What is CDS? Understanding Controlled Dangerous Substance Charges in New Jersey

“CDS is a term meaning Controlled Dangerous Substance under NJ law. The Drug Schedules of CDS are important when determining the degree of drug charges.”

When you are arrested on drug charges in New Jersey, one of the most common things you will see on your complaint or summons is “CDS,” which stands for controlled dangerous substance. Of course, this can be confusing if you have never seen it before, but criminal charges for possession of CDS, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute are among the most frequently issued by NJ police officers. So what is CDS? Any controlled dangerous substance that you may know of, including narcotics, stimulants, depressants, and steroids.

All recognized controlled dangerous substances are included in the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substance Act, which contains Drug Schedules that extend from I to V. These are important because they are referred to in Section 35 of the New Jersey Statutes, which addresses criminal drug offenses. They also may impact the degree of a drug charge and the potential penalties associated with a conviction. So where is your CDS in the NJ Drug Schedules? Our lawyers explain the factors that distinguish different types of drugs in the schedules and the common CDS charges that we fight in New Jersey courts on a regular basis.

New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS) Schedules

Schedule I Drugs

A Schedule I drug is defined as having a high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use in treatment in the United States, or lacking accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision. Notably, marijuana is a Schedule I drug even though New Jersey has legalized medical marijuana for the treatment of certain acceptable conditions if prescribed by a licensed physician and obtained from a State-licensed dispensary. Here are some of the most common Schedule I drugs:

Schedule II CDS

A Schedule II controlled dangerous substance is recognized as having a high potential for abuse and may lead to psychological or physical dependence, but there is a current accepted medical use in the U.S. with severe restrictions. Schedule II drugs include:

Schedule III Controlled Dangerous Substances

Schedule III drugs have a potential for abuse that is less than those in Schedules I and II and have an accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. These drugs may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence. The following are examples of Schedule III CDS:

CDS in Schedule IV

Drugs contained in Schedule IV have a low potential for abuse when compared with drugs in Schedules I, II and III, can lead to limited psychic dependence or physical dependence, and have some accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Some well-known Schedule IV drugs are as follows:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Klonopin
  • Barbituates

Substances in Schedule V

A substance is classified in Schedule V if it has low potential for abuse relative to the substances listed in Schedule IV; has currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; and has limited potential for physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the substances listed in Schedule IV. These substances, many of which are sold in pharmacies and drug stores over the counter, must contain:

  • 200 milligrams or less of codeine
  • 100 milligrams or less of dihydrocodeine
  • 50 milligrams or less of ethylmorphine
  • 2.5 milligrams or less of diphenoxylate
  • 100 milligrams or less of opium

Examples of CDS Charges in New Jersey

Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance in NJ

The most predominant drug charge in New Jersey is possession of CDS, which is outlined in N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10, and states the following:

a. It is unlawful for any person, knowingly or purposely, to obtain, or to possess, actually or constructively, a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog, unless the substance was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order form from a practitioner, while acting in the course of his professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by P.L.1970, c.226 (C.24:21-1 et seq.).

The statute then goes on to distinguish among CDS in Schedules I, II, III, IV, marijuana, and drugs in Schedule V. Specifically, possession of any drug other than marijuana in Schedules I through IV is a third degree crime. Possession of marijuana is either a disorderly persons offense or a fourth degree crime depending on the amount. And Schedule V drug possession is a fourth degree crime.

New Jersey CDS Manufacturing, Distributing, or Dispensing

The second common charge is for manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing CDS (N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5). These crimes are graded based on the specific substance involved and the amount. NJ law criminalizes making and selling drugs with respect to:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Drugs in Schedules I and II
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD, acid)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Ecstacy (aka Molly, MDMA)
  • Any other CDS in Schedule I, II, III or I; and
  • Drugs in Schedule V

How is CDS Defined in the New Jersey Statutes?

New Jersey Statute 2c:35-2 provides the following definition for Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS):

“Controlled dangerous substance” means a drug, substance, or immediate precursor in Schedules I through V, any substance the distribution of which is specifically prohibited in N.J.S.2C:35-3, in section 3 of 2C:35-5.2, in section 5 of 2C:35-5.3, in section 2 of 2C:35-5.3a, or in section 2 of 2C:35-5.3b, and any drug or substance which, when ingested, is metabolized or otherwise becomes a controlled dangerous substance in the human body. When any statute refers to controlled dangerous substances, or to a specific controlled dangerous substance, it shall also be deemed to refer to any drug or substance which, when ingested, is metabolized or otherwise becomes a controlled dangerous substance or the specific controlled dangerous substance, and to any substance that is an immediate precursor of a controlled dangerous substance or the specific controlled dangerous substance. The term shall not include distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages, as those terms are defined or used in R.S.33:1-1 et seq., or tobacco and tobacco products. The term, wherever it appears in any law or administrative regulation of this State, shall include controlled substance analogs.

Other NJ Legal Drug Terms

There are some other drug terms that you may come across in connection with a CDS case, including:

Opiate: any dangerous substance having an addiction-forming or addiction-sustaining liability similar to morphine or being capable of conversion into a drug having such addiction-forming or addiction-sustaining liability.

Narcotic drug: any of the following, whether produced directly or indirectly by extraction from substances of vegetable origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis, or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis:

  • Opium, coca leaves, and opiates;
  • A compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, or preparation of opium, coca leaves, or opiates;
  • A substance which is chemically identical with any of the substances referred to in subsections (a) and (b)

Contact New Jersey CDS Lawyers for Your Defense

If you have been charged with a crime involving CDS in New Jersey, the NJ drug defense lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm can help. With five convenient offices locations, we represent clients in New Brunswick, Elizabeth, Paterson, Newark, Morristown, Hackensack, and throughout New Jersey. Contact us anytime at (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation.


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We will examine every facet of your case in order to defend your constitutional rights and reputation. With a dedicated legal advocate to assist you, our attorneys will ensure that you are never forced to navigate the complex legal process on your own.

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