Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer In New Jersey
Federal crimes concern the laws of the United States of America. In some cases, federal laws overlap with or interact with state laws, such as the laws of the state of New Jersey. Federal crimes can involve serious penalties, such as hefty fines and years of incarceration in federal prison.
An experienced attorney at Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates will help you understand what is at stake and how you could effectively defend against criminal charges. In fact, Tara Breslow-Testa takes care of all cases herself. Her clients get personalized attention that they might not receive at larger firms. If you are charged with a federal crime in New Jersey, contact Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates online or at (732) 784-2880 to learn more about how we can help.Federal Crimes Information Center
- Drug Possession
- Drug Distribution
- Drug Manufacturing
- Drug Importation, Drug Exportation, and Drug Smuggling
- Manufacturing, Distributing, Or Possessing With Intent To Distribute A Counterfeit Substance
- Racketeering (RICO)
- Money Laundering
- Wire Fraud
- Mail Fraud
- Federal Crimes Attorneys
It is a federal crime to possess certain illegal substances. Drug possession is also a crime in the state of New Jersey. Typically, if you cross state lines while possessing drugs, you will be charged with a federal crime. If you stayed only within New Jersey, you would be charged with a state crime.
There are many drugs that are considered illegal controlled substances. Under federal law, there are five "schedules" or classifications for controlled substances.
Many controlled substances, generally thought of as street drugs, fall under Schedule I. They are considered to have no medicinal use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs include:
- LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)
- GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid)
- Quaaludes (methaqualone)
- Marijuana (cannabis) - although marijuana has been legalized in most states, including New Jersey, it is still illegal under federal law.
The difference between Schedule I and the other schedules is that Schedule I drugs are not considered to have any medicinal value. The other schedules are considered to have some medicinal value but also potential for abuse and dependence. Of these, Schedule II drugs are considered the most dangerous, Schedule V drugs the least dangerous.
Schedule II contains many prescription drugs. These drugs may currently or in the past have had a medicinal use. Still, they are now considered dangerous, with a high potential for abuse and dependence. Schedule II controlled substances include:
- PCP (phencyclidine)
- OxyContin (oxycodone)
- Demerol (meperidine)
Schedule III controlled substances are considered to have a moderate risk of abuse (less than that of Schedule I and II controlled substances). They include:
- Products (such as Tylenol) with a small amount of codeine (over-the-counter Tylenol does not contain codeine, but Tylenol with codeine is a prescription medicine)
- Anabolic steroids
Schedule IV controlled substances are considered to have a low risk of abuse or dependence (less than that of Schedule III controlled substances). They include:
Schedule V controlled substances are considered to be the mildest. They include:
- Robitussin AC
The penalty for drug possession varies with the type and amount of drugs possessed. Possession of Schedule I and II controlled substances is punished more severely than possession of the controlled substances on Schedule III, which is punished more severely than possession of controlled substances on Schedule IV, which is punished more severely than possession of controlled substances on Schedule V.
It is illegal under federal law to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance. This is known as drug distribution or drug trafficking. Drug distribution is also a crime under New Jersey law. Generally, although not always, if the trafficking crosses state lines, it will be charged as a federal crime. However, if the entirety of the trafficking occurs within the state lines of New Jersey, it will be charged by the state of New Jersey under New Jersey laws.
The federal drug distribution crime also includes possessing a controlled substance with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense that controlled substance. This may be called "possession with intent" and is a more serious crime than simple possession. The intent to distribute may be established from circumstantial evidence, such as the number of drugs involved, or the presence of a scale, baggies, or large amounts of cash. Testimony from witnesses may also be used to prove intent to distribute the drugs.
The severity of the penalty for drug distribution or possession with intent varies with the type and amount of drugs distributed or possessed. Distribution of Schedule I and II controlled substances is punished more severely than the distribution of the controlled substances on Schedule III, which is punished more severely than the distribution of controlled substances on Schedule IV, which is punished more severely than the distribution of controlled substances on Schedule V.
As discussed above, it is illegal under federal law to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance. "Manufacturing" drugs most often refers to growing marijuana or making meth in a lab, but it can apply to the manufacture of any drug. You may not even have to be directly involved in growing or making the drugs to be charged with manufacturing a controlled substance—in some cases, it is enough to have supplied materials to someone else who then uses those materials to make or grow drugs.
It is illegal under federal law to import controlled substances into the United States.
It is also illegal under federal law to export controlled substances out of the United States.
As with most drug crimes, the severity of the penalty for drug importation and drug exportation varies with the type and amount of drugs smuggled. If the smuggled drugs cause death or serious injury, the penalty can be severe—20 years to life in prison and a $10 million fine.
It is a federal crime to manufacture, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute a counterfeit substance. Under federal law, a "counterfeit substance" is a controlled substance that has a false label—that is, it purports to have been manufactured or distributed by someone it was not manufactured or distributed by.
The penalties for manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute a counterfeit substance are similar to those for other controlled substances.
Drug trafficking is another term for the distribution of a controlled substance. Under federal law, anyone convicted of drug trafficking may be declared ineligible for federal benefits.
A federal criminal defense lawyer assists defendants who face drug crimes charges, such as drug trafficking, drug possession, and distribution. If you have been accused of a federal drug crime or are facing a federal criminal investigation, an experienced criminal defense attorney can advocate for you before a federal judge. Contact our federal criminal defense lawyers at Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates today to learn more about how we can protect your rights in federal court.
Racketeering is a very serious crime. New Jersey has its own anti-racketeering laws; however, we will only consider the federal crime here. Racketeering may be charged at the federal level under a law known as RICO. RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It is a United States federal law created to provide additional penalties for crimes committed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. In other words, the RICO statute was created primarily to fight organized crime.
Racketeering is defined as receiving income from engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity or through the collection of an unlawful debt.
A "pattern of racketeering" requires at least two acts, within ten years of each other, that each qualify as racketeering activity.
"Racketeering activity" refers to a number of offenses. These include state crimes such as:
- Drug trafficking
It also includes federal crimes such as:
- Mail fraud
- Wire fraud
- Human trafficking
- Theft of trade secrets
- Obstruction of justice
- Witness tampering
- Money laundering
- Child exploitation
- Interstate transportation of stolen property
- Copyright infringement
- Biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons
- Smuggling immigrants
"Unlawful debt" means a debt related to illegal gambling or to loaning money at an excessive ("usurious") rate. A usurious rate is a rate that is at least twice the enforceable rate or interest on a loan.
The penalty for each count of federal racketeering is up to twenty years in prison. Often, there will be multiple counts of racketeering in each case. Also, keep in mind that these RICO penalties are in addition to the penalties for the underlying crimes. The RICO statute also allows for large fines and forfeiture of assets gained through racketeering.
RICO also allows for civil suits by private citizens who were harmed financially by racketeering crimes. This can result in the plaintiff (the citizen making the claim) receiving treble (triple) damages from the defendant accused of racketeering.
The federal crime of conspiracy occurs when two or more people agree to commit a federal crime. Conspiracy does not require that the underlying act was actually committed, just that an agreement was made. In some cases, the prosecution will be required to prove that an overt act occurred to further the conspiracy. This means the conspirators must do more than just talk about the crime; they must actually take some action towards committing the crime.
Some common federal crimes that may lead to conspiracy charges are:
- Drug trafficking
- Money laundering
- Mail fraud
- Wire fraud
- Other types of fraud
- Obstruction of justice
- Arson (to be a federal crime, the arson must affect property owned by the federal government)
In many cases, the penalties for conspiracy are the same as the penalties for the underlying offense, despite the fact the underlying offense may not even have been committed. Thus, conspiracy charges should be taken very seriously.
Money laundering refers to taking ill-gotten or "dirty" money and making it appear to be legitimate or "clean." Money laundering is a federal crime and a state crime in New Jersey.
There are several terms and concepts that apply to money laundering. These terms and definitions apply to money laundering cases both federally and in New Jersey state cases.
Placement involves moving "dirty" money into the legitimate financial system. This may involve mixing illegally gained money with legally earned money (for example, putting ill-gotten cash in the cash register of a legitimate business), creating false invoices; putting money in financial trusts to conceal the owner of the money; and investing money offshore.
Smurfing is a form of placement. It refers to making many small transactions spread out over various accounts to avoid federal reporting requirements.
Layering (sometimes called concealment or structuring) refers to using various placement techniques over and over again, making it very difficult to trace the origin of the money. A series of shell companies may be used, or goods may be purchased and resold. Sometimes these transactions may occur in foreign countries or by using cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin or Ethereum).
Extraction (sometimes called integration) occurs when the money is finally used. The money returns to the money launderer via what appears to be a legitimate source. The money is now "clean" – it can be used for any purpose without attracting attention from law enforcement. The launderer may use this now apparently legitimate money to make expensive purchases, such as houses, vehicles, electronics, or jewelry.
Penalties for money laundering vary and can include substantial time in prison. Money laundering is often added to a list of other federal charges. These other charges frequently include fraud, embezzlement, or drug trafficking.
Counterfeiting is a federal crime and involves creating, distributing, or spending fake cash or securities (such as treasury notes, reserve notes, or bonds). It is also illegal to own or possess tools that can be used in counterfeiting, such as counterfeiting plates and images that can be used to make fake cash. It is against federal law to pass off counterfeit currency with the intent to defraud and to buy, transfer, receive, or deliver counterfeit currency if you intend for it to be passed off as real.
Counterfeiting carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
Wire fraud is a very broadly defined federal crime. Essentially, it includes any sort of fraud that involves phone lines, cell phones, or the internet in any way. Fraud is also interpreted broadly to mean any sort of false pretense or other wrongdoing that results in the victim losing something.
The following is a list of communications that may be involved in federal wire fraud:
- Phone calls (landline or cell phone)
- Text messages
- Social media posts
- Online sales and auctions
Often, wire fraud is charged in addition to other federal charges. The penalty for wire fraud can be as much as 20 years in prison.
Federal mail fraud occurs whenever the U.S. Postal Service is used as part of a fraud. As in federal wire fraud, for purposes of mail fraud, fraud is interpreted broadly to mean any sort of false pretense or other wrongdoing that results in the victim suffering a loss.
Like wire fraud, mail fraud is often charged in addition to other federal charges. The penalty for mail fraud can be as much as 20 years in prison. If the fraud is related to a federally declared disaster (such as claiming to be part of a disaster relief program for hurricane victims) or if it affects a financial institution (such as a bank), the penalty is raised to a fine as much as $1,000,000 or 30 years in prison.
In 1996, the United States Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, which included an anti-stalking law. Under this law, it is a federal crime to cross state lines to stalk or harass another person. Crossing state lines is a broad concept - if a telephone, the internet, or the US mail is used in the course of stalking someone, you may be charged with a federal crime.
The federal law states that you commit the crime of stalking if you:
- Engage in conduct that
- Put another person (the victim) in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to themselves, their family, their intimate partner, or their pet (including service animals and horses)
- Caused, attempted to cause, or could reasonably be expected to have caused substantial emotional distress to the victim, or
- Engage in the course of conduct in which you
- Act with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate the victim
- Act with intent to place the victim under surveillance to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate the victim
Under the federal stalking law, "substantial emotional distress" means mental distress, suffering, or anguish, which may include depression, shame, humiliation, shock, embarrassment, grief, anxiety, or fear.
Under the federal stalking law, "course of conduct" is defined as two or more acts that form a pattern showing a consistent purpose.
Penalties for federal or interstate stalking range from 5 years in prison if the victim is not physically harmed; to life in prison if the victim is killed as a result of the stalking. If the victim of the stalking is a minor (under 18 years old), you may face an additional five years in prison.
New Jersey has its own stalking law.
If you have been accused of a federal crime, know that you do not have to face this scary situation alone. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney at Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates is here to help. Our highly skilled lawyers have years of experience protecting the rights of defendants charged with federal crimes. In fact, experienced criminal defense attorney Tara Breslow-Testa personally handles all cases at the firm to ensure quality representation. Tara Breslow-Testa gives careful attention to all steps in the process to meet the individualized needs of her clients. With offices throughout New Jersey, we are standing by to help you. Reach out for a free, confidential consultation today at (732) 784-2880 or online.