Some of the most common charges that we see in Massachusetts courts are drug offenses. There are several different classes of drugs, which each come with their own penalties. Similarly, there are several ways that possession of drugs can be charged depending on the amount of drugs recovered and the activity that police allege.
More often than not, those charged with drug offenses are addicts that need help with recovery. If this is their first offense, there are laws and programs in place that can help. An experienced attorney can take advantage of those opportunities when it is appropriate.
Defendants are charged with possession of drugs when the police encounter someone with an amount that is relatively small. This is usually referred to as “for personal use.” A person arrested for Possession of Drugs faces misdemeanor charges that could land them in the house of corrections. Depending on the class of drug, a defendant faces up to two years in jail for a first offense possession case.
If someone is found to possess enough drugs, along with signs of drug dealing, they may be charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute. This is a felony charge that carries up to two and a half years in jail, or up to ten years in state prison. This is also a charge that is class specific. Distributing Class A might result in the maximum ten-year prison sentence, while Class E only carries up to nine months in jail. As with many other charges, there are aggravating factors that could have a detrimental effect on sentencing.
Extremely large amounts of drugs warrant Trafficking charges. These are felony charges that are heard exclusively in Massachusetts Superior Courts. Depending on the class of drug and the amount of drugs by weight, a person charged with Trafficking may face up to thirty years in prison. This is before taking any aggravating factors into account.
Some examples of each class of drug are listed below. They are listed in descending order of how serious and dangerous they are generally considered.
Opiates and opiate derivatives (Heroin, Fentanyl, Percocet, Vicodin)
Cocaine, Crack, Ecstasy, Amphetamine, PCP
Prescription drugs such as Klonopin, Ativan, Valium
Other prescription drugs not listed in other classes
Most often the best way to fight drug charges is to render the evidence inadmissible with a motion to suppress. Sometimes a police officer will find drugs due to an unconstitutional or illegal search. An experienced attorney will be able to spot the defects in the government’s case and fight to have the drugs thrown out.