Drug Offenses on School Grounds
State policy requires the protection of children from drug trafficking and the prevention of drug activity being present in schools. A drug distribution charge is a serious charge by itself, but if the crime was committed on school property another offense is added to the charges of the accused. You should contact experienced legal help if faced with this charge. The New Jersey drug crime lawyers at LS&P Lawyers are experienced with criminal law and represent people throughout the state of New Jersey.
Distribution of drugs or possession of drugs with intent to distribute on school property of within 1000 feet of it, including school buses, is a crime of the third degree.
Conviction of this crime, rather than the same crime outside of the school zone, results in substantially enhanced penalties. The limit on most third degree crimes is $15,000.
Drug offense on or near school grounds are governed under N.J.S.A 2C:35-7, which adds additional severe penalties to individuals convicted of this crime. Distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of school property constitutes a third degree crime and a mandatory prison sentence, one-third to one-half of which must be served with no chance of parole. A fine of $150,000 may also be imposed. "School property" is defined as any building or lot owned or leased by any primary or secondary school. Nursery schools, colleges, or adult vocational schools, among other locations, are not covered by this statute. For a conviction, the state must prove that the property on which the crime was committed was within 1,000 feet of school property and used for school purposes. This means the property must be used for school purposes "regularly, consistently, and actually." So municipal property used infrequently by a school, such as a field owned by the town used by a school for sporting events, does not qualify this charge.
One cannot use as a defense that he did not know the property in question was school property. If it can be shown in court that an objectively reasonable person would know the property was owned by the school, the property is presumed to be school property. A map can also be produced by the county in order to show the 1,000 foot radius of the school, and whether the crime was committed within said radius.
However, the court may waive or reduce the minimum term of parole ineligibility under certain circumstances, which include:
- the defendant's criminal record and the seriousness of the offense committed
- the actual location of the crime; whether it was on school grounds or some distance away
- whether school was in session
- whether children were present or close to the location of the offense
If these circumstances allow it, the court can remove the minimum term of parole ineligibility or place the person under probation. However, 10 days must be given to the prosecution to permit the filing of an appeal.
A court will not waive or reduce the minimum term of parole ineligibility under different circumstances, which include:
- the crime took place on school property used for school purposes (includes school buses)
- the defendant used or threatened violence while committing the offense
- the defendant possessed a firearm at the time of the offense
If you have any questions regarding this statute, please contact an attorney at LS&P Lawyers. We are available 24/7 for free consultation.