Possession of illegal drugs in a motor vehicle is both a criminal and traffic offense in New Jersey. For example, if you are stopped for a traffic violation and found in possession of five (5) grams of marijuana, you will be charged with a criminal violation for possession of marijuana (under fifty (50) grams in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(4) and possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) in a motor vehicle in violation of N.J.S. 39:4-49.1 which provides in pertinent part:

§ 39:4-49.1. Drug possession by motor vehicle operator

No person shall operate a motor vehicle on any highway while knowingly having in his possession or in the motor vehicle any controlled dangerous substance as classified in Schedules I, II, III, IV and V of the “New Jersey Controlled Dangerous Substances Act,” P.L. 1970, c. 226 or any prescription legend drug, unless the person has obtained the substance or drug from, or on a valid written prescription of, a duly licensed physician, veterinarian, dentist or other medical practitioner licensed to write prescriptions intended for the treatment or prevention of disease in man or animals or unless the person possesses a controlled dangerous substance pursuant to a lawful order of a practitioner or lawfully possesses a Schedule V substance.

A person who violates this section shall be fined not less than $ 50.00 and shall forthwith forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle for a period of two years from the date of his conviction.

According to the above statute, the penalty for possession of drugs in a motor vehicle is severe: a two (2) year suspension of your New Jersey driver’s license. This suspension is in addition to the six (6) month driver’s license suspension imposed for the violation of the possession of marijuana statute, N.J.S. 2C:35-10(4). However, if you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you may be able to avoid the driver’s license suspension altogether. The merits of the search can be attacked, a hardship application can be made to the judge, and you may be eligible for the conditional discharge program.