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Routine Traffic Stop Leads to Criminal Charges

May 9, 2013 | Posted In Criminal Law - Drugs

A New Jersey teacher is facing criminal charges following a routine traffic stop last month. Louis A. Yontef, from West Orange, was charged with possession of cocaine while on vacation in Boca Raton, Florida, during his school's spring break. He and a friend were stopped by a local police officer for a minor offense, which New Jersey criminal attorneys say has snowballed into much more serious drug charges that could jeopardize the man's career as a New Providence teacher.

A Boca Raton patrolman stopped Yontef, 28, and a friend at 11:00 pm on April 11, after noticing that the car had a dim tag light. Yontef was not driving at the time, and the car belonged to the driver, Charles Retamal. After asking Retamal for his license and registration, the patrolman also found that the driver's license had expired more than six months ago, in September 2012. The police officer reported that Yontef looked very nervous, and was sweating throughout the stop.

Based on Yontef's appearance, and the strong smell of marijuana, the officer requested backup. He asked Yontef and Retamal if there was any marijuana in the car; they both denied having any. The officer broadened his search to include any illegal drugs, and Yontef admitted to having a "small baggy of cocaine" in his pocket. Upon inspection, Boca Raton police officers determined that Yontef was carrying 0.3 grams of cocaine.

Retamal was cited for driving with an expired license, and in a car with a dim light. Yontef has been charged with possession of cocaine and jailed, with bail set at $5,000. Although he was arrested in Florida, New Jersey criminal attorneys say that Yontef's possession charges could lead to further investigation, given his profession as a high school teacher. In 1987, the New Jersey Comprehensive Drug Reform Act moved all drug possession crimes into the Code of Criminal Justice. The Act specifically assigns harsher penalties to certain crimes of possession, including those that occur in a drug-free school zone—"on any school property or within 1000 feet of any school property or school bus." Having cocaine on school grounds carries strict mandatories for jail time and hefty fines up to $100,000. 

Because of Yontef's arrest in Florida, New Jersey police officers could reasonably launch an investigation into his home life—searching his house as well as his high school classroom, if they suspect there may be drugs at either of those places. Such an investigation would raise the suspicion of the school board, and Yontef could likely lose his job. New Jersey criminal lawyers say that crimes committed in another state often come back to have a damaging impact on a person's state of residence. As of Yontef's arrest, the New Providence administration had nothing to say about whether or not the teacher would keep his job.

The New Jersey criminal attorneys at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA represent anyone who has been charged with a drug crime in another state and needs legal advice about the effects that may spread to New Jersey.

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