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Drug Crime FAQs
Being accused of a crime or facing a criminal charge can be an unnerving experience. The process involves many nuances and technical aspects, particularly when it comes to being charged with drug crimes. Every case and every situation involving drug charges may be different, that is why it is so important to consult with an attorney who is experienced in the representation of defendants charged with various drug offenses. Here are some answers to general questions that often arise in drug cases.
Massachusetts drug crimes can cover a wide variety of offenses from simple possession of controlled substances, possession of drug paraphernalia, uttering false prescriptions and conspiracy to violate drug laws to more serious offenses of distribution and trafficking.
The difference between trafficking and distribution is entirely based on the amount of drugs involved. Both offenses require the possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute that substance to others. However, trafficking is charged when there are much higher quantities of the controlled substance involved in the offense. For instance if you are caught with 18 grams or more of a substance such as heroin or cocaine you may be charged with trafficking. If you are caught with less then 18 grams but an amount that the government feels is greater then a personal use quantity then you may be charged with possession with intent to distribute.
Recently the Commonwealth has enacted legislation to lessen the punishment for simple possession offenses, you may nevertheless still face the possibility of jail time for a possession charge. The potential penalties for possession will depend on what type of drug was found. For instance, if you are charged with possession of a Class A substance you may face up to 2 years in jail for a first offense. Possession of drugs in a less serious class, such as Class B or C may face up to 1 year in jail or 6 months in jail for possession of Class D substances. If this is your first offense and you have no other offenses on your record and you are charged with possession of an unlawful amount of marijuana you are entitled to probation not jail time.
If you are convicted of trafficking or if you are convicted of a second or subsequent offense of possession with intent to distribute certain substances you may be facing a mandatory minimum sentence. The applicability and length of mandatory minimum sentences will vary depending on the charges and the type of drugs involved. For instance, for a second or subsequent offense of possession with intent to distribute heroin or fentanyl, you may face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in state prison. If you are charged with trafficking you may face a mandatory minimum sentence ranging from 1 year for marijuana trafficking of 50 pounds or more, up to 12 years for trafficking 200 grams or more of heroin or cocaine.
Drug charges commonly arise when drugs are found in someone’s vehicle. Even if you were a passenger in that vehicle you may still be charged with possession based on the drugs that were recovered. It is essential in possession cases that the Commonwealth must prove that you had knowledge or the drugs and that you had the intention to exercise control over those drugs. Both of these elements must be present for Commonwealth to prove a possession charge. As such, if you were simply a passenger in a vehicle, or perhaps you borrowed a friend’s vehicle without knowing there were drugs inside, you may have a very defensible possession case. In cases like this a variety of factors may become very important to your defense, such as where in the vehicle the drugs were located or who was the registered owner of the vehicle. An attorney experienced in representing those charged with drug crimes can help you develop a successful defense.
Another common issue that arises in drug crime cases involves the search and seizure of the illegal drugs. For instance, if drugs were found inside your motor vehicle during a traffic stop it will be important to determine whether or not the police had the lawful authority to search your vehicle. Such an analysis may be very nuanced and involve important details such as the nature of the traffic stop, where the drugs were located and other important factors. This is why it is crucial to consult with an attorney who is experienced in defending drug cases and will help to ensure that your case is zealously defended and that your rights are protected.
Previously if you were convicted of any drug offense in Massachusetts, even simple possession you were facing a mandatory loss of license. Recently however, the legislature amended this practice and removed mandatory license suspensions for most drug crimes. You may still face a license suspension for some more serious drug offenses such as trafficking.
Once your case is arraigned in court a drug charge will appear on your criminal record. The eligibility for having drug crimes sealed on your record will depend on the charges and the ultimate outcome of the case. For instance, if you are charged with a first offense for possession of an unlawful amount of marijuana or a Class E substance, once you have completed a probationary period you are entitled to have your case dismissed and your record sealed automatically.
Class A includes a variety of substances, most commonly heroin and fentanyl and other opiates. As well as some designer drugs such as GHP and Ketamine, also referred to as Special K.
Class B also includes a variety of substances most commonly including Cocaine and prescription opiates such as Oxycontin, Oxycodone and Codeine. As well as other drugs such as LSD, MDMA, Ecstasy, PCP, Amphetamines and Methamphetamines.
Class C substances generally include various types of prescription tranquilizers and medium dose narcotics, such as Clonazepam, diazepam and hydrocodone. As well as other hallucinogenic drugs such as mushrooms.
Class D is generally and most commonly the category used for marijuana. As well as some smaller doses of prescription narcotics such as phenobarbital.
Through the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts any person over 21 years of age may purchase or possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana on their person and may possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their home. Possession of an unlawful amount of marijuana may still result in criminal charges with penalties of up to 6 months in jail.
Yes. Although marijuana has been legalized in Massachusetts it remains illegal to sell marijuana unless you are operating as a licensed dispensary. As such, possession with intent to distribute marijuana is still a criminal offense and is punishable by up to 2 years in jail. You may share or give away (but not sell) up to 1 ounce of marijuana to another person over the age of 21 without facing criminal charges.
Massachusetts Drug Crimes Attorney
If you have been charged with a drug crime in Massachusetts, it is to your advantage to speak with a qualified drug crime attorney. If convicted, you will face life altering punishments. You cannot afford to take your drug crime charges lightly. By hiring an experienced attorney, you can ensure that your rights are not violated and that you receive the legal representation you need to successfully defend against your drug charges.