Possession of Drugs
Violent and property crimes have been on the decline in Boston for years, but drug possession remains a concern. Drug possession charges in Massachusetts should be taken very seriously. If convicted of drug possession charges, particularly after a first offense, you may face several significant penalties in addition to the possibility of imprisonment, including fines, mandatory substance abuse programs, and social stigma.
A Boston criminal defense attorney with experience defending against drug charges understands police procedures for obtaining evidence. Only evidence obtained constitutionally may be used against you at trial. Sometimes police find drugs on you or in your car in an illegal search, for example, and a skilled attorney can potentially suppress this evidence. Similarly, police must read you your Miranda rights if they arrest you and intend to question you in order to make use of any admissions you make.
Penalties for Drug Possession
The potential penalties you face depend on the type of drug that was found and the amount. In Massachusetts, drugs are categorized in Classes A-F. Class A drugs are prosecuted most harshly because it is believed they are the most dangerous and most likely to cause severe dependency. The category includes heroin, GHB and morphine.
Penalties for Possession of Class A Drugs
For a first offense involving a Class A substance, you may face up to 2 years in jail, in addition to fines or treatment programs that the court may require, but subsequent offenses are punished more severely. For example, anyone who possesses heroin can be sentenced to jail for 2 years for a first offense and/or be fined up to $2,000. For a second offense you can be sentenced to jail for up to 2 ½ years. Massachusetts prosecutors can also indict second and subsequent heroin possession cases to a Superior Court. When that is done, the law states that upon a conviction you must be sentenced to at least 2 ½ years in state prison and you can be sentenced to as many as 5 years. A $5,000 fine can be imposed for a conviction of a second or subsequent offense.
Penalties for Possession of Drugs Considered Less Dangerous
Possession of substances in the other categories is often punished less harshly. For example, anyone who possesses marijuana, a Class D substance in Massachusetts, can be sentenced for up to 6 months in jail and be fined up to $500. Second and subsequent convictions for possession of marijuana can result in a 2 year jail sentence and a fine of up to $2,000. However, if this is your first criminal marijuana possession case and you have no other drug related convictions, the case will be continued without a finding. That requires you to successfully complete probation, after which your case will be dismissed. The maximum period of time that the case will be continued for will be 6 months.
Special Circumstances Leading to Further Penalties
The above categories notwithstanding, for multiple offenses and where certain circumstances are in play, there may be additional consequences. For instance, Massachusetts has a mandatory minimum jail sentence for those who are arrested or charged with possessing a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a public or private school or within 100 feet of a park or playground. It does not matter if you had no intent to distribute. Prosecutors take this crime very seriously.
Drug Possession With Intent to Distribute
Drug possession for personal use outside a school or park zone is usually not as harshly punished as drug possession for distribution. The latter is a very serious felony charge. But, unfortunately, drug possession with intent to sell is also charged in ways that can be unpredictable. In some states, having more than a specific amount of illegal drugs will lead to a possession with intent to distribute charge. But in Massachusetts, a person can be charged with this crime even under murky circumstances such as owning a scale or having more than one marijuana plant.
A first offense of possession with intent to distribute can lead to a 2 ½ year sentence in a House of Correction or County Jail, or an even longer sentence in state prison, depending on the class of drug involved. State prisons are much harsher environments than a House of Corrections. Multiple repeat offenses may trigger more severe penalties such as mandatory minimum sentences or long sentences in state prison. Mandatory minimum sentences are those in which a judge must sentence a defendant to a minimum term of imprisonment as set forth in a statute, after a jury conviction.
If you are caught possessing drugs of any kind, contact experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer Stephen Neyman for help fighting the charges. He knows how to develop the best possible defense strategy, negotiate with prosecutors, and protect your rights. Contact us at (617) 263-6800 or via our online form.