Drug Trafficking in New Jersey

Drug addiction has been a continual problem across the U.S., as in 2017 there were roughly 72,000 drug overdoses. Recent data indicates that there are a steadily increasing number of such fatalities resulting from prescription opioids, heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines, methamphetamine, and more. The number of overdose deaths in New Jersey has increased by 154% since 2012. Illicit drugs sales across the U.S. are estimated to exceed $200 billion each year, which law enforcement is seeking to reduce.

N.J. Counties: Highest and Lowest Drug Overdose Deaths in 2018

Essex

Camden

Monmouth

Hunterdon

Warren

Sussex

390

329

221

20

30

35

Legislative Intent (2C:35-1.1)

Lawmakers feel that manufacturing, distributing, and abusing controlled substances have an adverse impact on public safety and wellbeing. They acknowledged that crime related to drugs is often violent and becoming more organized. Law enforcement is seeking to enhance the penalties imposed on repeat offenders that participate in networks that are trafficking in illegal drugs.

While the most dangerous drug offenders will be harshly punished, the State recognizes the importance of rehabilitative solutions for those who have become dependent on drugs. Special emphasis is also being placed on the safety of children who are exposed to drug trafficking.

Distribution Offenses and Penalties (2C:35-5)

It is unlawful to intentionally “manufacture, distribute, dispense, or to possess or have under his control with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, a controlled dangerous substance” as follows:

Heroin and Cocaine

If heroin or cocaine is involved in a quantity of five ounces or more the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the first degree. This applies to “coca leaves and any salt, compound, derivative or preparation” that is comparable or equivalent and includes any additives. The court may impose a mandatory minimum prison sentence where the offender is not eligible for parole. The fine may be increased beyond the standard for such an offense up to $500,000.

If the quantity of heroin or cocaine involved is in a quantity of between one-half ounce and five ounces the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the second-degree. If the quantity involved is under one-half ounce the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the third degree.  In either case, this applies to any substance that is comparable or equivalent and includes any additives as detailed above.

Methamphetamine “Crystal Meth”

If methamphetamine “or its analog, or phenyl-2-propanone (P2P)” that is involved is in a quantity of five ounces or more the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the first degree. The quantity does include any additives or substances that are used to dilute the drug. The fine may be increased beyond the standard for such an offense up to $300,000.

If the quantity of methamphetamine involved is in a quantity of between one-half ounce and five ounces the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the second degree. If the quantity involved in under one-half ounce the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the third degree.  In either case, the quantity does include any additives or substances that are used to dilute the drug as detailed above.

Marijuana and Hashish

If marijuana is involved in a quantity of 25 pounds, 50 or more marijuana plants, or five or more pounds of hashish the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the first degree. The fine may be increased beyond the standard for such an offense up to $300,000. If the quantity is between five and 25 pounds of marijuana, between 10 and 50 marijuana plants, or hashish in a quantity between one and five pounds the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the second degree.

If the quantity of marijuana is between one ounce and five pounds or between five grams and one pound of hashish the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the third degree. If the quantity of marijuana is less that one ounce or less than five grams of hashish the offender(s) may be charged with a crime of the fourth degree.

Standard Penalties for New Jersey Offenses

Offense Level

Incarceration Period

Maximum Fine

First Offense

10 to 20 years

Up to $200,000

Second Degree

5 to 10 years

Up to $150,000

Third Degree

3 to 5 years

Up to $15,000

Fourth Degree

18 months

Up to $10,000

Leading a Trafficking Network of Narcotics (2C:35-3)

A trafficking network of narcotics involves two or more individuals in a conspiracy that is manufacturing, distributing, or transporting “methamphetamine, lysergic acid diethylamide, phencyclidine, gamma hydroxybutyrate, flunitrazepam or any controlled dangerous substance classified in Schedule I or II.” The leader may assume a role in management or maybe financing the operation. This is a crime of the first degree and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 25 years may be imposed without parole eligibility. The fine may also be enhanced to up to $750,000.

Employing a Juvenile for Drug Distribution (2C:35-6)

Any adult that intentionally uses or employs a juvenile to distribute drugs may be charged with a crime of the second degree. The court may impose a mandatory minimum prison sentence where the offender is not eligible for parole. The fine may be increased beyond the standard for such an offense up to $500,000.

Drug Distribution in a School Zone (2C:35-7)

Those who distribute, dispense, or otherwise sell controlled substances on the property of a school or in 1,000 feet of a school or school bus may be charged with a crime of the third degree. The court may impose a mandatory minimum prison sentence where the offender is not eligible for parole. The fine may be increased beyond the standard for such an offense up to $150,000.

Enhanced Penalties for Drug Sales to Minors (2C:35-8)

Offenders found to distribute, dispense, or otherwise sell controlled substances to minors or a pregnant female may face enhanced penalties. The prison sentence and fine may be doubled and any “presumption of non-imprisonment” is not applicable.

Drug-Induced Death (2C:35-9)

Those who distribute, dispense, or otherwise sell controlled substances to any user who dies from usage may be considered strictly liable for a crime of the first degree. The alleged offender may not employ a defense that the user-contributed to their own death.

New Jersey Defense Attorney for Drug Trafficking

The penalties that may be imposed for drug trafficking offenses have been enhanced at both the state and federal levels. Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands how a conviction can result in life-altering ramifications including minimum sentences as long as 25 years. Those who need experienced defense counsel are encouraged to contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

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When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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