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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.

Princeton NJ

Big Trouble on Campus Princeton Criminal Defense Attorney Tara Breslow-Testa

We’ve got trouble, right here in Princeton, with a Capital T and that rhymes with C and that stands for College Kids.

Princeton is a borough and a municipality best known as home of the Ivy League Princeton University - but also institutions including Institute for Advanced Study, Westminster Choir College, Princeton Theological Seminary,, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Siemens Corporate Research, FMC Corporation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Amrep,and Dow Jones & Company.

Princeton is a prosperous municipality with a median household income of $112,000, which is well above the New Jersey average of $72,000. Princeton’s population is just over 30,000 - with just over 8,000 of that number Princeton students and just over 1,200 Princeton University staff.

Surprisingly, the Princeton campus get a D+ rating in crime, while the city of Princeton gets a C grade. Charts show that Burglary is the #1 crime, followed by Forcible Sexual Assault, then Aggravated Assault and then Motor Vehicle Theft.

Another chart shows Drug Possession leads Alcohol Possession with Firearm Possession in third place.

On or off campus, Princeton can spell trouble, and if you are on the wrong side of that trouble - whether it’s possessing Controlled Dangerous Substances alchemized in Chem lab, disorderly persons for roughing up visiting Harvard students, “borrowing” a sweet bike or motorcycle without asking or something more serious - rape, assault, drug trafficking, overdue library books - the first person you should talk to is Princeton criminal defense attorney Tara Breslow-Testa.

Born and bred in New Jersey, Ms. Breslow-Testa attended law school at Rutgers, and is experienced and able to defend you or a loved one arrested for crimes and misdemeanors in Princeton.

Smart, experienced, dedicated, Tara Breslow-Testa understands the calculus of New Jersey courts: What aggressive prosecutors want, what hardened judges will allow. She is adept at plea bargaining or steering cases into Drug Court or Pre Trial Intervention - avoiding money- and time-consuming trials which could result in prison time and fines and a life-long criminal record and repercussions.

Talk to Tara first. For a free consultation call Tara Breslow-Testa at (732) 784-2880

Possession and Distribution of Controlled Dangerous Substances

The New Jersey statutes that define and punish CDS offenses are a complicated equation that factors in whether the drugs are Schedule I - V, the weight of the drugs involved, and other factors.

Offenses involving Schedule I CDS are the most serious, as these drugs“ have a high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use in treatment in the United States, or it lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision .” Schedule I CDS include Marijuana, Hashish, Heroin, LSD, Acid, MDMA, Synthetic Marijuana, Psilocybin Mushrooms.

Schedule II CDS have a high potential for abuse, along with currently accepted medical use in the United States with severe restrictions . Abuse of a Schedule II could lead to physical or psychic dependence. ” Schedule II CDS include Methadone, Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), Morphine, Cocaine, Methamphetamine.

New Jersey drug laws are forgiving, until they aren’t. First time offenders for possessing drugs from marijuana to heroin can be offered the option to divert their cases to Drug Court or Pre Trial Intervention. These are strictly monitored diversionary programs which allow a first time offender to correct their behavior, and have the arrest stricken from their record.

Distribution of CDS are more serious offenses, and the penalties range from a few years to life in New Jersey State Prison, and thousands of dollars to millions of dollars in fines.

Sample Penalties for Possession and Distribution of Cocaine

Marijuana and cocaine are the two most frequently abused drugs in America, and New Jersey is no exception. New Jersey has a giant problem with the sale and use of cocaine and crack, and the penalties reflect the seriousness of that problem:

Conviction for third degree possession of cocaine is punishable by a term of 3 to 5 years in New Jersey State Prison, a $35,000 maximum fine and a six-month driver’s license suspension.

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.

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.

Sample Penalties: Possession and Distribution of Marijuana

Medical marijuana is legal in New Jersey with strict rules, while recreational marijuana remains illegal, but is teetering on the brink of legality after the Christie Dynasty leaves office in 2018.

For now, the possession and distribution of any amount of recreational marijuana is legal in New Jersey, with distribution a far more serious offense.

Possession of Less Than 50 Grams of Marijuana is a disorderly persons offense, with a sentence of up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $1000, suspended driver’s license and drug rehabilitation.

Possession of More Than 50 Grams of Marijuana is a fourth-degree offense, with a maximum of 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Distribution of less than one ounce of marijuana is a fourth degree crime punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $25,000 maximum fine.

Distribution of 25 pounds or more of marijuana is a first degree crime punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and a $300,000 maximum fine.

Drug Court

New Jersey courts are overloaded with drug cases small and large, and the Drug Court was established in 1996 to head off the abuse of drugs and alcohol and the related problems of crime, gang activity, broken homes, broken lives and broken neighborhoods that follow in the wake of drugs.

Drug Courts operate within the Superior Court structure and utilize a specialized team of treatment professionals, court staff, probation officers, attorneys and substance abuse evaluators for cases that are nonviolent.

The goal of Drug Court is to keep abusers out of jail and off drug. Representing Princeton residents, skilled criminal defense lawyer Tara Breslow-Testa can work with the Superior Court to have a case deflected into Drug Court - and turn possible jail time and fines into strict supervision and erasure of charges from your criminal record.


Looking at statistics, there is an epidemic of burglary, bicycle and motor vehicle theft in and around Princeton.

Burglary is defined by New Jersey Statutes NJ 2C:18-2 as “ entering or remaining on property that you have no lawful right to be on for the purpose of committing an offense .”

Burglary is a third-degree crime, with a sentence of 3 to 5 years in New Jersey State Prison and a fine of no more than $15,000.

Burglary moves to second degree if the burglar: “ Purposely, knowingly or recklessly inflicts, attempts to inflict or threatens to inflict bodily injury on anyone ” or “ Is armed with or displays what appear to be explosives or a deadly weapon .” The sentence for burglary in the second degree is 5 to 10 years in New Jersey State Prison and a maximum fine of $150,000.


There is a tremendous amount of theft in the Princeton area: wallets, smartphones, bicycles, shoplifting, motorcycles, automobiles.

New Jersey statutes 2C:20-3 define theft as “unlawful taking” or “ exercising control” to deprive someone of their lawful property.

There is theft by deception, theft by extortion, receiving stolen property, shoplifting and, pertinent to Princeton - concealment of library material.

Just as drug offenses are classified by weight of the drugs, theft offenses are categorized by the value of the property that was taken.

If the property or services stolen was $200 or less, this is a disorderly persons offense - aka petty theft - with a possible penalty of six months in prison or a maximum fine of $1000.

If the value of the goods or services stolen is between $200 and $500, that is a fourth degree crime with a maximum prison term of 18 months and a fine of no more than $10,000 - or double the amount of monetary loss to the victim, whichever is higher.

Third degree theft applies to stolen property between $500 and $75,000: firearm, motor vehicle, vessel, boat, horse, domestic companion animal or airplane, less than one kilogram of a CDS with a value less than $75,000, if the theft involves bodily contact, or if the theft involves a threat and other conditions.

Third degree theft is punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000 - or double the monetary loss to the victim, whichever is higher.

Theft in the second degree applies to a crime where the value of the property or services is $75,000 or more, if there is extortion involved, it’s a CDS of more than one kilogram or if the property is human remains (?).

The punishment for second degree theft is 5 to 10 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $150,000 - or double the monetary loss to the victim, whichever is higher.

Plea Agreements

In New Jersey, 30% of criminal complaints are settled through pretrial negotiations, also known as plea agreements or plea bargains. In some cases, the courts allow a prosecutor and defending lawyer to negotiate a plea agreement/plea bargain. Based on a wide variety of circumstances, the prosecutor might offer the accused a reduced prison sentence or probation in return for a guilty plea. In some cases, charges can be dismissed or reduced, and maximum sentence terms can also be negotiated.

Defendants must sign a statement that they understand and agree to the plea agreement and must verify the plea in open court. A judge can reject a plea agreement as too lenient, and are not bound the deal struck by the prosecutor, defendant and their attorney.

Representing Princeton residents and students, criminal defense lawyer Tara Breslow-Testa is a skilled negotiator who understands the math of plea agreements. She will use all her skills to have the charges against her client reduced or dropped, and she can sometimes work miracles at keeping a defendant out of prison, and reducing fines.

Pre-Trial Intervention

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

Whether you are a resident of Princeton or a student attending Princeton University or one of the other schools in the area - bad things can sometimes happen to good people. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the law and are worried about present fines and jail time and future repercussions, the first person you should talk to is Princeton criminal defense lawyer Tara Breslow-Testa.

For a free consultation call Tara Breslow-Testa at (732) 784-2880

Client Reviews
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