Understand Your Legal Rights When Facing Drug Charges
Possession of illegal drugs most often is a misdemeanor that can carry jail time. Distribution of illegal drugs or possession with intent to distribute illegal drugs are serious criminal charges. If you face any drug charge, it is important to enlist the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will protect your rights and work to minimize the impact the criminal charge has on your life.
From our law offices in Lowell and Woburn, at Manzi, Seccareccio & Merwin, P.C., we represent clients who face drug charges in Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Tewksbury, Wilmington, Westford, Concord, Carlisle, Bedford and Nashua, New Hampshire.
Penalties For Massachusetts Drug Distribution Charges
The Massachusetts Legislature has “decriminalized” possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana. The crime of distribution or possession with intent to distribute less than 1 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.
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).