Any person being at least 18 years of age who knowingly uses, solicits, directs, hires or employs a person 17 years of age or younger to violate N.J.S.2C:35-4 or subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:35-5 , is guilty of a crime of the second degree and shall, except as provided in N.J.S.2C:35-12 , be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which shall include the imposition of a minimum term which shall be fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed, or five years, whichever is greater, during which the defendant shall be ineligible for parole. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:43-3 , the court may also impose a fine not to exceed$500,000.00 or five times the street value of the controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog involved, whichever is greater.
It shall be no defense to a prosecution under this section that the actor mistakenly believed that the person which the actor used, solicited, directed, hired or employed was 18 years of age or older, even if such mistaken belief was reasonable.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude or limit a prosecution or conviction for a violation of any offense defined in this chapter pursuant to N.J.S.2C:2-6 or any other provision of law governing an actor's liability for the conduct of another, and, notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:1-8 or any other provision of law, a conviction arising under this section shall not merge with a conviction for a violation of N.J.S.2C:35-3 (leader of narcotics trafficking network), N.J.S.2C:35-4 (maintaining or operating a CDS production facility), N.J.S.2C:35-5 (manufacturing, distributing or dispensing), or N.J.S.2C:35-9 (strict liability for drug induced death).
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