The Kingpin Offense Under New Jersey’s Drug Statute
You can be imprisoned for life if you are convicted under New Jersey’s drug statute, drug kingpin statute (King Pin Statute). N.J.S.A. 2C: 35-3. This aspect of the New Jersey’s drug statute allows a parole disqualifier of up to 25 years.
To convict a person under the Kingpin Statute, the government must prove: (1) that there was a conspiracy with two or more persons; (2) that the purpose of the conspiracy included a scheme to manufacture, distribute or dispense in New Jersey certain drugs as defined by the Kingpin Statute, including heroin, cocaine or marijuana; (3) that the accused was a financier, organizer, supervisor or manager of at least one other person; and (4) that the accused occupied a high-level position in the conspiracy.
Some of the factors that maybe used to assist the government’s effort to obtain a conviction under the Kingpin Statute are: (1) the number of people involved in the criminal organization; (2) the actor’s income, net worth and the lifestyle; (3) the purity of the drug; and, (4) the amount of money involved in the organization’s transactions.
Interestingly, the Kingpin Statute does not require the government to prove that a profit was realized by the enterprise or organization. To be a “kingpin” you must maintain a significant or important position and exercises “substantial authority or control over the activity.” The core question is usually whether the kingpin occupied a “high-level position”, which turns on the scope of the kingpin’s authority or control and the number of people who are influenced by his/her power.
Under the Kingpin Statute, the government does not have to prove the exact number of people involved in the illicit scheme or enterprise. Unlike the federal kingpin statute, New Jersey’s Statute does not require the accused to have three prior convictions or to show a “pattern” of illegal behavior. Moreover, New Jersey requires only two additional conspirators where the federal kingpin statute requires at least five.
In a case decided in 1993, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that a so-called self-styled middle man was a kingpin where, among other things, he bragged about the number of years he was in the drug business and was associated with two lackeys who he “ordered” to find a scale for a transaction, to count money and to direct vehicular flow on his property.
The broad scope of this decision required a dissenting justice to observe that:
Under the majority’s analysis, any three people who agree to sell drugs may be sentenced as kingpins. To test the principle, consider the case of three young people caught up on drugs. Two of them decide to go to New York to buy several hundred dollars worth of drugs. They invite a third with a car to join them. To afford their habit, they decide to sell some of the drugs to others in their neighborhood. One of them arranges the trip to New York and tells the others where to go in the City to get the drugs. Another, on return, decides how to get rid of the extra drugs. Which of these would the Legislature view as a “drug kingpin”? At least two of them fit the majority’s definition. Is that all there is to the drug-kingpin law?
If you have been charged with violating New Jersey’s Kingpin Statute, you have serious trouble. In order to preserve your best interest, you need to engage a lawyer with significant experiences with New Jersey’s drug statute. Frank T. Luciano has been defending individuals charged with drug-related crimes for over 40 years. He is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and a lifetime member of the Legal Committee for the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws.