In New Jersey, there are certain behaviors that are illegal, such as underage drinking, possession of illicit substances, and shoplifting, and people who engage in such activity may be charged with a crime. In some instances, though, the actual criminal activity will be deemed so insignificant in terms of risk of harm that it will be deemed a de minimis offense, and the charges arising out of the activity will be dismissed. What constitutes a de minimis offense was the subject of a ruling recently set forth by a New Jersey court in a case in which the defendants were charged with crimes after being caught with a small amount of marijuana. If you are charged with possession of marijuana or any other crime, it is advisable to speak to a capable New Jersey drug crime defense attorney to determine what defenses you may be able to assert.

The Alleged Crime

It is reported that the defendants were sitting on a beach in New Jersey when they were approached by a police officer. The officer noted that the male defendant had a lighter in his hand, and, as smoking on the beach was illegal, he questioned the defendants regarding their behavior. The officer ultimately discovered that the male defendant was in possession of approximately 8.4 grams of marijuana and a marijuana pipe.

Allegedly, both defendants were charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. The defendants both moved to have their charges dismissed as de minimis violations, partially due to the small amount of marijuana that was seized. The trial court granted the motion, and the charges against the defendants were dismissed, after which the State appealed.

De Minimis Crimes in New Jersey

The New Jersey de minimis statute provides that a judge may dismiss a criminal charge if he or she finds that the defendant’s behavior was within a customary tolerance that was not explicitly negated by the person whose interest was allegedly infringed upon or inconsistent with the law defining the criminal activity. A judge may also deem a crime de minimis if it did not actually cause the harm that the law defining the offense was designed to prevent or that any harm caused was so trivial it did not warrant a conviction.

A judge must make its assessment while considering both the nature of the charged offense and the circumstances out of which the charge arose. In the subject case, the court found that the defendants were found with more than enough marijuana to prosecute them for violating the law. Further, they possessed not only marijuana but also paraphernalia, which suggested their use was more than casual. The court explained that while marijuana use may soon be legalized, it would still be prohibited in certain circumstances, such as when the users were underage like the defendants. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Speak with a Skillful Criminal Defense Attorney in New Jersey

While recreational marijuana use will soon become lawful in New Jersey, there are still circumstances under which the possession or consumption of marijuana is illegal. If you are accused of possession of marijuana or another drug offense, you should speak to an attorney regarding your rights. The skillful New Jersey criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can advise you of your possible defenses and help you to seek the best outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 877-450-8301 to set up a meeting.