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“Thanks Tara for always believing in me and making me feel like I was your only client. You made the impossible possible. Forever grateful.”

- Gabriel V.

Monmouth County Cocaine Distribution Lawyer

New Jersey has a tremendous problem with cocaine and crack - hospitalization, crime, murders, gangs and organized crime, theft, broken homes, broken lives. If you are being investigated for distribution of cocaine - or if you have been arrested - the first person you should talk to is Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer County drug crimes lawyer Tara Breslow-Testa. Born, bred and educated (Rutgers) in New Jersey, Ms. Breslow-Testa has tried dozens of drug cases, and understands the complicated equation of drug cases in court: aggressive prosecutors, stern judges and the potential to have cases diverted to Drug Court or treatment programs, or to have cases thrown out on technicalities.

New Jersey classifies cocaine as a Schedule II Controlled Dangerous Substance, which means it has a high potential for abuse, an acceptable medical use with severe restrictions and abuse can lead to severe psychic or physical dependence. 

While medical marijuana is restrictedly legal in New Jersey and there could be significant changes in the recreational laws after the Christie Dynasty ends in 2018 - legal and/or decriminalized cocaine is definitely not the situation in New Jersey. Cocaine is highly addictive - whether snorted, injected or mixed with baking soda and smoked as “crack” - and is second only to marijuana in the United States - which is by far the largest consumer of cocaine in the world.

Possession of cocaine is a third degree offense in New Jersey, and the statutes have some leniency: First time offenders can have the option of being diverted to Drug Court, Pre-Trial Intervention or other treatment programs.

Distribution of cocaine is another matter. A conviction for trafficking can lead to a life sentence in prison and a fine up to $500,000.

Weight Matters: Manufacturing, Distributing or Dispensing Cocaine

New Jersey statutes N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5 detail weights, measures, penalties and fines for manufacturing, distributing, or possessing cocaine with intent to distribute.

Measured weight matters when it comes to distributing cocaine, and the penalties range from first to fourth degree.

  • Manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute five or more ounces of cocaine is a first degree crime, punishable by 10 to 20 years in New Jersey State Prison and a maximum fine of $500,000.
    First degree crimes come with a “presumption of incarceration” which means even first-time offenders face mandatory prison time.
  • Manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute between a half ounce and five ounces of cocaine is a second degree crime, punishable by 5 to 10 years in New Jersey State Prison and a maximum fine of $150,000.
    Second degree crimes also come with a “presumption of incarceration” which means even first-time offenders face mandatory prison time.
  • Manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute less than a half-ounce of cocaine is a third degree crime: punishable by 3 to 5 years in New Jersey State Prison and a fine of up to $75,000.
    Third degree crimes come with a presumption of non-incarceration. First-time offenders are possible candidates for Drug Court, Pre-Trial Intervention, or probation. With an experienced, dedicated attorney by your side, it is possible to achieve a downgrading of a more serious charge to a lesser offense that could lead to a diversionary program.
  • Selling cocaine within 1000 feet of a school adds one-third to one-half of the prison term imposed in the sentence - or three years, whichever is great - with the defendant ineligible for parole. In addition, there is a fine up to $150,000.
  • Selling cocaine to a minor or pregnant woman will double the penalties - prison time and fines.
Trafficking: Million Dollar a Month Manalapan Drug Ring

The penalty for being the leader of a narcotics trafficking network is 25 years to life in prison and or a fine of $500,000.

A perfect example of how much trouble you can get into for distributing cocaine went down in otherwise quiet Manalapan Township.

In 2008, state and Federal agents arrested Vicente Esteves, his wife Chantal and five accomplices for running a drug trafficking ring out of a lavish mansion that was hiding in plain sight in a quiet suburban street of Manalapan.

In a situation that combines Good Fellas and/or Scarface and/or Traffic, Esteves and accomplices were importing as much as 1000 kilos of cocaine a month using couriers on commercial flights. They were distributing the drugs from New Jersey to Florida, and using two legit businesses to launder as much as $1 million a month.

The operation to uncover the ring was called Operation Unbounded and resulted in the arrest of Vicente and his wife, who were held on $10 million and $5 million bail, respectively.

In March of 201, Vicente Esteves plead guilty to racketeering conspiracy, being a leader of a narcotics trafficking network, possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, and two counts of financial facilitation of criminal activity. In August of 2010, Vicente Esteves was sentenced to 25 years in prison - with 12.5 years mandatory before being eligible for probation - and ordered to pay a $1.5 million fine.

Although Vicente’s wife Chantal admitted she signed money orders knowing they came from an illegal enterprise, she was allowed to be diverted into a pre-trial intervention program, which could lead to these very serious charges being expunged from her record.

The cocaine ring of Vicente Esteves was also involved in the conviction of former State and Federal Prosecutor Paul Bergrin being sentenced to six life sentences on a wide variety of Federal charges, including racketeering and ordering the assassination of a witness in another drug case.

Pre-Trial Intervention

Chantal Esteves was involved in a multi-million-dollar drug trafficking ring that could have lead to her being sentenced to life in prison and paying millions in fines. But instead she was diverted to pre-trial intervention and served no jail time.

According to the New Jersey Courts website, Pre-Trial Intervention “provides defendants, generally first-time offenders, with opportunities for alternatives to the traditional criminal justice process of ordinary prosecution. PTI seeks to render early rehabilitative services, when such services can reasonably be expected to deter future criminal behavior. The PTI program is based on a rehabilitative model that recognizes that there may be an apparent causal connection between the offense charged and the rehabilitative needs of a defendant. Further, the rehabilitative model emphasizes that social, cultural, and economic conditions often result in a defendant's decision to commit crime.

Pre trial intervention is a kind of criminal rehab which realizes citizens might have extenuating circumstances for committing a crime, and allows their cases to be diverted to a strictly-monitored program designed to prevent them from committing crimes in the future.

Pre trial intervention is closely monitored, and upon successful completion, the crimes are expunged from a person’s record. Even a crime as serious as running a multi-million-dollar cocaine ring, in which an attorney was convicted of plotting a murder for hire.

Better Call Tara

Distribution of cocaine is a very serious offense in New Jersey and calls for a serious, experienced, knowledgeable attorney by your side, if accused.

Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer County cocaine distribution lawyer Tara Breslow-Testa is that experienced, dedicated attorney you want by your side. She is a veteran of many drug cases over the years, and understands the history, philosophy and give and take of drug cases - squaring off against aggressive prosecutors and hardened judges.

Cocaine distribution is serious business in New Jersey, and can lead to conviction, jail and fines with life-long resonations. If you have been arrested on cocaine charges, call Tara Breslow-Testa for a free consultation at (732) 784-2880.

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