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.
Case Results » Possession of Drugs
Lowell District Court: General Continuance for Heroin Possession Charges Against Maine Man
April 8, 2015
On December 30, 2014 a man from Maine was arrested in Newburyport, Massachusetts and charged with OUI Second Offense, Heroin. He was kept in jail overnight and arraigned the next day. Due to a pending probation matter the man was sent to the Billerica House of Correction for the weekend until he was brought into the Ayer District Court. While being processed at the jail officers found heroin in the man’s pant pockets. He was charged with possession of heroin. Today, Attorney Neyman was able to get a general continuance for all charges. There will be no prosecution of this case if the man stays out of trouble for six months. At that time all charges will be dismissed.
Chelsea District Court: Possession of Class A Heroin Case Against Machine Operator to be Dismissed
March 5, 2015
The defendant is a thirty two year old machine operator. According to Chelsea, Massachusetts police on August 14, 2014, members of the Chelsea Police Department on routine patrol stopped a car being driven erratically. The defendant was in the front passenger seat. He clearly exhibited signs of heroin intoxication. On the floor at his feet officers saw a clear baggie containing a brownish powder that was later tested and determined to be heroin. Officers also located drug paraphernalia in the defendant’s possession. He admitted to just using the substance and he also claimed responsibility for the drugs that remained in the car. The man was charged with possession of heroin. He had been charged with this offense in the past. Attorney Neyman was able to get the charges continued without a finding for ninety days. At that point, if the defendant remains free of new criminal charges the case will be dismissed.
Boston Municipal Court: Possession of Class B Cocaine Charges Against College Student Dismissed at Clerk's Hearing
January 2, 2015
Boston, Massachusetts Police alleged that on May 23, 2014 members of the drug control unit were conducting surveillance in an area of the city known for extensive drug distribution. At approximately 6:00 p.m. officers observed two black males in a rental car make contact with a white male just outside of the Lenox Housing Development. The white male got into the car. The car drove around the block and the man exited the car a few minutes later. When he did the officers noticed that he secreted an object consistent with packaged drugs in his pocket. Officers approached the individual, a local college student. He admitted to purchasing cocaine which he surrendered to the officers. He was summonsed to court for a Clerk Magistrate Hearing on a charge of possession of class B, cocaine. Today, the day of the hearing Attorney Neyman was able to get the case dismissed. No charges will issue.