A common companion offense to drug possession charges is possession of CDS in a motor vehicle in violation of NJSA 39:4-49.1. During my initial consultations with prospective clients facing drug related charges in the Newark Municipal Court, one of my first questions will be were you operating a vehicle, and were you issued any traffic citations. Many drug related arrest are effectuated following a traffic stop and subsequent search. Plain view and plain smell cases ( i.e. marijuana smoke, cocaine residue, heroine baggies) are common. The legitimacy of the stop is important for suppression purposes. But the auto component of the alleged offense also provides police the chance to issue a traffic summons for possession of cds in an automobile.
Most people do not realize that this ticket, if convicted, carries with it a mandatory 2 year loss of license. If the defendant is simply charged with a marijuana, cocaine, heroine, etc, possession charge, he/she will face a license suspension if convicted, but there are provision in the sentencing statutes that allow for a hardship application by the defendant’s attorney. This means that even if the court were to find the defendant guilty after trial, the defendant still has a chance to keep his/her driving privileges. However, if the defendant is charged with both possession of CDS and possession in a motor vehicle, and is found guilty at trial, he/she will likely be found guilty of both offenses. And although the defendant may be able to avoid the NJSA 2C:35-10 suspension, there is no corresponding relief available for the traffic offense of possession of CDS in the motor vehicle in violation of NJSA 39:4-49.1.
For many clients I represent in Newark facing this situation, the potential two year loss of driving privileges is a far more serious penalty than those which are typically imposed for a straight simple possession charge.
For this reason, I go to great lengths to structure the defense of these cases to minimize the potential exposure of my clients. This includes both plea negotiations and trial representation. I routinely help people avoid the incredibly harsh penalties that can result if the state were to have its way. The organization and defense strategies are complicated and it is best to consult an attorney who frequently appears in the Newark Municipal Court. I am an attorney who specializes in this practice area and I offer free consultations. If you are facing this or a similar situation, please contact me with your questions.