Pre-Trial Detention Appeals for Drug Related Offenses: State v. P.J.C.

State v. P.J.C.:

Submitted by New Jersey Drug Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

After conducting a motor vehicle stop, a police officer smelled marijuana, and pursuant to the motor vehicle exception to the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against illegal searches and seizures, searched the occupants. The passenger and driver said they had purchased the marijuana from defendant, who was sitting in the back seat of the car, for $40. Officers found $40 and a digital scale on defendant. He was charged with fourth-degree distribution of less than one ounce of marijuana, disorderly persons possession of drug paraphernalia and disorderly persons possession of 50 grams or less of marijuana without a prescription.

The trial court granted the state’s pretrial detention motion, noting defendant was on probation and Level III+ monitoring. The trial court provided numerous reasons for supporting this conclusion, which included the defendant being charged with “drug offenses,” the weight of the evidence supporting the charges, and defendant’s history and characteristics. The court specifically noted that when defendant committed the charged offenses, he “was on release (Level III+ monitoring) and also on probation. He had just been sentenced to probation four days before his arrest.” The court also considered defendant’s public safety assessment risk scale scores, five for failure to appear and six for new criminal activity, as well as the recommendation of no release.

Defendant moved to reopen the detention hearing and emphasized that the COVID-19 outbreak and his mother’s offer to serve as a “third party custodian” were reasons which warranted the grant of his motion. The trial court was convinced that the county sheriff was taking appropriate steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the virus was not a material factor in the detention decision. As a result, defendant appealed the grant of State’s motion for pretrial detention after his marijuana possession arrest.

The order granting pretrial detention includes a finding “by clear and convincing evidence that no amount of monetary bail, non-monetary conditions or combination of monetary bail and conditions would reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court when required, the protection of the safety of any other person or the community.”

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by rejecting the State’s plea offer of probation as a material factor to be considered. The appellate court found that the trial court’s oversight and failure to address defendant’s mother’s willingness to supervise defendant was a misapplication of discretion and remanded. The appellate court stated that if the court determines in this case the danger to the community is defendant selling small quantities of marijuana to others, some consideration will presumably be given to the likelihood of that occurring if defendant is confined to his home, under his mother’s custodial supervision, and is electronically monitored.

At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the present case pertaining to pre-trial detention appeals for drug related offenses. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation so that they receive the most favorable outcome as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the defendant in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties.

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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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