What Is New Jersey’s History With the War on Drugs and Anti-Drug Abuse Laws? Why Is Law Enforcement So Harsh Toward Those Accused of Drug Offenses?
Most of the people who come to see me who’ve been charged with distribution worry about one thing, and that’s prison, jail, whatever you want to call it. They’re concerned their freedom is about to be taken from them. And for good reason. The War on Drugs has exponentially increased the amount of law enforcement in this area. You can get stopped at the bottom of the Ben Franklin Bridge by any one of the eight to ten law enforcement agencies able to participate in traffics stops there—Camden County Police, Rutgers University Police, New Jersey State Police, the Transit Police, and a host of other police agencies that could be involved. What the War on Drugs has done is allow these different agencies to fund additional officers. There is much more law enforcement out there, there are more arrests, and there are more incarcerations.
If you’re arrested for something like distribution, the details of your arrest will be important. I need to know what type of arrest it was (or be able to figure it out because some people are unaware). Did it involve an undercover agent? Was there a search warrant? Was there a Fourth Amendment issue? Was it a wiretap case where they’ve been sitting on people’s phones listening in to these dealers? Was it some sort of an admission where you have a Fifth Amendment issue? Was it a long-term investigation that they’ve been at for months with different levels? Was there some sort of informant involved or a rat, someone who told on you? Did you ask for counsel?
I want to note there will also be a difference if you’re charged with possession with intent to distribute, or distribution, and possession. There are several different ways they’ll determine whether someone is distributing drugs or has the intent to distribute. The first is the amount of Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS). If you have five pounds of pot, that makes you a dealer, not a simple user, whereas if you have five grams of pot, that might just be for personal use. The amount of CDS, therefore, is very important.
The second determiner is the way the drugs are packaged. Are they in one big bag, or are they in fifteen little $10 bags or 20 $20 bags? The packaging will tell you a lot about the use or the intent for these drugs. The next determiner is the amount of money on the person who was stopped. Let’s say a young person who’s currently unemployed is stopped on a corner of a city street with $4,200 on them. That doesn’t make much sense, unless you assume that person is most likely dealing drugs. After that, they’ll look at that person’s lifestyle. Are they driving a late-model expensive car that they may not otherwise be able to pay for? They’ll stand out like a sore thumb, particularly in some of the areas where they’re selling, some of the more impoverished or lower income areas.
The next thing they might look at to determine between distribution and regular use is the cop’s observations. Did they see the person doing a hand-to-hand transaction with someone else? Did they observe someone handing them cash and receiving something in turn? The also might make a determination based on any info that law enforcement already has. Maybe they already had intel on the person, something like “The kid in the blue shirt on the corner deals heroin.” The cop can’t just go and arrest the guy because somebody gave him a tip, but he can sit and observe to see if the info is correct.
Finally, certain paraphernalia found in the house or in the car can be used to determine intent. People might have scales to weigh things. Someone who’s just buying drugs for personal use doesn’t always throw it on a scale. Maybe the cops find a box of empty baggies or vials—things that indicate dividing up a stash to distribute them. Other paraphernalia might include something to cut the drugs with, like baking soda or baking power. Those are all things that the state can use to try and show that your intent is to distribute rather than just personal use.
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.