Can I Be Charged with a Crime for Underage Marijuana Possession in NJ?

Leveraging More Than Two Decades of Experience to Protect Your Future
cupped hands holding a pile of weed

You might be aware that New Jersey recently enacted laws decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and legalizing regulated recreational use of the substance. The statutes apply to adults 21 years of age and older. But what if you're under the legal age to possess and consume marijuana? Can you face criminal penalties for such conduct?

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In answer, if you're under 21 years of age and you have or consume a lawful amount of pot, you will not be charged with a crime. In fact, when Governor Phil Murphy signed the decriminalization and legalization bills into law, he also approved a measure that reduced penalties for violations committed by those under the legal age.

What Happens If You're Under 21 and Caught with Pot?

The law concerning underage possession enumerates the consequences arising from first and subsequent violations.

They include the following:

  • First violation:
    • Written warning
  • Second violation:
    • Written warning
    • Referral to community services
  • Third or subsequent violation:
    • Write-up
    • Referral to community services

When a person under 18 years of age is given a written warning or write-up, it is provided to the individual's parents and/or guardian. It's also kept on file only for determining subsequent violations but is not recorded on any criminal record.

Do I Have to Attend Community Services?

As noted above, a second or subsequent marijuana violation by a person under 21 years of age comes with a written warning and a referral to community services.

The services include initiatives such as:

  • Counseling,
  • Tutoring,
  • Mentoring, and
  • Faith-based programs

Their focus is on helping the individual address any issues that led to the violation.

Attending services is not mandatory. The law states that if a person fails to take part in a community initiative, they won't face any criminal consequences. For instance, they won't receive a summons to appear in court, a complaint won't be filed against them, and legal action won't be taken to force compliance.

Do I Have to Consent to a Police Search?

If you're under the legal age to possess or consume marijuana, you cannot lawfully give permission for a police officer to search you or your property. Additionally, the officer cannot request that you give consent for such action.

The law also provides that law enforcement officials cannot use the scent of marijuana as justification for a search. This means that even if an officer believes you smell of pot, they cannot use that as reasonable suspicion to stop or search you. If they do, they have violated your rights.

What Happens to My Weed If I'm Accused of a Violation?

If an officer finds marijuana on you, they may confiscate and destroy it.

At Roberts & Teeter, LLC, we're here to help you understand the law and your rights. We also provide defense for those who have been criminally charged with marijuana possession in New Jersey.

For legal help, call us at (732) 607-5553 or contact us online.

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