Currently, there is a law on the books in New Jersey that increases the penalty for a drug charge when the crime is committed in proximity to a school. Like similar laws in other states, this one was passed with good intentions in mind. However, a 2005 study showed that the law is having little effect on the safety of our children and instead causing more problems than good.
The current law was passed in 1987 and enhances the penalty for a drug crime near a school even when the offense had absolutely nothing to do with the educational institution or its students. As this editorial details, because the population concentration and the number of schools in urban settings are so much higher, the law is actually serving to disproportionately incarcerate urban residents, leaving suburbanites getting off easier for many of the same crimes.
A 2005 study from the New Jersey Commission to Review Criminal Sentencing found that 8 in 10 of urban drug cases occurred in a school zone while only 2 out of 10 suburban offenses were near a school. Because the law adds an average of 3 years to a prison sentence, it seems to be one factor contributing to the overrepresentation of urban minorities in prisons.
In addition, during the study, only 2 out of 90 cases occurred on school property and none involved students.
Last year the Assembly passed legislation to change this law and Governor Corzine has said he will sign the bill when he gets it. In the meantime, the law continues to impact cases day in and day out.
Drug charges are serious enough without adding an additional 3 years to your sentence. If you are facing possession or even distributing charges you are likely wondering about all the factors that can affect your case.
Contacting an attorney to discuss your case is the first step in the right direction. Once I know the details of your situation, I can assist you in making the best choices in your case. Contact me today to discuss the specifics of your case and how to handle them.