Operating a Vehicle While in Possession of CDS

New Jersey Traffic Violation Defense Attorney

New Brunswick traffic ticket lawyer Leon Matchin has over 10 years’ experience representing defendants charged with a wide variety of offenses, including driving while in possession of a CDS. As a seasoned criminal and traffic defense attorney, Mr. Matchin has the knowledge required to obtain dismissals and diminished sentences for motor vehicle offenses linked with criminal charges. His advocacy is can make the difference in avoiding a conviction, which results in a two-year license suspension.

CDS in Motor Vehicle

New Jersey’s motor vehicle and traffic regulations are codified in Title 39 of New Jersey Statutes Annotated (N.J.S.A.). Section 39:4-49.1 specifically prohibits operation of a motor vehicle on a highway while knowingly possessing a CDS. Such drugs are classified in schedules under the New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act. They include:

  • Marijuana (less than 50 grams) under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(4)
  • Substance and paraphernalia under N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2
  • Prescription drugs without:
    • Substance or drug form
    • Valid written prescription by licensed doctor, vet, dentist, or other licensed medical practitioner
  • Drug to treat or prevent human or animal disease
    • Unless in lawful possession of Schedule V drug

Possession of a CDS is a motor vehicle violation, but is often charged with a criminal offense. The criminal element is usually possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana, a “disorderly persons” offense. Over this limit, the statute elevates the crime to a felony. Without the criminal charge, the traffic violation is still a serious, punishable offense.

CDS Possession Penalties

N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1 imposes strict penalties for CDS possession in a motor vehicle. The person operating the vehicle faces a fine and mandatory 2-year suspension of driving privileges. When accompanied by a criminal possession charge, the operator is ineligible for reducing or dismissing the suspension by demonstrating “hardship.” The loss of a license for 2 years makes operating a vehicle while possessing a CDS one of the most serious traffic offenses.

Vehicle Operation in CDS Possession Defense

The state has the burden of proving five elements to obtain a conviction for this offense. An experienced criminal and traffic defense attorney must refute these elements or employ another strategy to get the charge dismissed. Elements of the offense and possible defenses may include:

  • Driver operated a motor vehicle
    • N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.2 exempts medical practitioners, hospitals, labs, and retailers
    • N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.3 exempts common carriers, public officers, or other employees engaged in lawful transport of drugs
  • Operation must be on a highway
  • With knowledge of CDS possession
    • Driver did not procure or was not aware of CDS
    • Location not in proximity to driver undermines knowledge
  • CDS located on person or within vehicle
    • Possession by passenger, hidden within vehicle or in trunk, occupation by several people, and car ownership by person other than driver undermine requirement

If the driver is charged with a criminal offense such as marijuana possession and dismissal is not possible, the traffic offense may be “merged” into the criminal offense or dismissed as part of a plea bargain. Certain defendants may also receive a conditional discharge for a diversionary drug program.

Trial, Plea, and Dismissal

If you are charged with motor vehicle operation while in possession of drugs, East Brunswick traffic violation attorney Leon Matchin can help. He has successfully defended numerous motorists in the Municipal and Superior Courts of Middlesex, Monmouth, and Mercer Counties, though his services are not limited to these areas. Call (732) 662-7658 today for a free consultation or contact us online.