In April 2018, Governor Baker signed into law a new bill that significantly changed several aspects of criminal law in Massachusetts. These laws were largely instituted to keep individuals out of prison. One of the areas that was impacted by these changes is drug distribution in the state.
What the New Laws Include
The new laws impact how Massachusetts handles drug cases, which include the following:
Heroin: In accordance with these new laws, it is no longer a crime to simply be in the presence of heroin. While the consequences of committing heroin and opioid offenses have increased in severity, individuals no longer face penalties for just being in the presence of the drug.
Mandatory minimum: Prior to these new Massachusetts laws, certain drug distribution charges resulted in a mandatory amount of time in jail. The new Massachusetts laws, however, have removed this requirement. Instead, there is now more discretion in how to penalize individuals charged with these offenses. As a result, required prison sentences for the distribution of cocaine, methamphetamines, and PCP have been removed. Required prison sentences for second offense distribution charges of B, C, and D class drugs have also been removed. Additionally, the required prison sentences for charges related to the sale of drug paraphernalia have also been removed.
School Zones: Another recent change is that the penalties connected to distribution of drugs in a school zone have been significantly limited. These penalties now only apply when individuals are charged with distributing drugs in a school zone between the hours of 5:00 am to 12:00 AM, when use of a firearm or violence occurs, drugs are sold to minor, or coercion is involved in the sale of drugs.
Synthetic opioids: In response to the national opioid epidemic, Massachusetts has passed new laws concerning how charges related to these drugs are handled. One change is that many varieties of carfentanil and fentanyl have been reclassified from “Class B” to “Class A” drugs. Penalties associated with “Class A” offenses frequently result in more severe penalties than drugs that have Class B to D classifications. The law has also been revised to include synthetic opioids where this type of medication was previously excluded.
Understanding Drug Distribution Charges
Distribution of a controlled substance in the state of Massachusetts occurs when law enforcement has probable cause to establish that an individual participated in a transaction in which an illegal substance was given to another individual. The amount of drugs involved does not play a role in these cases, which means that an individual could end up facing a conviction for an offense involving a small amount of the controlled substance. A similar charge, possession with intent to distribute, occurs when the prosecution establishes that a person merely had the intent to trade illegal drugs.
Obtain the Services of a Skilled Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or a loved one faces any type of drug charge in the state of Massachusetts, it is a wise idea to obtain the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney who will remain committed to making sure that your case resolves in the best possible manner. Contact Edward R. Molari, Attorney at Law today for assistance.