First-Time Drug Offenses in New Jersey

Consequences and Options to Avoid Jail for First-Time Offenders Charged with Drug Offenses in NJ

Arrested for a First Drug Offense Fort Lee NJMany people mistakenly assume that a first-time drug offense will not have serious consequences when nothing could be further from the truth.  Several components determine what you are charged with and their corresponding penalties.  If you are accused of a drug offense, your first response should be to contact a criminal attorney immediately. The lawyers at our Bergen County firm can assist in defending your rights and preventing these types of violations from developing into a more serious, long-term, or even permanent issue for you or a close person who has been charged with a first-time drug offense or similar criminal offenses in New Jersey. Drug-related issues can have significant and negative consequences in several ways.

Many first-time offenders have benefited from the skillful legal representation of our criminal defense attorneys in defending their rights and avoiding negative outcomes. For a free case evaluation in Mahwah, Lodi, Bergenfield, Rutherford, Fort Lee, Paramus, and other Bergen County areas, contact us at (201)-330-4979 right away.

Details to Keep in Mind if Charged With a First-Time Drug Offense in NJ

Suppose you are charged with possession of a CDS (controlled dangerous substance), a minimal amount in your possession; for instance, less than five dosage units of prescription painkillers or anti-depressants such as Xanax. In that case, you will most likely be charged with a disorderly person offense (misdemeanor), and your case will be held in municipal court. Possession of drugs such as heroin, meth, MDMA, LSD, and cocaine are cases heard in county superior court, and charges are usually for third degree crimes. Charges for possession of CDS with the intent to distribute range from third-degree to first-degree, depending on how much was in your possession to distribute or dispense.

Potential Penalties for First-Time Drug Offenders

Three components compose the possible consequences of your drug charge.  They are the kind of CDS in your possession, the quantity, and whether there was an intent on your part to distribute them.  Potential penalties for possession include five years in prison and a fine of up to $35,000.  Your driver’s license can be revoked, and your car impounded depending on the charge.  Penalties for possession with intent to distribute substances such as heroin, LSD, and cocaine range from five to twenty years in prison and fines of $75,000 to $300,000.

How Are Drug Cases Unique For First-Time Offenders?

As a first-time offender, the grade of your offense can determine how heavy a sentence you will be given and what diversionary programs you are eligible for.  These programs present an opportunity to avoid stiff penalties, as there is a presumption of no jail time if you have no criminal record.

Is a Jail a Possibility for a First Drug Offense?

Jail time is always possible, even if it is your first offense.  If you demonstrate regret, the police and prosecutors may consider a lesser charge and no jail time. Still, nothing is for sure, so you must take the situation seriously and hire a criminal lawyer.

Diversion Programs for 1st Time Drug Charges in the New Jersey Court System

Diversionary programs are designed to allow participants who have been accused of drug charges for the first time to avoid stiff penalties.  There are several types of diversionary programs.

Pre-Trial Intervention Program

The first is Pre-Trial Intervention (also known as PTI).  The conditions for PTI are to have never been in a diversionary program and the charge is typically a third or fourth-degree crime. Should the prosecutor agree, a higher charge, such as a second-degree charge, can be admitted, but it is unusual without help from a talented criminal defense attorney.  PTI consists of therapy, drug counseling, and some vocational training.  Once you have completed the program, your charge will be removed from your criminal record.  If you do not follow the program to the letter, you can be violated by your probation officer and face the penalties of being convicted on the original charges.

Conditional Discharge

Conditional discharge is applicable if you have been charged with a disorderly person offense for possession.  You can request a conditional discharge if you haven’t had any prior drug convictions and have never been through any other diversion programs.  Once you have completed drug testing and a year’s probation, your charge will be dismissed.  If you do not follow the conditions, the charge and its penalties are up to the judge who decides what to do about your violation. Conditional discharge applies solely to disorderly persons offenses in municipal court.

Drug Court

The next possibility, and most certainly the strictest, is Drug Court.  The five-year program is typically chosen by offenders facing a substantial prison term who are not eligible for parole. To be accepted for drug court, you must have a clinical addiction and use crime to support your habit.  Typically, offenders will receive inpatient care, detox, and counseling.  You will participate in community service and attend a 12-step program. The most significant difference between drug court and other diversion programs is that you must plead guilty to the charges before you begin, and drug court can sometimes be applicable for repeat offenders, second-degree charges, or larger count indictments. It is handled in superior court.

First Time Drug Offense Attorneys in Bergen County, NJVeterans Diversion Program

The Veterans Diversion Program provides U.S. veterans with drug treatment instead of going to jail.  It is made to give veterans counseling services for drug or alcohol addictions to prevent repeat offenders and offer the unique support needed by veterans.  Services include counseling, job placement, community outreach programs, and assistance registering for VA benefits.  The requirements for this program are similar to the others.  It must be your first offense, and you must stay clean throughout the six to 24-month program. Also, this program usually applies to second or third-degree charges and is handled in superior court.

Call our First-Time Drug Offense Lawyers if You are Facing a 1st Drug Charge in Bergen County, NJ

Your lawyer is the professional who knows your options and which would best suit your current situation.  They can investigate the validity of the evidence obtained by law enforcement.  Perhaps the search was conducted under questionable circumstances, or evidence was obtained illegally.  Your attorney could get your case dismissed without using your diversionary program option.  They can also negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges reduced or get special permission for you to enter a diversion program like PTI, so you avoid going to jail. Your attorney will provide aggressive, strategic representation if your case goes to trial.

Our first-time drug offense lawyers are prepared to provide you with the best representation possible and reduce your first offense’s negative impact on your daily life in Elmwood Park, Lyndhurst, Fairlawn, Ridgefield Park, Garfield, and elsewhere in Bergen County. We know what an impact this kind of stress can have, and we will use every resource available to prevent this charge from having a negative effect. Call our office at (201)-330-4979 or connect with us online to get started on your first-offense drug case immediately.


If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.