What Might Lead to Someone Being Arrested and Charged With Distribution or Intent to Distribute in New Jersey?
One of the biggest tactics police officers use are traffic stops. During the stop, they look at different characteristics or attributes of the people stopped, such as their level of nerves, their behavior when asked simple questions about their destination, and so forth. They might talk to different people in the car separately and look for conflicting stories when asked the same questions. Where are you going? Where did you come from? What were you going there for? Did you stop anywhere? If the stories don’t match up, as they often don’t, then they use that as a basis to probe further and establish what they call probable cause so they can search the car. One interesting note regarding traffic stops is that police can no longer use the smell of marijuana as probable cause, unless it’s recognizable as raw marijuana for distribution. This law is still developing and only came down recently.
In addition to asking questions, law enforcement will look at traffic searches to determine where the car went before it was there. They’re allowed to bring a dog out on a regular car stop and have the dog smell around the car to alert them if there’s anything there. They also use the uneven playing field to their advantage and will ask the person to consent to the search of their car. They might make threats or say, “Hey, if you consent, you could be out of here quickly. If not, this could take hours.” They have many tools at their disposal for traffic stops.
A second tactic they may use is a short-term investigation that involves a confidential informant in the drug trade (usually someone who’s been caught using illegal drugs and agrees to help the police as a way to get themselves out of trouble). In many cases, these confidential informants are paid by the police or given certain things they want (as in drugs) in order to cooperate with the police department. When the police officers and municipalities of South Jersey arrest somebody, the first thing they try and do is get them to cooperate with them. Who did you get your drugs from? Do you know this person well? Can you make a buy from them? Can you introduce us and our undercover agent or officer to this person? They use these confidential informants to get reductions in higher level dealings and to make undercover buys.
Police will also use undercover officers during short-term investigations. After the confidential informant introduces them, the undercover officer can make buys from this dealer or have the informant make buys. They’ll bring marked money to the dealer and make certain purchases, which gives them probable cause to then get a warrant.
A third tactic is to get people to consent to the search of their residence. Most people don’t know they should ask to have a lawyer present with them when they’re dealing with the police, and the police will offer them reasons why it’ll be a good idea to have their homes searched now rather than later. Law enforcement can, for instance, tell you to stay out of your home until they get a warrant, which could take hours or even a couple of days. I know someone who had dogs inside of their home but wasn’t allowed to walk them or feed them. When they asked to take care of their pets, they were told, “If you consent to let us search your house, we’ll let you in to feed your dogs. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait while we apply for a warrant.” This, to me, is coercion.
Another tactic they’ll use is surveillance. They’ll look at what type of traffic comes to the home, how many cars, how often, the routine of the person in the house, whether they leave the house at the same time, where they go when they leave the house, whether there’s another home they’re going to on a routine basis, etc.
Then, there are long-term investigations, which usually require additional law enforcement techniques such as undercover agents who are actually police officers or someone working with the police. More importantly, they use wiretaps, which are becoming easier and easier to get. If you get a search warrant for a wiretap, you’re able to tap into their phone lines and listen to their conversations. There are, however, certain rules and regulations with wiretaps, and you have to make sure that they’re speaking about things that you’re listening for, as opposed to normal conversations. Wiretaps are becoming an increasingly popular tool amongst law enforcement.
During long-term investigations, law enforcement will have their undercover agents or confidential informants make multiple buys from the same dealer. When it’s time to determine the charge against an individual, they’re allowed to add up the amounts of these multiple buys ($40 of drugs here, $100 there) to reach a higher amount and, therefore, a more serious charge. Because sentences can be added consecutively or commutatively, that means more prison time. Others involved in the buys can be arrested and converted into more informants. The police might offer to buy the information from them or threaten them with charges if they don’t cooperate.
When police ask for search warrants in these long- and short-term investigations, they have to fill out an affidavit of the methods they’ve used to gain probable cause (wiretaps, multiple buys, information from a source, etc.). I ask to look at these search warrants in the affidavit to see if they’re able to be challenged. A good attorney might challenge the identity of the confidential informant as police don’t like to reveal their informants. If they do reveal their identity to us in discovery, they can’t continue to use them against other people. One bit of leverage we have is to try and make them uncover these confidential informants, or even their undercover agents.
For more information on Drug Charges in New Jersey, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (856) 499-8066 today.