Criminal Mischief

Common Criminal Charges and Potential Defenses

Receiving a criminal charge is stressful on many levels. First, the charge typically comes with harsh consequences like jail time and fines. Second, the charge will go on your record, potentially making it difficult to get future jobs or apply for college. Third, it can put an emotional toll and strain on family members for many reasons, including the financial strain of you having to be out of work. For these reasons and more, it is crucial that you hire a local New Jersey attorney like Leon Matchin to help defend your case. He has helped many clients have their charges downgraded or dropped. Read on to learn about some common criminal charges and some possible defenses your lawyer may be able to use

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

According to N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2, “it is unlawful to possess for use drug paraphernalia with the intent to grow, harvest, prepare, store, or ingest a dangerous controlled substance.” Examples of drug paraphernalia include bongs, pipes, rolling paper, syringes, and more. If you are caught with paraphernalia, you can face up to 6 months in jail and have to pay a fine of $500-$1,000. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended for up to 2 years. Fortunately, this charge has several potential defenses that your lawyer can use based on the circumstances.

Potential Defenses:

You had the paraphernalia for medical reasons. For example, maybe the reason you had a bong in your car was because you have cancer and are approved by a doctor to use medical marijuana to ease side effects. Just because you are carrying around the paraphernalia, does not mean that you are currently driving under the influence. The state of New Jersey has a Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) that requires the patient to have a defined relationship with the prescribing physician. The patient must also be a New Jersey resident and diagnosed with a medical condition such as cancer, anxiety, MS, or Crohn’s disease, to name a few. If you are a part of this program, it will be easy to create your case with just a few simple documents from your doctor.   

  • The paraphernalia is not yours. For example, a syringe is in your car. However, your brother, with whom you share the car, left it there. This defense is common in situations where people have roommates or share a car with another person.
  • Conditional discharge: This is another option that is available for first-time drug offenders. If the defendant qualifies, the drug charges are eligible for dismissal after a year of probation. During this year, the defendant must pass all administered drug tests and not get arrested.

Under the Influence of a CDS

What exactly is a “CDS”? A CDS is a controlled dangerous substance. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(b), it is illegal for a person to use or be under the influence of a CDS unless it is for the purpose of treatment of sickness or injury as prescribed by a physician. This charge comes with harsh penalties. They include fines up to $1,000, incarceration up to 6 months, probation, and driver’s license suspension for a minimum of 6 months. In addition, this charge will end up on your permanent record.

If you were found under the influence of a CDS on a school property, you will also have to perform at least 100 hours of community service. During the trial, it must be proven that the defendant displayed symptoms that would support drug use. This includes needle marks, bloodshot eyes, an odor of drugs, or difficulty walking. This is where a good attorney comes into play. Often, these symptoms may be due to reasons other than drugs.

New Jersey Attorney Potential Defenses:

  • The symptoms were due to another medical issue. For example, the altered gait could be due to a neurological medical condition. Needle marks may be from self-injection to manage a health issue. Medical documents and doctor’s notes are helpful pieces of evidence for this defense.
  • The symptoms could be due to accidentally taking too much of a legal prescribed or over-the-counter drug. For example, maybe the defendant accidentally took too many sleeping pills and was acting strangely, but was not under the influence of an illegal CDS.

Minor in Possession of Alcohol

 Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

According to N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1, a person must be 21 years old to legally purchase or consume an alcoholic beverage on licensed premises. However, a person under 21 can legally drink for the purpose of a religious ceremony or at home under parental supervision. New Jersey is very strict about their underage drinking laws. A minor can face charges for drinking, or simply for having alcohol in their possession. This crime has a minimum $500 fine and incarceration up to 6 months. It also has potential driver’s license suspension, and a mark on your criminal record. In addition, some courts may have the minor attend an alcohol education course or a treatment program.

New Jersey Attorney Potential Defenses:

  • Proving that the drinking was under parental supervision is a common defense. For example, a minor was drinking at a beach house with family on vacation and wandered down to the beach, getting pulled aside by a police officer. A potential defense could be that the drinking occurred at the house with parental supervision.
  • Proving that the alcohol in possession was not owned by the minor. This is a good defense if alcohol is found in a vehicle. If the alcohol was put there by someone else (roommate, sibling, parent, etc.), then it technically is not in the possession of the minor.
  • Police mistakenly thought a minor was drinking. This can happen at house parties when the police show up and do a mass arrest. You might be drinking sparkling water out of a Solo cup, and the police officer assumes it is alcohol. If proven, this can get a minor out of charges.

How A New Jersey Attorney Can Help

Receiving a criminal charge is stressful and costly. Penalties can involve jail time and hefty fines. In addition, a criminal charge will show up on your permanent record, making it hard to apply for jobs and college in the future. Fortunately, Leon Matchin, a local New Jersey attorney, is very experienced in creating remarkable defenses and getting charges dropped or at least downgraded. For more information about criminal charges and how an attorney can help, call Leon Matchin today at (833) 732-7320, or contact him via email at

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