Q: Do I Have to Answer the Police Officer’s Questions?
A: If you were caught with drugs by a police officer who is now asking you questions, you are under no legal obligation to answer.
In fact, the less you say the better. However, you should always be polite to the officer. Doing so is in your best interest.
Remember, do not sign anything and do not waive your constitutional rights. These rights are the only safeguards you will be given. Be sure to invoke them when necessary.
Most importantly, respectfully tell the officer that you are going to leave unless you are actually under arrest. If he does arrest you, immediately invoke your right to an attorney and do not answer any of his questions.
Q: What Happens if I Run Away from the Officer Who Stops Me?
A: It is never advised to run away. Under New Jersey law, you will be considered a “fleeing suspect.”
This means the officer will be given the legal authority to do things that would normally require a warrant without needing to first obtain one.
Moreover, fleeing usually gives an officer probable cause that criminal activity is afoot. Therefore, once you flee, the officer can search your person, enter any building you enter, arrest you, etc.
Q: Can the Officer Pat Me Down?
A: A police officer can only conduct a pat down of your clothing if he suspects that you are armed and dangerous. Also, in most cases, he can only pat you down for weapons, not drugs.
However, if you give the officer a reason to suspect that you have drugs on you, this constitutes probable cause that could give rise to a lawful pat down and search.
The key here is to stay calm, always be polite, and never give the officer a reason to suspect that you are engaging in criminal behavior.
Q: How is Drug Court Different From Regular Criminal Court?
A: Drug court combines criminal justice and medical treatment models to deal with drug-related offenses. They understand that incarceration is not always the most effective way for breaking cycles of drug addiction and crime, especially for first-time offenders. Therefore, drug courts stress a more cooperative approach between all of the parties involved (i.e. prosecutor, defendant, judge, etc.). Typically, unlike in regular criminal court, rehabilitation is favored over serving a prison sentence.
Q: What if I Only Had Drug Paraphernalia On Me, Not the Drugs?
A: If an officer catches you possessing drug-related paraphernalia, he will be able to charge you with a separate possession offense (i.e. N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2). However, depending on the surrounding circumstances, he might be able to arrest you for possession of drugs even if you do not have them on you. It is imperative to avoid getting saddled with two criminal charges (i.e. possessing paraphernalia and possessing drugs).
Q: What if I Threw Out the Drugs at the Time the Officer Arrested Me?
A: You do not need to actually have the drugs on you at the exact moment that the officer arrests you. If the officer sees that you had them at one point, even if you flushed them down the toilet or threw them away, he can arrest you for possession. Granted, it will be much tougher for the prosecution to prove their case without the actual drugs, but you will still be facing serious charges that could land you behind bars.
Q: How Can I Avoid Prison if I Am Caught Possessing Drugs?
A: New Jersey allows you to get a Conditional Discharge or go through Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) so long as you show a commitment to being rehabilitated and meet certain criteria. Gaining admission to a PTI program and fully cooperating with it will allow you to avoid the criminal court process altogether. Also, if you successfully complete the program, your conviction will be expunged from your record.
Q: What is a Conditional Discharge?
A: A conditional discharge is a diversionary program that New Jersey makes available to many first-time offenders charged with possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana. In order to receive a conditional discharge you must remain offense-free for the duration of a court-directed period of time, which is usually 6 months to 1 year while being subjected to random drug testing. If you successfully complete the program, your conviction will be expunged from your record.
Q: What is CDS?
A: CDS stands for “controlled dangerous substance” and is the catch-all phrase for just about any and all drugs imaginable.
Q: Who Should I Contact if I am in Trouble?
A: If you or a loved one was charged with a drug-related offense in New Jersey, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of The Rosenblum Law Firm today. Mr. Rosenblum is a skilled criminal defense attorney who has helped numerous people in similar situations. E-mail or call him today at 888-815-3649.