What Are the Most Common Types of Drug Cases That Your Firm Handles?
I handle a wide variety of drug cases in both state and federal courts. The state court cases are the most common and can include cases that remain in district court, or cases that start off in district court but end up going to superior court. Whether a defendant’s case stays in district court or gets indicted to a superior court depends on the quantity of the drug involved and the type of drug involved, as well as any prior convictions for drug offenses. Those would either be Possession, Possession With Intent to Distribute, or Trafficking cases.
How Does Massachusetts Determine Whether to Charge a Drug Case As a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
In Massachusetts, an offense that’s punishable by state prison time is a felony, and that carries a sentence of over two and a half years. Misdemeanors are punishable by up to two and a half years in the house of correction. Drug offenses can be broken down into three categories: Possession, Possession With Intent to Distribute, and Trafficking. Typically, Possession offenses are going to be misdemeanor charges in Massachusetts and stay in district court. The exposure is greater when you’re dealing with Possession With Intent to Distribute or Trafficking.
Does the Type of Drug Affect the Type or Seriousness of a Drug Charge in Massachusetts?
The type of drug can certainly affect both the seriousness and the charge. Marijuana offenses are typically going to remain in district courts. Other drugs, like cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and OxyContin, are more likely to result in a felony charge and might even go to superior court depending on the quantity of drug involved and whether the person has any prior convictions.
What Qualifies As Intent to Distribute Versus Possession Under Massachusetts Law?
There are four common elements in all drug offenses: (1) the person knows that it’s a controlled substance; (2) they intentionally possessed the substance; (3) they actually have to possess it, be it on their physical person or through constructive possession; and (4) it’s a controlled substance.
The difference between Intent to Distribute and Possession is based on the facts of each case. For instance, if a person has drugs either on their person or in an area that they have immediate control over, the main element in determining their charge will be intent (their purpose or objective). You can determine someone’s intent by their actions, their words, and even the surrounding circumstances. For drug charges, you look at circumstantial evidence or any corroborating evidence to differentiate between Intent to Possess or Intent to Distribute.
Some of the things that the police and the district attorney’s office will look at will be whether there’s money involved, the amount of money, and how it’s kept. If the denomination of the cash is twenty and the bills are bundled together (bundles of $20s), the DA’s office will take note. They’ll also look at how the drugs are packaged and whether there’s drug paraphernalia in the area (scales, baggies, spoons, etc.) and documentation like written records or drug ledgers.
If someone was actually a target of an investigation or was on the periphery of an investigation and happened to be caught up in an arrest, the police will look at what surveillance testimony and observations might have uncovered. Police and the DA will infer that someone who’s engaged in a lot of buying or selling transactions with another person is more likely to have Intent to Distribute than Intent to Possess. They’ll also look to see if the case involves any admissions by anyone involved; for example, maybe the defendant admitted to having a drug problem and is selling to further his drug problem. In larger cases, admissions by codefendants can be more indicative of Trafficking as opposed to Intent to Distribute; oftentimes, the district attorney’s office and the federal agencies involved would be able to get a wiretap and read into any conversations that were on the wires.
An unfortunate truth in any drug case is racial profiling. These are issues that must also be fully explored in drug cases. If there was not a legitimate basis for a stop, field encounter, or search – a successful challenge based on constitutional issues may result in the dismissal of the charge.
Drug cases are often very complicated and fact specific, and it can be a win to get a charge reduced to stay in district court. Those are just a few of the circumstances and collateral pieces of evidence that district attorney’s offices and police departments will look at when they’re trying to make a determination if something is Possession as opposed to a charge of Intent to Distribute.
For more information on Drug Charges Defense in Massachusetts, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (508) 503-6440 today.
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