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Every 19 seconds, someone in the U.S. is arrested for violating a drug law. America has been embattled in a war on drugs for decades, spending over $15 billion a year federally and over $20 billion a year on a state and local level to prosecute and house drug offenders. Over half of inmates in the federal prison system are drug offenders and 25% of those arrested each year are arrested for a drug offense.
Although recent public sentiment might indicate a turning point in the views of policy makers on the punishment of drug offenders, the consequences of a drug offense conviction are grave and likely to remain so for some time to come. Drug distribution and possession with intent to distribute are two crimes punished harshly under the laws of Massachusetts.
Take the recent case of Wilfredo Perez and his co-defendants, Rafeal Yeje-Cabrera, Nerys Cabrera, and William Olivero. Perez and his co-defendants were involved in distributing cocaine by the truckload across the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Atlanta. The drug bust came after law enforcement officers obtained court ordered wiretaps of the organization’s telephones and from there were able to determine where a truckload of cocaine could be found. The seized cocaine had an estimated street value of $20.6 million—and was then largest ever cocaine seizure in Massachusetts.
Perez, a former New Bedford resident, and his co-defendants were convicted following a jury trial of conspiring to distribute cocaine. The jury found Yeje-Cabrera guilty of conspiring to distribute in excess of 260 kilograms and attempting to possess 260 kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute. Perez was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment, with 5 years of supervised release to follow and a $4 million dollar fine, for his involvement in the enormous cocaine seizure. Yeje-Cabrera was sentenced to life imprisonment for theses and other convictions stemming from his drug trafficking operations. Nerys Cabera was sentenced to five years imprisonment for conspiring to distribute cocaine. Twenty-one individuals were originally indicted surrounding the seizure, and all have since pled guilty, been convicted, or are awaiting trial.Possession With Intent to Distribute and Drug Distribution in Massachusetts
The following is a brief overview of the crimes of possession with intent to distribute drugs and drug distribution in Massachusetts:
Possession with intent to distribute - is the crime of having one or more illegal narcotics in one’s possession with the intention of selling the narcotics. If a person is found guilty of drug possession with intent to sell to a minor (person below the legal age of 18), he/she faces enhanced criminal charges and sentencing. This crime is set out in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C Section 32. Punishments for possession with intent to distribute vary according to the type of drug involved and will be elaborated below.
Drug distribution - is the crime of distributing illegal narcotics. This crime requires that an exchange actually took place. This crime encompasses drug trafficking, which is the most serious of all drug crimes in Massachusetts. Sentences for drug trafficking similarly vary by the type of drug and quantity involved, as will be discussed below.Sentences for Possession With Intent to Distribute and Distribution in Massachusetts
Massachusetts, like many states, has mandatory minimum sentences for many drug crimes. This means exactly what it says—the judge cannot sentence you to less time than required by statute, or to probation where the statute prohibits it. Mandatory minimum sentences can have harsh results, particularly for repeat offenders.
As discussed above, punishments for possession with intent to distribute and distribution vary by the drug involved and quantity. For instance, if you are convicted of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, as a first time offender you face a sentence of two years and a $500 fine. Possession with intent to distribute cocaine has a possible penalty of two and a half years imprisonment upon first offense, but jumps to a possible penalty of up to ten years imprisonment for repeat offenders. If you are convicted of marijuana trafficking, of between 50 and 100 pounds, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of one year imprisonment, with the possibility of two and a half years. Cocaine trafficking is punished more severely, with defendants facing a mandatory five year sentence for distributing at least 14 grams but less than 28. The severity of punishment increases with quantity, as it does with all the distribution offenses.Possible Defenses to a Charge of Possession With Intent to Distribute and Distribution
The following is a list of possible defenses your experienced Boston criminal defense attorney can raise on your behalf:
- Suppression of the evidence — the Fourth Amendment prohibits the unreasonable search and seizure of one’s person, home and personal property absent the issuance of a warrant. Often, drug distribution crimes will involve searches and seizures conducted by police officers that may or may not have been conducted pursuant to a warrant. A skilled defense attorney can examine the facts of your case and file a motion to suppress evidence where warranted, challenging any violation to your essential Fourth Amendment rights.
- Challenge the evidence itself — the weight of the evidence is crucial in determining the sentence you will face. The weight of the drugs can be inaccurately described by police officers due to hydration or flawed equipment. An experienced drug distribution attorney will look to challenge the weight of the drugs if warranted. Further, a skilled defense attorney can also challenge the evidence of intent to distribute. Intent is often alleged based on the presence of paraphernalia or the packaging of the drugs.
- Seek to lower the charges — possession with intent to distribute and drug distribution crimes come with harsher punishment than mere possession crimes, and longer mandatory minimum sentences that may not allow for probation. Your defense attorney can seek to negotiate with prosecutors to drop your charges down to possession or another less severe crime.
- Seek alternatives to incarceration — sometimes a drug addiction is the root of a drug distribution charge. A savvy criminal defense attorney can negotiate to secure treatment for his or her client in exchange for dropped or reduced charges.
If you have been charged with a drug distribution crime in Massachusetts, your future depends upon hiring an aggressive, skilled criminal defense attorney with years of experience defending clients against drug charges. Stephen Neyman will be that attorney for you. The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman will fight tirelessly to defend against your charge, investigating all aspects of your case and aggressively challenging the prosecution’s evidence every step of the way. We will negotiate on your behalf for a reduction of charges or alternatives to prosecution, or take your case all the way to trial and zealously argue for your innocence. We have the skill and knowledge to defend against any drug charge in Massachusetts. Call The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman today at (617) 263-6800 to schedule your initial consultation.