Case Studies: Drug Charges

Professional Musician Avoids Conviction for Possessing Over 50 Grams of Marijuana

A professional musician retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after police arrested him on a charge of marijuana possession exceeding fifty grams. The crime carries a maximum penalty of eighteen months in prison and a $15,000 fine. Our client was under the impression that possessing smaller amounts of marijuana was either not illegal under New Jersey law or would not result in enforcement. Our client didn't know or recall the specific amount he could possess but believed that he possessed less than the typical enforcement limit. Unfortunately, our client purchased additional amounts, the accumulation of which took his stash over the state's fifty-gram limit for significantly increased penalties and frequent enforcement. Our client happened to carry his stash in his musical equipment, and an undercover police officer patrolling the music venue for drug and alcohol violations noticed it. The officer questioned the musician, who admitted it was his marijuana, without realizing that it exceeded typical enforcement limits. The officer confiscated the marijuana to the evidence lab, which confirmed its large weight. Our strategic approach was to highlight that our client did not possess with the intent to distribute, had no priors, and was a prime candidate for New Jersey's drug diversion program. Our client accepted, and the prosecutor and court approved, the Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program, under which the court would dismiss the charge after program completion.

College Student Successfully Defends Drug Possession Charge on Constitutional Defense

A senior college student in a library sciences program retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after authorities charged her with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Our client had accidentally left her purse in the library. She telephoned library staff, who secured her purse behind the counter for her to retrieve on her return in a few minutes. For some reason, though, library staff called campus police, who for unknown reasons, searched our client's purse, discovering a baggie of pills the police recognized as common controlled substances abused by the college's students. The police arrested our client when she returned to recover her purse. Our client maintained that she was not an abuser of the prescription medication, for which she did not have a prescription but which she obtained through other students. Our client instead maintained that she had a degenerative disc condition that required or benefited from the medication. She maintained that she was not addicted and could handle her own medication safely. Our approach was to encourage our client to accept a medical review of her condition and need for medication so that we could present any helpful evaluations to the prosecutor in support of dismissal or diversion of the charges. The medical review resulted in a diagnosis of a severe disc condition requiring medications substantially like those our client had been using. Our client obtained a prescription and physical therapy to control and improve her pain and abilities. The prosecution dismissed the charges after a case conference in which we presented this evidence.

Business Owner Avoids Serious Marijuana Distribution Charges

The owner of a storage-locker business retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after prosecutors charged him with marijuana possession with intent to distribute. The small two-ounce quantity authorities took from our client's person would have resulted in only a minor charge or no enforcement at all, except that police maintained that our client intended the small quantity for distribution. The distribution element raised the punishment from six months in jail and a $500 fine for simple possession to up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine for distribution of the same small amount. Our client maintained that the small amount he admitted having on his person was solely for his own use. But authorities had charged him with the higher distribution crime based on police allegations that they overheard our client offering marijuana to a friend. Police happened to be standing nearby when our client met a friend on the city's riverfront boardwalk, where their polite exchange had occurred. Our Criminal Defense Team retained a private investigator to take a recorded statement from the friend, in which the friend recalled our client joking about maybe sharing something from his "small stash" but that our client had clearly intended the statement as a joke, knowing that the friend had no such interest. The prosecution called a police officer as a witness at trial to establish the distribution element based on the overheard statement of our client. We then called the friend as a defense witness to clarify that the statement was clearly a joke between the two of them. The jury returned a not-guilty verdict, which the court entered, clearing our client of the charge.

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