People stopped for a motor vehicle infraction in New Jersey often end up charged with possession of marijuana (or CDS, for Controlled Dangerous Substance) because the container was in plain sight or was found in a routine search of the car incident to your arrest. But just because they found some "leafy brown vegetation" in a baggy doesn't mean that they have you dead to rights.

The Police Must Prove It's CDS

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts that laboratory reports related to the testing of drugs at a police laboratory are to be considered as testimonial evidence within the meaning of the Sixth Amendment. In effect, this means that a criminal defendant has the right at trial to confront personally the maker of the laboratory report on confrontation clause grounds.

New Jersey has held this to be the case for many years with lab results of a DWI Blood test, testimony of person who drew blood sample from intoxicated defendant, and requiring the defendant to put the state on notice that the lab tech will be required to appear to testify in court.

So You May Have a Defense to Possession

What does this mean?  Potentially, quite a bit.  If the state's case against you for possession is based on a lab test of that "brown vegetative substance," that lab report becomes critical.  Without it, they lose!  Thus the prosecutor has to be sure that the lab technician that conducted the test and wrote the report is subpoenae'd and ready to testify at trial in order for the results of the test to be accepted into evidence.

Remember, just because the police suspect that that white powder is cocaine, doesn't mean that it is and more importantly, cannot be proven to be such without that lab test.  

The state police labs have been backlogged for years, and can take months to get a report to the prosecutor. However, you have a right to a speedy trial and shouldn't have to wait that long for the state to have that evidence and go to trial. I have been successful in getting charges dropped because the prosecutor couldn't get a lab report before a court deadline.

So What Should I Do?

The upshot of all of this is that people charged with drug offenses need to be aware of this right to confront state witnesses and to see the lab test results, and should consult with an attorney to make sure those rights are protected. 

If you have been charged with possession of marijuana in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem or Cumberland County, call me immediately at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment for a free consultation in my Woodbury office. If you are out of state or out of the area, this can be done by phone.

If you are looking for more information on New Jersey's traffic laws, then download my free book, A Guide to Driving Legally in NJ, and Surviving Traffic Court If You Don't.

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.