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New Jersey Law Would Impose Court Fees on Drug Crimes Defendants

A bill introduced during the current session of the New Jersey Assembly would authorize criminal courts to require people who are convicted of certain first-degree drug crimes to contribute to the cost of their own prosecution. This would add to fines already written into New Jersey law, which can amount to at least $750,000 against certain drug trafficking offenders, and even more based on a statutory formula that computes the fine at five times the street value of confiscated drugs.

Assembly Bill 2655 would allow courts to fine defendants the equivalent value of "any services provided and any costs or expenses incurred by a public body arising from or associated with the defendant's prosecution." The fine would apply to defendants accused of the following first-degree drug offenses:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Maintaining or operating a controlled dangerous substance facility
  • Booby trapping of a manufacturing or distribution facility
  • Manufacturing, distributing or dispensing a controlled dangerous substance

While the author of the bill states that the bill is aimed at drug kingpins, in practice the law's passage will mean another major consequence for a wide range of drug offenders who face a criminal conviction. The offenses listed in the bill already come with potential prison terms ranging from ten years to life.

Putting even more resources in the hands of local prosecutors would mean additional incentives for accused individuals to work closely with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. In the aftermath of a bust involving significant quantities of any controlled substance, a drug crimes attorney can provide advice and representation about seeking to reduce charges and asserting a client's rights to avoid the worst criminal consequences.

Source: The Trentonian, "NJ bill takes aim at drug kingpins," 3/15/12.

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