Third Degree Drug Charges in New Jersey

“If you have been charged with drug possession in NJ, it is usually a third degree crime to possess a controlled dangerous substance. You need to an aggressive defense to avoid up to five years in prison.”

One of the most common charges issued in New Jersey is drug possession, technically referred to as possession of CDS, or controlled dangerous substance, in violation of NJSA 2C:35-10. In the vast majority of drug possession cases, the charge is graded as a third degree crime. If you are facing a third degree drug charge in New Jersey, it is important to understand the potential consequences of a conviction, as well as the legal options you may have to achieve a dismissal.

At The Tormey Law Firm, our experienced New Jersey drug defense lawyers have successfully resolved thousands of third degree possession of CDS charges in courts across the state. With office locations in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark, New Brunswick, and Middletown, we serve communities throughout New Jersey and we are here to assist you. In this page, we will explain what a third degree drug charge means in NJ and what a knowledgeable defense attorney should know when defending against these charges. Continue reading for more information and please contact us anytime at (201)-556-1570 for a free consultation about your specific case.

Understanding 3rd Degree Possession of a Controlled Substance in NJ

More often than not, possession of CDS charges in New Jersey are classified as third degree crimes. Essentially, possession of nearly every controlled substance in Schedules I, II, III, or IV of the New Jersey Drug Schedules will be graded as a third degree charge. The one significant exception is marijuana or hashish, which has its own specific grading guidelines.

If you are arrested for a violation of NJSA 2C:35-10, your drug possession charge will be a third degree felony if the substance is a “street drug” like heroin, cocaine, MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly), Methamphetamine (meth), or LSD (acid). You will also be charged with a third degree crime for possessing a prescription medication like Oxycontin, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, Valium, or Klonopin without a valid prescription from a licensed medical professional. Individuals in New Jersey are also subject to third degree drug possession charges for other substances like anabolic steroids.

What are the Penalties for a Third Degree Drug Charge in New Jersey?

A third degree crime for drug possession is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from 3 to 5 years and a fine of up to $35,000. It also requires a 6-month suspension of driving privileges, even if the offense was not committed in or near a motor vehicle. If you are convicted of a third degree drug charge, you will also have a criminal record that can seriously inhibit your ability to reach your goals. It is important to note that third degree crimes in New Jersey entail a presumption of non-incarceration. This means that if you are a first-time offender, you may be able to avoid jail time by enrolling in a diversionary program or serving probation. We’ll explain diversionary programs in greater detail below.

Pre-Trial Intervention for 3rd Degree Drug Possession in NJ

If you have no prior criminal record and are charged with a third degree drug offense in New Jersey, you may be a candidate for the Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI). If your application for PTI is accepted, you will have to avoid being arrested again during a period of probation and pass any random drug tests that may be requested. After successfully completing PTI, the initial charge is dismissed. You then become eligible to expunge your criminal record in 6 months, which means you can keep a clean record and answer “no” to any inquiries about whether or not you’ve been arrested in the past. Our experienced drug defense lawyers often help clients gain admission into PTI and we are available anytime to discuss your potential eligibility.

Defending Third Degree Drug Charges in New Jersey

Perhaps you aren’t eligible for a diversionary program. A skilled attorney can still use a variety of defenses to successfully beat your third degree drug charges. First and foremost, our lawyers thoroughly examine all of the discovery, or evidence, in your case. We know what to look for and often use the following arguments to get drug possession charges dismissed:

  • Police didn’t have probable cause to stop your vehicle
  • There was no probable cause to arrest you
  • There wasn’t sufficient cause to search your car
  • You didn’t consent to the search and the officer didn’t obtain a warrant
  • The evidence doesn’t show you had any knowledge that drugs were present
  • The drugs were someone else’s
  • There are errors in the lab report

These are just some of the defense strategies that our attorneys often use to challenge a possession of CDS charge.

Contact a New Jersey Third Degree Drug Charge Lawyer for Immediate Assistance

Being charged with third degree drug possession can seriously interrupt your life. Don’t waste any time obtaining the best possible legal representation. The Tormey Law Firm is a battle-tested team of New Jersey drug defense attorneys dedicated to protecting your rights. Contact us today at (201)-556-1570 to arrange an absolutely free consultation. Get the answers you need now.


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With unmatched knowledge and experience in the practice of law, the seasoned attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm are committed to serving their clients and tenaciously confronting the allegations against them.

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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Learn More About How to Fight Your Charges

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.

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Bergen County, Essex County, Morris County, Passaic County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Somerset County including Morristown, Denville, Dover, Mount Olive, Parsippany, Hackensack, East Rutherford, Elmwood Park, Englewood, Fort Lee, Garfield, Lodi, Lyndhurst, Mahwah, Palisades Park, Paramus, Ridgefield Park, Saddle Brook, Teaneck, Clifton, and Wayne.

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    254 State Street Hackensack, NJ 07601

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