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What is possession with intent?

In New Jersey, even a minor drug possession charge can carry some stiff penalties. But, what if the charges go beyond possession? What if you find yourself facing a charge of possession with the intent to distribute?

If you are facing criminal charges for drugs, it is important to understand the crime with which the state or federal government is charging you. For instance, a possession with intent charge consists of three elements that must all be satisfied.

Three elements

In general, you can break a charge of possession with the intent to distribute into three parts. The first element that must exist is possession. Then, there must be the intent to distribute. Finally, the two parts must combine to form a charge of possession with the intent to distribute.


While you might think that possession means that you actually have to physically have the drugs on you, in reality, you simply need to be in control of the substance. In other words, if the drugs are in your home or car, you could still face a possession charge. However, you must also be aware of the presence of the drugs in order to be in possession, or control, of them.

Intent to distribute

In order for the second part of the charge to be valid, the government has to prove that you were planning to distribute or sell the drugs. Typically, the way most prosecutors do this is by arguing that the amount of drugs in a defendant's possession are too large a quantity for personal use. In addition, there must be other signs of the intent to sell, like packaging materials, certain drug paraphernalia and perhaps even large amounts of cash in the accused's possession.

Possess with intent

Both of the above elements must exist at the same time in order for the government to charge someone with possession with the intent to distribute. For example, if you had only a small amount of marijuana in your possession at the time of your arrest, then it is likely that there was no intent to distribute. On the other hand, if a person is eventually intending to sell an illegal substance but does not have possession of that substance, then possession with the intent to distribute cannot exist.

If you are facing a drug charge, whether it is for possession or possession with the intent to distribute, it is important to understand your options. With a strong defense, you might be able to beat the charges and avoid a criminal conviction.

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