A drug distribution offense is a serious felony in Massachusetts that in some instances carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Jails and prisons in Massachusetts and every other state are filled with people convicted of drug crimes and are the most common offenses of those incarcerated.
If you are found in possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, you are subject to strict penalties depending on the type of drug and its quantity. Drug trafficking is included within this offense but carries even harsher penalties.
Distribution occurs when you physically pass an illegal drug to another person in a transaction for money or other consideration. The quantity of the drug could be a little as one gram. But larger quantities will result in stiffer penalties.
Penalties for Distribution or Possession with Intent to Distribute
Class A (Heroin)
Up to 10-years, a $5,000 fine and 3-year loss of driver’s license. A second offense carries a mandatory minimum 3.5 years and up to 15-years and a $25,000 fine along with 5-year loss of driver’s license.
Class B (Cocaine, crack, meth)
Mandatory minimum of 1-year and up to 10-years, a $10,000 fine, and 3-year loss of driver’s license. A second offense carries the same penalties found under Class A. For any other Class B drug, you face up to 10-years and a $10,000 fine with a 5-year loss of driver’s license.
Class C (Vicodin, mescaline, psilocybin, Xanax)
Up to 5-years in state prison and a $5,000 fine. A second offense is a mandatory minimum of 18-months in prison up to 1-years, and a $10,000 fine.
Class D (Marijuana)
Possession of more than one ounce is a crime in Massachusetts. You face up to 2-years and a minimum $500 fine but up to $5,000. A second offense carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 1-year and a $1,000 fine, but up to 2.5 years, and a $10,000 fine.
Class E (Prescription drugs)
This is a misdemeanor that carries up to 9-months in jail, a minimum fine of $250 but up to $2,500. A second offense carries up to 1.5 years in jail and a minimum $500 fine but up to $5,000.
Distribution of any illegal drug to a minor carries enhanced penalties. If you traffic or are convicted of distributing substantial quantities of certain drugs, the penalties are extremely harsh.
Defenses to Distribution Charges
The crime of distribution requires that the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly or intentionally distributed the drug. Distribution means “delivery” or “transferring” by actual or constructive transfer. For instance, if you had arranged for the drug’s transfer or delivery by communicating to another person how you wanted the drug delivered, then this can constitute constructive transfer. This is similar to a joint venture where you arranged for the time and place of the transfer, the quantity to be transferred, and the price. A defense to distribution is showing a lack of intent to deliver or transfer the substance.
Other defenses include:
- Lack of connection to the residence—if you are visiting someone when police show up at the residence with a warrant and find drugs, they will arrest you and all other persons present. If certain paraphernalia or other indicia of intent to distribute is found, you could be charged with distribution. Evidence of intent to distribute includes a large quantity of the drug, scales, packaging for the drugs, wads of cash, and prior observations of large numbers of persons entering and leaving the residence on numerous occasions. But if your criminal defense lawyer can show that you were not living there, had no property at the residence, and no other evidence of your involvement in any illegal transaction, then your case could be dismissed.
- Lack of probable cause in a search warrant—before a search warrant can issue, a judge must be convinced there is probable cause to believe that drugs and drug paraphernalia will be found in a specific location to be searched. Occasionally, an officer who obtains the warrant relies on an informant who has demonstrated unreliability or untrustworthiness in the past. If the facts upon which the judge relied were fabricated and/or the officer had reason to doubt their truthfulness, then all evidence seized could be suppressed.
- Illegal search and seizure—if no warrant is issued but police search a vehicle, residence, office, or person, the officer must have consent to search or there were circumstances that did not require a search warrant, such as a limited search pursuant to a valid arrest or certain exigent circumstances. In many instances, police exceed the legally permitted scope of the search or search warrant. This can include searching the defendant’s car although the warrant only mentioned a search of the residence.
- Entrapment—this defense depends on your state of mind and necessarily includes police or undercover involvement in the transaction. If police pressured, encourage, or enticed an otherwise innocent person who was not disposed to commit the crime into the criminal act, then this defense may be used. It does not apply to being trapped or tricked into a drug transaction to which you were already disposed to commit.
- Lack of intent to distribute—absent strong evidence that the drugs seized were to be distributed such as no quantities of cash, no scale, packaging, or other similar paraphernalia, then charges could be reduced to possession
- You made an incriminating statement after arrest and no Miranda warnings were given, or police persisted on questioning you after you had refused to answer or requested an attorney. If so, your statements could be inadmissible. If this was material to your prosecution, charges could be dismissed or reduced.
- Police failed to preserve the drugs obtained or violated the chain of evidence. If a defect in the testing of the drugs at a lab is found, or they were mislabeled, then their introduction into evidence would be suppressed.
- No probable cause to stop or detain your or your vehicle if drugs were found on you or in your car—i.e., police racially profiled you, fabricated a reason to stop you, or did not rely on reasonable facts or circumstances to stop or detain you.
Contact drug defense lawyer Paul Moraski at (978) 397-0011 for a free consultation about your case. Mr. Moraski has successfully defended numerous clients charged with drug distribution charges.