Written by attorney Elliot S Stomel


In New Jersey, possession of drugs in a motor vehicle is governed by N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1, which states:

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 (C. 24:21-1 et seq.) 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."

The primary and most significant penalty under N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1 is a mandatory two-year license suspension. There is no provision under New Jersey law for a work license, conditional driver’s license, or anything short of an absolute suspension. There are also fines, assessments and motor vehicle surcharges that flow from a conviction.

It is also important to note this law is directed at operators, and does not apply to a passenger of a vehicle. An operator possesses a good argument against conviction under the statute if he is not within wingspan of physically controlling the marijuana. A good example for this is where the marijuana is on the person of a passenger.

Retaining an experienced attorney will increase chances of avoiding the two-year driver’s license suspension provided for under the law.

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