Drug crimes in Massachusetts and other states are prosecuted aggressively under MGL c.94C. Law enforcement, district attorneys and most judges take a fairly hard line stance if you have violated one of the state’s drug laws. A drug crime and arrest can lead to serious charges, depending upon the quantity and weight of the drugs, as well as the circumstances of the alleged crime.
The most common drug crimes that are committed in Massachusetts are:
- Drug possession: Having one or more illegal drugs in your possession for personal use, sale or distribution.
- Possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance: Having one or more illegal drugs in your possession with the intent to sell it. If you are found guilty of drug possession with intent to sell to a minor, you can face tougher penalties.
- Drug trafficking and distribution: Smuggling, transporting or delivering illegal narcotics.
The most common drugs involved in drug crimes in Massachusetts today are cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, marijuana, LSD, and the sale of prescription drugs such as Percocet, Oxycontin and Vicodin. Possession, manufacturing and distributing cocaine and heroin are considered the most serious offenses in the state and are punished the most severely.
In each drug case, there are certain elements that the prosecutor for the state of Massachusetts must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. They must establish that you charged with a drug crime knowingly and intentionally possessed a controlled substance.
Massachusetts Drug Crime Punishments
When you are charged with a drug crime in Massachusetts, law enforcement considers the type of drug you had, the quantity you had and why you had it. Another factor is if you distributed the drugs to minors.
Below are some of the possible punishments for various drug crimes in Massachusetts:
- Possession with intent to distribute marijuana: House of corrections up to 2.5 years; fine from $500 to $5000, or both
- Distribution of marijuana: Same as the above
- Possession with intent to distribute cocaine: The laws of Massachusetts consider cocaine to be much more dangerous than marijuana, and the drug is thus a Class B controlled substance. If you are convicted with intent to distribute, you can receive up to 10 years in state prison, a fine of $1000 to $10,000 and suspension of drivers license.
- If you are convicted a second time for possession with intent to distribute cocaine, you will get at least three years in state prison and up to 10 years, with a fine from $2500 to $25,000 and suspension of driver’s license.
- Possession with intent to distribute heroin: This is a Class A controlled substance and is considered the most dangerous drug in the state. For manufacturing, distributing or possessing heroin with intent to distribute, you can receive a term in jail of up to 10 years or imprisonment in a house of corrections for up to 2.5 years, and a fine from $1000 to $10,000.
- If you are convicted a second time for possession with intent to distribute heroin, you can receive a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a fine of $500 to $25,000.
Defending Drug Crime Charges in Massachusetts
While drug charges are very serious in this state, they can be attacked in several ways. One of the best ways to defend yourself against a drug distribution charge is to attack the state’s evidence that you possessed an unlawful narcotic. Another strong defense is whether you have to be physically present for the drug transaction for you to be convicted on drug distribution charges.
Here are some ways that the defense in the past on some cases has worked to defend against Massachusetts drug distribution charges:
- Proving distribution: The state must prove that you knowingly or intentionally distributed an illegal drug. The law defines distribution as any type of delivery other than administering or dispensing. Also, ‘delivery’ is defined as a process of transferring, whether by constructive or actual transfer, an illegal drug from one person to another.
- Proving constructive transfer of the drug: This applies if the state can show you were aware of the drug transaction and were in control of the drug transaction. So, the defendant does not actually need to have been there when the drug was distributed. ‘Constructive transfer’ may be shown if proof exists of a communication between you and the person who transferred the drugs, and you instructed this person on what to do in terms of the exchange.
- Proving joint venture: A drug crime occurs under state law if the state can show you had the intent needed to commit the crime. So, if evidence shows you arranged the place and time for the drug exchange, joint venture could apply.
- Proving probable cause for search warrant: You might be able to exclude evidence obtained by a police search warrant by asserting there was lack of probable cause for the judge to issue the warrant. The judge only can issue a warrant in the state on a drug offense when a police officer has an affidavit that gives probable cause to believe drugs will be found. Many times, the search warrant affidavit is relying on information from a confidential informant, but this is only useful if the informant is reliable and trustworthy. There is a chance to file a motion to suppress to exclude such evidence by attacking the basis for allowing the search warrant.
What To Do Next
Anyone who is facing a drug crime charge in Massachusetts or another state should seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney Nathan is an excellent criminal defense attorney you need to obtain the best result in your drug charge case, whether it is trafficking, possession or a related charge. If you are charged with a crime related to heroin or cocaine, it is especially important to have a strong legal defense.
For a legal consultation, please text Top Boston MA Criminal Attorney Geoffrey Nathan at (617) 905-1433.
- Massachusetts Drug Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXV/Chapter94C