was in the car, and the passenger should obtain the dismissal because he was not driving. However, the New Jersey law does not require proof that anyone was sniffing cocaine in the car. Indeed, the State is not required to prove that anyone ever sniffed it or even intended to sniff it.
New Jersey's penalty for possession of cds in a motor vehicle is a fine of $50.00 or more, and suspension of driver's license for two years. Unlike cocaine possession charges where no car is involved, the statute does not afford the judge the discretion to waive the license suspension, even where the suspension will cause severe hardship.
Charges for possession of cds in a motor vehicle are usually issued at the same time as charges for possessing the cocaine itself. These are separate and distinct charges. They have different “elements” that the prosecutor is required to prove. Thus when both charges are filed, a trial can result in the conviction for both, acquittal for both, or conviction for one and not the other. Persons charged with possession of cds in a motor vehicle should call a lawyer immediately.
Allan Marain and Norman Epting, Jr. are New Jersey cocaine lawyers. Their combined experience exceeds sixty-five years. Their practice during that entire period has focused on representing persons charged with criminal and traffic offenses. They have successfully defended numerous persons charged with possession of cds in a motor vehicle. They can help.
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