The amount of drugs you are found in possession of is primarily the factor that decides whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. In general, the felony cases are the ones where a person or group of people is found to be holding a large quantity of a particular controlled substance.
Many of the drugs are classified differently within the Massachusetts law. Class A are the most dangerous, such as heroine. Class B includes cocaine, Class D includes marijuana, and Class E are mainly less intensive prescription medicines intended for recreational purposes. There are felony charges that can be filed against possession of any of these classes of drugs.
Examples of Felony Possession
The different drugs listed above each have their own sentences that can be charged upon conviction of felony possession. With the Class A the punishments are harsher, and the sentences are longer, and the required quantities are smaller. As you go down the line to the Class D substances, the punishments and sentences are lighter, and the quantities required for felony level charges get higher.
Another way to be charged with felony possession is to be found within 1000 feet of a school building or public park. Massachusetts law does not require that you be shown to have the intent to distribute that drug in order for it to be a felony.
Felony Possession Punishment
For a first felony conviction of possession, the sentence has a minimum mandatory time depending on the severity of the crime. In Massachusetts that is many times served in a house of correction/county jail facility. For subsequent convictions, the sentence is required to be served in a state prison. This is where the most serious of criminals are housed, and would be a much different condition than the initial house of corrections facility.
With first offenses, the minimum penalty is 2 1/2 years and the second offenses vary from minimums of 2 years to 5 years, depending on the class of drug involved in the case. All of these would also involve fines, court costs and fees, as well as the removal of certain rights, sometimes drivers licenses, firearms permits, or voting rights. These depend on the facts of each particular investigation.
Felony Possession Defenses
There are several ways that an experienced attorney can defend against felony possession charges. Being familiar with courtrooms and legal proceedings, they are able to monitor the testimony of the witnesses and look for inconsistencies. This may bring light to parts of the case that are not completely clear.
It is also possible to argue that depending on the case, that just because the drugs were found near you or your belongings, that they are necessarily yours and that the intention to distribute also exists.
Challenges can be brought up if there appear to be violations of law in the way that the evidence of the case was collected. If substantiated, these can lead to motions to either suppress certain evidence or to generate a mistrial.