School Zone Mandatory Minimum
In the Commonwealth, otherwise relatively simple drug charges are dramatically escalated when they occur within 300 feet of a school or park (this distance was reduced from 1000 feet to 300 feet in 2012). When someone is charged with a drug violation in a school zone, the penalty for the school zone violation includes a mandatory minimum of two years, which must be imposed from-and-after the punishment for the underlying offense, which means the mandatory minimum does not even begin to run until the punishment for the underlying offense is done. In short, mandatory minimum sentences change the game.
Defending a School Zone Charge
First, before the Commonwealth can prove a violation of the school zone law, it must prove the underlying drug charge. For common defenses to the underlying offense of possession, or other drug offenses, please see "An Overview of Drug Crime Defenses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." Naturally, the defenses described on that page apply equally to the offense giving rise to a school zone violation, but where the Commonwealth includes the charge of a school zone violation, it becomes imperative to pursue any plausible defense to the underlying charge.
Beyond the defense of the underlying charge, there are viable defenses to the allegation that the offense occured in a school zone. The police and district attorneys are not accustomed to proving that a given property is a school or park, and proving the distance from one point to another. Sometimes, the police bring the charge of a school zone violation based on an approximations made beforehand which may have never been tested, but if the Commonwealth wants to impose a mandatory minimum, even the measurements made by police must be called into question.
If you are charged with Drug Violation Near School or Park, contact me to set up a free private consultation to discuss your options.