Federal Drug Crimes

New Jersey Federal Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys

arrested for a federal drug crime

All drug offenses are considered both state and federal crimes. Anyone arrested for any drug crime can end up in the federal court system. If it has happened to you, you need to know that federal punishment for possession, distribution, manufacturing or trafficking illicit drugs is much harsher than state penalties in virtually every case.

You need an attorney as soon as possible who has federal drug crime defense experience to protect your rights and possibly your freedom. The New Jersey drug crime attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have the federal experience and strategic defense thinking needed to protect you.

  • Our attorneys have decades of combined experience as prosecutors and public defenders who have been on both sides of drug crime cases throughout New Jersey.
  • Individuals from across the state who have faced federal drug crime charges are glad they turned to our law firm when they needed help.
  • Whether your federal drug case involves charges of heroin or cocaine trafficking, meth lab crimes, money laundering and/or an international smuggling conspiracy, we know how to sort through the evidence to build a defense that protects your interests.

Decisions you make now could have significant impact on your future. Call or fill out our online form today to set up a free and confidential legal consultation with one of our experienced federal drug crimes attorneys at any of our nine New Jersey law offices.

Why Make a Federal Case Out of a New Jersey Drug Offense?

Both federal and state laws make it illegal to possess, use, sell, distribute or manufacture certain drugs, or controlled substances, or controlled dangerous substances, as they are known under New Jersey law.

While most drug crime arrests are made by local police, many drug crimes begin as, or become, federal cases.

A New Jersey drug crime may be pursued as a federal offense because of:

  • Jurisdiction (location). Criminal activity that crosses state lines or occurs on federal land, such as a national park or military base, will be prosecuted in federal court. If you are arrested by a federal law enforcement officer, such as while on federal land or at an airport, the case will go to federal court. Being found in possession of drugs and having traveled from New Jersey into New York, Pennsylvania, or another state, with them could result in federal charges. Evidence of having crossed state lines to sell, buy, obtain or deliver drugs will certainly result in federal charges. Smuggling drugs across international borders is a federal offense.
  • Federal / State Cooperation. Serious federal drug charges usually reflect evidence gathered against many individuals over the course of a long and expensive investigation. These types of investigations are usually undertaken by cooperating state, federal and possibly local authorities. Once evidence for indictments and arrests is solidified, federal authorities take control because the “feds” have more resources and federal penalties are more severe.
  • Plea Bargains. In large drug trafficking or smuggling investigations, authorities may pressure suspects they have evidence against to inform on others in the alleged drug ring in exchange for lighter charges or sentences. This maneuver typically works upward. Lower-level participants are “flipped” to inform on ringleaders. If the informant faces federal charges, anyone they inform on is likely to be charged by federal authorities, as well.
  • Seriousness of Charges. Federal authorities may step in if drug charges involve a large quantity of drugs or money, a large number of people, or the manufacture or trafficking of drugs. If federal crimes, such as money laundering, are alleged in connection with drug crimes, federal authorities will take over prosecution. In such cases, an indictment may also include charges of conspiracy or Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) violations.

Serious federal crimes are charged by grand jury indictment. This means that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has presented incriminating information to a grand jury over a period of weeks or months, then asked the grand jury to return specific criminal charges against one or more defendants.

Federal Drug Crimes Carry Mandatory Sentences

While a first-time offender charged under New Jersey drug laws has several opportunities to avoid jail time, an individual facing federal drug charges will almost certainly serve time in prison if convicted.

Many federal statutes include a specified minimum term of imprisonment for violations. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 created mandatory minimum penalties for many drug trafficking offenses. Congress further extended the reach of these mandatory minimum penalties in 1988 to drug trafficking conspiracies.

Congress established additional penalties for distributing drugs to persons who are under the age of 21 or who are pregnant, distributing drugs in or near schools and colleges, and using persons under the age of 18 in drug operations. Higher penalty ranges also apply if death or serious bodily injury results from use of a controlled substance the defendant distributed.

Statutory mandatory minimum penalties for certain drugs are first tied to the quantity and type of controlled substances in the offense. The first tier establishes a five-year mandatory minimum penalty and a maximum term of 40 years, while higher weight thresholds increase the mandatory minimum to 10 years with a maximum term of life imprisonment.

Some specific drugs and the triggering weights include:

Drug5-year Mandatory Minimum,
Maximum of 40 years
10-year Mandatory Minimum,
Maximum of Life in Prison
Heroin100 grams (3.5 ounces)1 kilogram (2.2 pounds)
Cocaine Base (crack)28 grams (.98 ounce)280 grams (0.6 pound)
Powdered Cocaine500 grams5 kilos
Marijuana100 kilograms1,000 kilos
Methamphetamine (pure)5 grams50 grams
Meth (mixture)50 grams500 grams


  • Any other Schedule I or II controlled substance: up to 20 years
  • Most Schedule III controlled substances: up to 15 years
  • Schedule IV controlled substances: up to 5 years
  • Schedule V controlled substances: up to 1 year.

These penalties are further enhanced with fines of $100,000 to $250,000 for Schedule V drugs, to potentially $1 to $50 million for Schedule I to IV drugs.

An individual convicted of a federal drug trafficking charge will have their penalty further increased if they have prior offenses on their record.

A mandatory minimum penalty of 5 years to 40 years would be increased to 10 years to life if the offender had a prior conviction for a felony drug offense. A 10-year mandatory minimum would become 20 years to life.

Offenders previously convicted of two or more prior drug felonies (state or federal) face a mandatory minimum term of life in prison.

Simple possession of a controlled substance under federal law is punishable as follows:

  • First offense: up to 1 year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000.
  • Second offense: 15 days in jail (mandatory minimum) to 2 years and a fine of up to $2,500.
  • Subsequent offenses: 90 days in jail (mandatory minimum) to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Possession of Flunitrazepam, also known as Rohypnol or the “date rape drug,” is punishable by up to 3 years in jail on any offense, and a fine of up to $250,000.

How Our Federal Drug Crime Attorneys Can Help You

If you’re now facing drug charges under a federal indictment, or if you have reason to believe that you’re under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies, the sooner you call a lawyer the better off you’re likely to be.

Involving an experienced federal drug crime defense attorney in your defense prior to formal charges can be highly beneficial.

There is no right to cross-examination or other direct participation by defense counsel during the grand jury phase of a federal investigation. However, there are many other opportunities for the target of the investigation to benefit from the help of an experienced defense attorney, who can:

  • Monitor the investigation and the grand jury testimony to get an idea of the evidence against you
  • Work with the prosecution to clarify your status as a witness, target, subject or other person of interest in the investigation
  • Conduct an independent investigation of the facts, evidence and potential charges
  • Advise you about your own testimony or cooperation with investigators if you have received a subpoena or a visit from federal agents

Following an indictment, we can work to challenge the validity of the government’s case.

In some cases, we can attack the charges on the basis of flawed testimony or credibility of an alleged co-conspirator or undercover agent. Sometimes, we can even give the government a choice between dropping the charges and revealing the names of confidential informants against you.

Other issues may be raised to challenge the government’s cases, including:

  • Improper or illegal search and seizure
  • Chain of custody issues with the drugs alleged to have been in your possession
  • Mistaken identity, due to faulty accusations, a flawed lineup, or another improper procedure or error
  • Racial, ethnic, socio-economic or other bias against you (profiling)
  • Inability of prosecutors to establish possession, or intent to sell or distribute the drugs in question

Any of the above may result in drugs, cash, paraphernalia, testimony, etc., being excluded from evidence and the charges stemming from disqualified evidence being dropped or substantially reduced.

If it is necessary or it serves your interests best, we will be prepared to go to trial and demonstrate to the judge and jury that justice demands a not-guilty verdict in your case.

Federal drug charges are serious and often complex, but the federal government must be able to prove its case. It is important that you understand what you’re up against—good or bad.

Call or fill out our online form today to talk to one of our experienced federal drug crimes attorneys about your case. We can meet in any of our nine offices in New Jersey to outline the legal options available, and the best steps to take to protect yourself.

Once engaged as your legal representatives, we can secure your release if you are being held, and begin an independent investigation into the case and negotiations with prosecutors about reducing or dismissing charges.

Contact Our Federal Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys Today

Do not wait to begin developing a strong legal response to federal drug crime charges. Federal prosecutors typically do not move forward without strong evidence, and mandatory federal penalties are severe. Schedule a free consultation with our respected New Jersey federal drug crime lawyers now.