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Drug Possession and Drug Smuggling: What The Difference is in the Courtroom

drug defense lawyer cherry hill nj

The Difference Between NJ Drug Crimes

Being charged with a drug crime may lead to various legal consequences, based on the severity of the crime and the state the crime was committed. Drug possession and drug smuggling are different crimes that will be addressed differently by prosecutors. To learn the different consequences, first you should understand the difference between possession and smuggling.

Drug Possession

Drug possession is a simple crime with usually a minimal charge or fine. To be charged with possession, someone must be carrying a small amount of a drug on their person for personal use. Unlike smuggling, possession is characterized by only a small amount of a drug that is only intended for personal use and not sale. Possession also may occur when someone is consuming the drug in food or a needle.

Drug Smuggling

Drug smuggling or trafficking is a more severe crime than possession. When officers discover a large amount of drugs on a person or stored in a location with the intent to sell, a smuggling charge will most likely occur. With smuggling, drugs may be ready to be shipped out to multiple locations or in transportation to be sold commercially. Drugs may also be smuggled with the use of a mule or a person transporting drugs stored in a bag or a body cavity, or may also be unaware of drugs in their bags or equipment.

Crime Classifications

With drug charges, the charge will depend on the amount of drug. Here are the crime classifications for the amount of drug being carried for each type of drug.


  • 1st degree crime: 5 oz. or greater
  • 2nd degree crime: between .5 oz – 5 oz.
  • 3rd degree crime: less than .5 oz.

Cocaine and/or Heroin

  • 1st degree crime: greater than 5 oz.
  • 2nd degree crime: .5 oz.-5 oz.
  • 3rd degree crime: less than 1/2 oz.

Schedule I and/or 11 Narcotics

  • 2nd degree crime: 1 oz. or greater
  • 3rd degree crime: less than 1 oz.


  • 1st degree crime: 25 pounds or more (50 plants) or more than 5 pounds of concentrate
  • 2nd degree crime: 5 – 25 pounds (10-50 plants) or 1 to 5 pounds of concentrate
  • 3rd degree crime: between 1 oz. and 5 pounds concentrate
  • 4th degree crime: less than 1 oz (5 g.) concentrate


  • 2nd degree crime: less than 100 mg and/or the amount is undetermined

Legal Consequences:

Drug possession usually leads to a minimal charge because the person does not have the intent to sell. In contrast, smuggling involves a larger quantity of drugs and the intent to sell. The smuggling charge may elevate someone’s sentence to decades or life behind bars. Other factors that may impact the sentencing are the laws in effect at the time and the number and quality of drugs found at the scene. When facing either smuggling or possession charges, the individual will need the services of a criminal defense lawyer to refute charges and challenge evidence.

Contact an Experienced Burlington County Drug Defense Attorney About Your Drug Crime Charges in New Jersey

Have you been charged with a drug-related offense in New Jersey? A drug crime conviction can carry with it heavy fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension! That is why it is imperative that you speak with a qualified drug defense lawyer about your case.  Gelman Law, LLC represent clients charged with use, possession, production, distribution, and related drug offenses in Burlington County, Camden County, Cherry Hill and throughout New Jersey. Call (856)-474-1450 or fill out our confidential online contact form to schedule a consultation about your case. We have an office located at Rt. 70 East Suite 4 Cherry Hill, New Jersey 08003.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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