Trafficking Cocaine, Marijuana, Heroin, Morphine, Opium (94C/32E)

What is Trafficking

Trafficking is what the Commonwealth calls the possession with the intent to distribute a large amount of a controlled substance.  The amounts that trigger a trafficking charge depend on the substance.  In order to establish the offense of trafficking, the state must prove that a person possessed a controlled substance with the intent to distribute that substance, as well as the volume of the substance for sale. All trafficking offenses include mandatory minimum jail sentences, which depend on both the substance alleged to have been possesed, and the volume/weight of that substance:

Marijuana (Class D Substance):

  • 50+ pounds: Between 2 1/2 and 15 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum of 1 years.
  • 100-2,000 pounds: Between 2 and 15 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum of 2 years.
  • 2,000-10,000 pounds: Between 3 1/2 and 15 years in state prision, with a mandatory minimum of 3 1/2 years.
  • 10,000+ pounds: Between 8 and 15 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum of 8 years.

Cocaine (Class B Substance):

  • 18-28 grams: Between 2 and 15 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum of 2 years.
  • 36-100 grams: Between 3 1/2 and 20 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum of 3 1/2 years.
  • 100-200 grams: Between 8 and 20 years in state prision, with a mandatory minimum of 8 years.
  • 200+ grams: Between 12 and 20 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum of 12 years.

Heroin (Class A Substance):

  • 18-36 grams: Between 3 1/2 and 20 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum of 2 years.
  • 36-100 grams: Between 5 and 20 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum of 5 years.
  • 100-200 grams: Between 8 and 20 years in state prision, with a mandatory minimum of 8 years.
  • 200+ grams: Between 12 and 20 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum of 12 years.

The mandatory minimums described above can also be increased if a firearm is involved, if there is evidence that the defendant directed other people to violate the drug laws, or if drugs were being distributed to persons under the age of 18.

Proving Possession

As with any drug crime, the first element that the Commonwealth has to prove is possession.  Unlike lesser drug crimes, though, people seldom carry enough controlled substances on their person to amount to trafficking.  More often, the police uncover a 'stash' during a raid.  The question becomes, whose stash is it?  The law can get very specific about how much evidence is enough to prove the owner of the drugs, and although you may have heard someone say that everyone in the car or the apartment can be charged with it, being in the vicinity is not enough to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Uncovering the Drugs

In most cases, trafficking amounts of a controlled substance are found during the execution of a warrant.  When that is the case, whether the warrant was properly issued and executed becomes a very important issue.  Getting a warrant involve multiple people passing information between each other and making decisions based on that information.  Each time someone else gets involved, the chances increase that the information can get mixed up.  Whether the evidence uncovered with the warrant will be admissible in court will depend on how good a job the weakest link in the chain has done.  If even one of the people involved did not do their job correctly, then the whole warrant, and everything it uncovered could be thrown out.

Beyond the issuance of the warrant, when police are in the process of executing a search warrant, they can lose track of the limits that the warrant imposes.  A warrant is not a blank check, it is more like a set of instructions that the police have to follow.  If they have not followed those instructions correctly, the items uncovered might be excluded from evidence.

Proving a Substance is a Controlled Substance

The rules under which the Commonwealth has to prove that the white powder, or green leafy substance it found, was actually a controlled substance are evolving quickly, and it is getting harder for the Commonwealth to do its job.  Recently, the State Police announced the closure of one of its main drug testing laboratories, leaving twice the work for the remaining crime lab, and it was later revealed that chemists in both crime labs had been manipulating the forensic analysis. 

In Eastern Massachusetts, Annie Dookhan pled guilty to "dry labbing" the substances delivered to her for testing.  If you are wondering what "dry labbing" is, it's a fancy word for looking at a powder and guessing at what it might be.  Annie Dookhan's actions caused a massive upheval in the judicial system, made new law, and the reprocussions are still being felt by the people whose cases were affected. 

In Western Massachusetts, Sonja Farak was recently the subject of a very public report alleging that she went as far as cooking crack-cocaine for her own use, while on the job in the drug lab, from the samples submitted to the drug lab for testing. 

You need a lawyer who knows how the system works in order to make sure that the kind of transgressions committed by Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak, and the  backlogs and mistakes they cause, remain the prosecutor's problem, and not yours.  This has been widely known to defense lawyers for years, but only reported by the Attorney General's office in April of 2016.

Contact me today to set up a free and private consultation if you or someone you know is charged with a drug offense.

See: G.L. c. 94c, s. 32E; An Overview of Drug Crime Defenses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Drug Possess to Distribute.