Drug Crimes

Monday, November 20, 2017

Defending Against Opioid Charges in New Jersey

Will I be sentenced to jail time if I am arrested for heroin possession?

A heroin epidemic is sweeping much of New Jersey and the rest of the nation.  According to data released by the New Jersey Medical Examiner’s Office, Camden County alone was the site of 115 fatal heroin overdoses in 2015.  Fentanyl, a prescription opioid, killed an additional 53 people that year.  Several other counties experienced similarly high death counts.  Hundreds of other heroin and fentanyl users are arrested for Read more . . .

Monday, November 28, 2016

NJ Supreme Court Upholds Plain View Drug Bust

How do I challenge an illegal search and seizure in New Jersey?

A recent ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court could lead to more warrantless search and seizures.  The ruling does away with one requirement to the state’s plain view doctrine, which sets out under what circumstances police can seize evidence without a warrant if it is in plain sight.  While the ruling is said to bring state law into line with federal law, it could mean changes for defendants in New Jersey.  

Facts of the Case

Xiomara Gonzales was pulled over by police officers while driving toward the Garden State Parkway in 2009.  Police stopped her as part of a surveillance effort on an alleged drug distribution operation.

Read more . . .

Monday, June 27, 2016

Burlington NJ Marijuana Case Will Not Go to High Court

Can civil rights and religious freedom arguments succeed when appealing a marijuana conviction?

After his arrest and conviction on a number of charges relating to the sale of marijuana, lawyers for the "NJ Weedman" hoped their appeal would transform their case into an important argument over constitutional rights. The United States Supreme Court, however, has declined to review the Burlington, New Jersey man's conviction.

Arrests on Thirteen Drug Counts

The defendant had been charged with numerous counts of marijuana possession and distribution, as well as having "fortified premises," owning drug paraphernalia, and maintaining a "narcotics nuisance." His conviction was the culmination of a long investigation of his Trenton restaurant and the Rastafarian Temple he ran next door.

Read more . . .

Saturday, June 25, 2016

When a Traffic Stop Leads to a Search, Seizure & Criminal Charges

In New Jersey, motor vehicle stops can easily escalate into something more severe.  For example, a subsequent investigation after a traffic stop could result in an arrest and criminal charges if weapons and narcotics are found.  This situation occurred in Cranford, New Jersey, for two young men in their twenties.  The charges for the accused ranged from Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance, Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purposes, Distribution of Marijuana, and Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purposes.

Read more . . .

Friday, October 9, 2015

Four Common Defenses of Drug Crimes in New Jersey

I am facing a criminal drug charge, what are the best defenses to consider?

As an experienced practitioner of criminal drug defense, I am aware that there are a number of evidentiary objections that may be raised in the preliminary stages prior to the trial itself. The following are four common defenses to drug crimes in New Jersey. There are, however, dozens more than may apply to your case:

#4: Improper Chain of Custody: When the police seize alleged contraband, such as drugs, weapons, or even diagnostic test results, this evidence must be stored safely and securely until the trial. More specifically, police and lab technicians must properly document the whereabouts of evidence every time it is transferred or moved – otherwise the risk of contamination or specimen confusion raises dramatically. If chain of command cannot be established, the contraband could be excluded.

#3: Wrongful Entry: In order for police to lawfully search your home, you must give consent for them to enter – otherwise, a warrant is required. It is insufficient for police to obtain consent from a houseguest or any other non-owner. Accordingly, any drug evidence seized as a result of a wrongful entry will likely be excluded.

#2: Improper Interrogation: Police use a number of techniques and tricks to interrogate a suspect without counsel present. One such way is to mince words over whether the “conversation” is actually an interrogation (when a suspect can invoke his right to counsel) or a mere interview. If asked, the police must unequivocally state whether the suspect is free to leave and, if not, must cease the interview if the suspect invokes his right to an attorney.

#1:  Improper Seizure: Police must have a warrant to seize evidence from your person or vehicle – subject to narrow exception. If you were stopped for seemingly no reason, and police demanded you exit the vehicle so a search could commence, this scenario likely in violation of your constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment.

If you are facing a criminal drug charge in New Jersey and would like to discuss your options, please contact Sitzler and Sitzler today: 609-267-1101.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Task Force Takes Down Massive Drug Ring

How does law enforcement investigate drug networks?

A major drug trafficking ring that operated in more than one county has been successfully disrupted by a law enforcement task force. There were approximately 30,000 doses of heroin being distributed each month. Nineteen arrests have been made, and a warrant is out for a 20th individual.

The Atlantic City Task Force (ACTF) conducted an eight-month investigation into this drug network based in Pleasantville and reaching into Atlantic and Ocean counties. Led by the New Jersey Attorney General's office, the ACTF is comprised of various federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies. It has made nearly 600 arrests since being formed and seized guns and drugs.

In this case, the ACTF seized 16,000 doses of heroin and more than $52,000 in cash. Members of this drug ring allegedly employed a juvenile to sell heroin and conducted transactions in front of children. They allegedly accepted public assistance subsidies in exchange for drugs, and the heroin contained the deadly cutting agent fentanyl. Those arrested thus far have been charged with multiple crimes including drug possession, conspiracy to distribute heroin, endangering the welfare of a child and food stamp fraud.

The ACTF had top members of the massive drug ring under surveillance and closed in when two deputies met with two suppliers in Paterson. Investigators seized a purse with almost $24,000 in cash that was being used to purchase the heroin, then executed a search warrant of a vehicle and discovered a duffel bag with 10,000 bags of heroin. Subsequent search warrants at various locations led to more drugs and cash. Six vehicles were also seized.

If you or a loved one is facing drug charges in South Jersey, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler can help. Whether your case proceeds to trial or we can negotiate a resolution, our team of knowledgeable attorneys will zealously advocate for you. Contact our Burlington County, New Jersey office today at (609)267-1101.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New Jersey Crime Report Yields Mixed Results

How are crime rates in Burlington County?

New Jersey's most recent Uniform Crime Report revealed that the state's overall crime rate fell 7 percent in 2013, and preliminary data for 2014 indicates a 7.7 percent decrease. While Burlington County's overall crime rate also fell (by 3 percent), violent crime was up by 6 percent. The county's overall crime rate, measuring victims per 1,000 people, was 18.7 (compared, for example, with the highest rate of 33.9 in Camden County).

Elsewhere in the state, drug crime continues to plague Newark, but citizens are providing anonymous tips that are leading to arrests and the recovery of weapons and drugs. One recent investigation led to a rooftop chase after police entered a home and observed a man wearing a backpack climbing out of a third-story window. When he was apprehended, his backpack was found to contain 300 grams of cocaine, 100 grams of MDMA (also known as Molly) and three loaded guns. A subsequent search of the home led police to discover 450 rounds of ammunition, high capacity magazines, a bulletproof vest, two pounds of marijuana and a small amount of heroin. Police also found scales and paraphernalia used for the processing and sale of drugs, and almost $7,000 in cash.

To more effectively combat crime, some police departments in Burlington County utilize Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety zones. Law enforcement uses location-based crime and traffic data to guide deployment. Evesham Township police recently made a traffic stop that led to the discovery of drugs and a loaded handgun.

If you or a loved one is facing drug charges, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler and Sitzler can help. We represent clients throughout Southern New Jersey in a wide variety of misdemeanor (disorderly person charge) and felony (indictable charge) cases. Contact our Hainesport, New Jersey office today at (609) 267-1101.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Five Men Arrested in Alleged New Jersey Drug Ring

What type of charges could you face if you sell drugs to an undercover police officer?

Law enforcement usually invests a lot of time and resources into the investigation of drug conspiracies.  These investigations often involve the use of undercover tactics and can go on for years.  As such, authorities have already compiled a great deal of information and evidence before even making an arrest in these types of cases, making them difficult to fight.  Recently, police arrested five men in New Jersey who are accused of participating in a drug ring as a result of this type of investigation.

The New Jersey State Police, in conjunction with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, arrested Juan Gutierrez-Valencia in July after he agreed to sell two kilograms of methamphetamine to an undercover officer and showed the officer the drugs.  He then tried to run, driving his car in the direction of police causing them to shoot him in the arm.  Authorities found large quantities are drugs and a stolen handgun in the car.  He has been charged with a number of serious drug crimes including possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, conspiracy and gun charges.

Four other men allegedly involved in the same operation were arrested the next day after two of the men agreed to sell an undercover officer a large amount of heroin out of a residence.  The police searched the house finding large quantities of drugs and tools for distribution.  All four men in the house were arrested.  The same two men who agreed to sell the drugs to the officer in this incident are also charged with selling drugs to another undercover using a runner earlier in the year.  

Depending upon the degree of the crimes each of the men are charged with, they could be facing up to 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.  All of the men are Mexican and could be deported if found guilty.  State officials have commented stating that they will continue to aggressively pursue drug traffickers and distributors in the state of New Jersey.  

Drug crimes are quite common but are often serious and can lead to long prison sentences and high fines.  As many arrests are made after long term investigations, defendants require an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent them against the sometimes overwhelming evidence.  The Burlington, County New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler can help.  If you have been accused of a drug crime or any other type of crime call us at (609)267-1101 today.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Warrant Requirement to Obtain Cell Phone Records Challenged in New Jersey

Can the police obtain cell phone records without a warrant?

Many of us rely on our cell phone everyday to stay connected.  While we think that our use is private, there is a record of almost everything we do on our mobile devices, including calls and internet use.  If we are accused of a crime, these records can be obtained by the police and used against us.  A pending New Jersey case might play a role in lessening the requirements that must be met in order for law enforcement to obtain these records.

Currently in the state of New Jersey, law enforcement must obtain a warrant in order to request the telephone billing records of a suspect or defendant.  This means that the officers must seek a judge’s approval before obtaining records of this kind.  In a recent case involving a young Asbury Park man accused of cocaine distribution, the New Jersey Attorney General is attempting to eliminate the warrant requirement for telephone billing records.  The Attorney General’s office wants to replace the warrant requirement with a provision making a grand jury subpoena enough to request these records.

A warrant requires probable cause meaning that there must be reason to believe that a crime has been or is being committed.  In order to obtain a grand jury subpoena, the standard is much lower.  While this would make it easier for law enforcement officers to do their job, it is no doubt an infringement on the persons Constitutional privacy rights.  Also, unless the person is indicted, there would be no way to tell what information law enforcement received from these records.

The Attorney General’s office is relying on recent cases finding that a grand jury subpoena is enough to request other types of evidence.  But, up to this point, the warrant requirement for cell phone records has been affirmed.  It is also worth noting that new encryption efforts by some cell phone and internet companies might make this case irrelevant, as the providers would refuse to give up the information even when faced with a warrant.

If you have been accused of a crime involving cellular billing records, the Burlington County, New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler and Sitzler can help.  For a free consultation, call us at (609)267-1101 today. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Jersey Man Appealing Marijuana Conviction After Serving Sentence

The drug laws in this country are constantly changing.  Marijuana, which has been decriminalized for a number of years, has been legalized for medical and even recreational use in some states.  In other states, people have done, are doing or are facing hard time for crimes involving the drug.  Some individuals, like a controversial New Jersey man, are challenging their convictions.  

Edward Forchion, a.k.a. N.J. Weedman and past Congressional hopeful, is a Rastafarian who was arrested for possession of marijuana in 2010. During a traffic stop, police found one pound of the drug in the trunk of his car and arrested him for possession.  He served nearly nine months in jail as a result of his conviction but has decided to continue his appeal nonetheless.  

Forchion is being assisted by an attorney but proceeding with his case pro se and has based his appeal on various points.  He claims that the New Jersey medical marijuana law is in direct conflict with the criminal law.  He also alleges that the marijuana laws cause discrimination as four times as many African Americans face convictions for marijuana as compared to Caucasians.  Forchion has also added that his conviction should have been stayed when he was receiving medical treatment and even a claim juror bias relating to his Congressional bid.  

The New Jersey criminal law still holds that possession of marijuana is illegal and it is unlikely that anything but legislative action will change that in the near future.  Whether or not that will happen is unclear.

Drug crimes, even those involving marijuana, are serious matters and can lead to long sentences.  If you have been arrested for or charged with a drug crime it is important that you consult with an attorney right away in order to preserve your rights.  The Burlington County, New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler and Sitzler can help you.  Contact us at (609)267-1101 for a consultation today. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

New Jersey Drug-Trafficking Ring, Including Former County Officer, Arrested

Forty people were arrested in southern New Jersey in the bust of a drug trafficking ring that distributed heroin and crack cocaine throughout the state.  The raids netted ringleaders, dealers, users, and a former police officer and her husband.  

A months-long investigation led to the execution of five search warrants in several New Jersey locations.  State, county and local law-enforcement officials were involved, as well as the DEA.  Officials announced the seizure of three vehicles, 8,000 bags of heroin, 1,000 bags of crack cocaine, and ten pounds of marijuana, as well as cash and firearms.  Though the network was based in Camden, New Jersey, the drugs sold by the ring are said to have reached buyers in Burlington, Gloucester and Ocean Counties.

Former Camden County Police Officer, Ashley Bailey, allegedly warned members of the ring when they were targets of law enforcement and shared confidential information from department briefings.  She faces a sentence of as much as 30 years for official misconduct, weapons possession, conspiracy, and terroristic threats.  Her husband, charged with conspiracy, was also involved in the drugs ring and is the brother of one of the ring's leaders.  

Three leaders of the organization could receive 20 years in prison.  Charges against them include leading a narcotics trafficking network, conspiracy, possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS), and possession with intent to distribute a CDS.  One also faces a charge of attempted murder for a shooting in April.  A fourth is still at large.

Nine others face lesser charges, including conspiracy, possession of a CDS, and possession with intent to distribute. Seventeen drug buyers were charged with possession or other offenses, while eight more were charged with attempted possession and other crimes.

Though the drugs seized are said to have a street value of approximately $85,000, investigators believe the ring took in as much as $1.2 million annually.  One leader of the network is said to have sold about 5,000 bags of heroin or cocaine weekly.

The roundup is a reminder to everyone involved in illegal drugs, from kingpins to dealers to users, that an arrest is always a possibility.  For some, the penalties may be ruinous.  Whatever your role or level of participation, if you are swept up in a drugs bust, you need expert, effective criminal defense counsel on your side.  The Burlington County, New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler and Sitzler have extensive experience with drug arrests of all kinds and can help you make the best of a challenging situation.  For a free consultation, call us immediately at (609) 267-1101. 


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