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Distribution of Drugs in a School-Zone May Not Bar Drug Court

Distribution of Drugs in a School-Zone May Not Bar Drug Court

In a recent case involving 3rd degree distribution of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), marijuana, in a school zone a defendant was denied admission into the Drug Court program and appealed. Mike Pope appealed the decision of the Sussex County Superior Court Judge based on the misapplication of the standard for ordinary probation to deny him entry into Drug Court, based on a school-zone offense, while N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14 allows school-zone offenders to be sentenced to Drug Court probation. The statute permitting entry into Drug Court applies as long as the transaction occurring within the school-zone does not involve distribution to a minor. Mark Pope pled guilty to distribution in the parking lot of Vernon High School under a negotiated settlement agreement which contemplated defendant’s intent to apply to Drug Court. The Sussex County prosecutor argued that Pope’s violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7, involving distribution within 1000 feet of a school-zone, served as an automatic bar to defendant’s entry into Drug Court. Defendant’s appeal, in State v. Pope, asked the NJ Appellate Division to reconsider Pope’s application to Drug Court based on the requirements of track 1 or 2 for admission. Track 1 being the commission of a crime subject to a presumption of mandatory incarceration and the satisfaction of 9 factors. Typically this is reserved for 1st or 2nd degree crimes and is done with the consent of the prosecutor. Track 2 is typically applied to those with ongoing drug habits who have not committed any form of violent offense. The NJ Appellate Judges held that the trial court misapplied the statute and remanded the matter for consideration under the appropriate criteria. A drug related conviction in NJ can have serious and lasting consequences including prison, loss of license, substantial fines and the stigma of the conviction or plea can result in the loss of certain employment or educational opportunities. If you are facing charges of use, possession or distribution of CDS including marijuana, meth, oxy, heroin, xanax or other drugs, it is critical you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to protect your rights. For more information about prescription or non-prescription drug charges for use possession or distribution, gang-related drug charges, controlled dangerous substances in a motor vehicle, DUI and other criminal and serious municipal court matters visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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