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Possession & Distribution Of Drugs

Some common crimes our clients — who live in Lowell, Massachusetts, and the surrounding area — face include Operation of a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol (otherwise known as an OUI or DUI or DWI), Domestic Assault and Battery and Possession and/or Distribution of Narcotics. There are other crimes commonly associated with these offenses and unique defenses for them.

Possession And/Or Distribution Of Drugs

Most offenses of possession of illegal drugs are misdemeanors that carry jail time. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the substance is the particular controlled substance that is alleged, (2) the defendant possessed some perceptible amount of that substance, and (3) the defendant did so knowingly and voluntarily.

Distribution of illegal drugs or Possession with Intent to distribute illegal drugs are more serious crimes that require the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the substance is the particular controlled substance that is alleged, (2) the defendant either distributed or possessed with intent to distribute the illegal substance, and (3) the defendant did so knowingly or intentionally.

Penalties For Drug Distribution Charges

Recently, the Massachusetts Legislature has "decriminalized" possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. The crime of distribution or possession with intent to distribute less than one ounce of marijuana is still a crime, however.

A crime that often accompanies possession offenses includes conspiracy to violate the drug laws and usually is charged when the police also arrest the suspected dealer. Crimes that often accompany distribution offenses include the aforementioned conspiracy and the crime of committing a distribution offense in a school zone. The school zone crime is only punishable if the prosecution can prove distribution or intent to distribute. There is no crime of simple possession of illegal drugs in a school zone in Massachusetts. Thus, a not guilty or dismissal of the distribution or intent to distribute charge would require a not guilty or dismissal of the school zone charge.

Depending on the amount and the type of drug, a trafficking conviction could mean more than a decade in prison. There are also mandatory minimum prison sentences in place for many of these charges.

Recently, the legislature has changed the school zone law, reducing the required distance from under 1,000 feet to under 300 feet from a school. It has also exempted the offense from midnight to 5 a.m.

Defenses To Drug Distribution Charges

Common defenses to these criminal offenses can include attempts to have the alleged drugs excluded from evidence. This can be accomplished by a Motion to Suppress if a warrantless stop, warrantless search or search with a warrant was done by the police without the requisite reasonable suspicion or probable cause. There are other tactics defense attorneys can use to exclude the drugs from evidence. For example, in August 2015, the Massachusetts State Police shut down a drug lab in Jamaica Plain for its failure to follow testing protocols. In 2010, the chemist alleged to be at fault in that lab testified that she ran the quality and control assurance at that lab. Defense attorneys are of the opinion that all drugs tested at that lab during her tenure (2003-2012) may be excludable.

A common defense to intent to distribute is that the defendant possessed the drugs for personal use. Factors affecting this defense include the defendant's actions as observed by the police prior to the arrest, the amount of drugs seized, whether any (and how much) money was found on the defendant, whether the defendant was in possession of any other items consistent with dealing drugs (e.g., empty baggies, scales, ledgers) or whether the defendant was in possession of items consistent with using drugs (e.g., rolling papers, a pipe, a syringe).

Contact Our Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys

To arrange for a free initial consultation, contact the lawyers at Manzi, Seccareccio & Merwin, P.C., by calling 978-703-8517 or 781-304-8864.