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What happens when someone is arrested for drugs in a school zone?

For years state governments throughout the country, and even the federal government, have attempted to pass laws that crackdown harshly on drug offenses. Some states are beginning to differentiate between drug abusers and alleged drug dealers in their approach to drug law enforcement, making treatment a priority for those who are addicted to drugs and focusing the harshest of punishments for those who are alleged to be involved in drug distribution networks.

Our readers may be surprised to learn that the location of any alleged drug activity could play a major role in determining what type of drug charges will be filed in any given case in New Jersey. Some people may have heard about the "drugs in a school zone" law by now, but they may be left asking, "How exactly is this different from any other drug trafficking charge?"

The law states that anyone who is alleged to have engaged in drug distribution activity within 1,000 feet of a school can be charged with the separate offense of "distribution on or within 1,000 feet of school property." The law differentiates between marijuana and other controlled substances, with the penalties a bit less harsh for marijuana. However, for all other illegal drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, a term of imprisonment is the likely result in the event of a conviction.

To make matters worse, the law specifically states that it does not matter if a suspect knew he was within 1,000 feet of school property or not. And it doesn't matter if there weren't any kids present during the alleged activity either. As a result, planning a criminal defense strategy against this type of charge can oftentimes be quite a bit more difficult than it is for other drug crimes.

Source: New Jersey Statutes Title 2C: 35-7 Distribution on or within 1,000 feet of school property, accessed Nov. 4, 2014

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