Drug Trafficking /Distribution In Massachusetts

What is drug trafficking?

Generally speaking, drug “trafficking” is the manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute a large quantity of a controlled substance. While making or selling drugs (controlled substances) or possessing controlled substances with the intent to distribute them at some future point are both illegal in themselves, the law also sets much more harsh penalties for doing so in large quantities. Each state has its own rules governing the amount necessary to qualify as “trafficking.”

In Massachusetts, manufacturing, selling, distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute:

1) More than 50 pounds of marijuana;
2) More than 18 grams of a class B substance (eg. cocaine, methamphetamine);
3) More than 18 grams of a class A substance (eg. Heroin, morphine, opiates);
qualifies as “trafficking” and is subject to minimum and mandatory prison sentences. Suspects may be charged based on estimated weights or preliminary weights by law enforcement.

Do the penalties differ for type of drug?

Yes. The penalties do differ depending on not only the weight of the substance, but also the type or “class” of the substance at issue.

Marijuana vs Narcotic Trafficking/Distribution

As in many other areas of drug control law, marijuana is treated differently as it concerns trafficking. The law requires a significantly higher weight of marijuana to qualify as “trafficking” and, in terms of sentencing, the law punishes violators with less severe sentences. That said, trafficking in marijuana is still treated very seriously by law enforcement and the sentences do include minimum and mandatory terms of imprisonment in jail.
Penalties for drug trafficking:

In Massachusetts the penalty for trafficking in marijuana is:

• 50 to 100 pounds = house of correction for not less than 1 and up to 2.5 years, or state prison for not less than 2 and up to 15 years.
• 100 to 2,000 pounds = state prison for not less than 2 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 15 years.
• 2,000 to 10,000 pounds = state prison for not less than 3.5 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 15 years.
• 10,000 + pounds = state prison for not less than 8 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 15 years.

In Massachusetts the penalty for trafficking in a class B substance (cocaine, methamphetamine) is:

• 18 to 36 grams = state prison for not less than 2 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 15 years.
• 36 to 100 grams = state prison for not less than 3.5 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 20 years.
• 100 to 200 grams = state prison for not less than 8 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 20 years.
• 200 + grams = state prison for not less than 12 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 20 years.

In Massachusetts the penalty for trafficking in a class A substance (heroin, morphine, opiates) is:

• 18 to 36 grams = state prison for not less than 3.5 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 20 years.
• 36 to 100 grams = state prison for not less than 5 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 20 years.
• 100 to 200 grams = state prison for not less than 8 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 20 years.
• 200 + grams = state prison for not less than 12 years (minimum mandatory) and up to 20 years.

Can I face charges at both a state and a federal level?

Yes. Both the State of Massachusetts and the United States federal government may charge you for drug offenses including trafficking. The penalties at the federal level include more lengthy prison sentences and monetary fines.

What should I do if I am facing charges?

First, never make any statements or admissions about anything involving the case. That includes statements of any kind to law enforcement or discussing the facts of the case with friends or family. Do consent to any searches or agree to turn over any evidence to anyone.
The most important thing that you can do to help yourself is contact a qualified and experienced drug attorney immediately. Not only can an attorney assist you in bail hearings but also can immediately begin to evaluate search and seizure issues or issues of proof. Many motions must be filed and independent testing or investigation may be appropriate.

What is the court process if I am charged with drug trafficking/distribution?

If you are charged with drug trafficking or distribution you must first be arraigned. This will typically take place in the first instance in the district court. At the arraignment, you will be informed of the specific charges you are facing and will likely get preliminary reports of the facts supporting the charges. Next, you will be subject to a bail hearing at which the court will determine whether you must post a bail in order to remain free pending the outcome of the case and, if so, how much that bail will be. At the bail hearing, you may also be ordered by the court to abide by certain conditions of release including reporting to probation or wearing a monitoring bracelet. Depending on the charges, you will then be scheduled for either a pre-trial hearing or a “probable cause” hearing. A probable cause hearing is scheduled in any case in the district court in which the only potential penalty is a state prison sentence. It is designed for the court to make a determination of probable cause from which you may be “bound over” to the superior court to answer to the charges. The reality is that a probable cause hearing in the district court is very rare. That is because if the Commonwealth intends on brining the case I the superior court which allows for a state prison sentence, they will typically obtain a grand jury “indictment” for the charges and eliminate the need for the district court judge to make that probable cause determination.

Schedule your free phone consultation with a criminal defense attorney at Eisenstadt, Krippendorf & Galvin, LLP  by filling out our confidential contact form or by calling 24/7 to get live help at (617) 523-3500 right now.

Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Trafficking/ Distribution:

 If I am charged in the district court with trafficking does that mean that I am going to be indicted?

Not necessarily. This decision is made based on many factors including the final “official” weight of the substance, any troubling issues with the case (issues of proof or suppression), witness issues and your record. An experienced drug trafficking lawyer can attempt to negotiate with the DA’s Office so that the case can stay in district court and eliminate any chance of a state prison sentence.

Does it matter if all of the drugs were not in the same place? (eg. Some in the home and some in the car?)

Not generally. It may cause issues of proof that you actually possessed all of the substances. But law enforcement is permitted to “combine” amounts located in different areas attributable to you in order to accumulate a weight sufficient to meet the trafficking standards.

What if I didn’t get any money for the drugs that I gave to someone else?

It does not matter. There is no requirement that money change hands in order to meet the “distribution” requirement.

Does it matter where the drugs were found?

Absolutely. While drugs found on the person often lead to the conclusion that the person “possessed” the substance, the specific location on the person and condition in which they are being held may also lead to defenses of personal use as opposed to intent to distribute to another. Where drugs are not recovered directly from the person but rather some other location, it raises significant question about the government’s ability to prove possession – a critical element to any drug trafficking charge. Possession may be proven by “actual” possession. For example, if someone is holding the drugs in their hand. Or it may be proven by “constructive possession.” For example, drugs are located in the trunk of a vehicle. In the second instance – constructive possession – many facts and legal issues must be explored to determine if enough proof exist to prove the element of possession.

Does it matter if the police used a K-9 officer?

Yes. A search based upon a “K-9” or drug detection dog is subject to strict scrutiny to determine (1) whether the dog was properly trained and certified and (2) whether the handler followed proper procedures to ensure that the animal was being utilized as a reliable narcotics detection tool. Failure to adhere by strict standards by either the canine or the handler may result in any substances seized being suppressed. A drug trafficking lawyer can put forward many strong defenses if the drugs were found with a police dog.

What if I consented (agreed to or gave permission) to a search?

The critical question is whether your consent was freely, knowingly and voluntarily given. Consent based on trickery, force, excessive pressure, or when someone is not acting with full and clear mental capacity may lead to the court throwing out some or all of the evidence. Where consent is not intelligently and voluntarily given, a court may suppress drug evidence or other evidence seized as a result of the consent.

What if there was a search warrant?

Just because a search is based upon a search warrant does not mean, however, that the cause is lost. There are very strong defenses that can be put forward by a lawyer to try to get the search warrant, and all evidence that was seized with the search warrant, thrown out in your case. Search warrant issues are different in every case because the law surrounding them is very technical. A search warrant essentially means that a law enforcement agent has given a set of facts to a magistrate or judge and requested that they make a legal determination that there is “probable cause” to search someplace. Many times, a close review of the search warrant documents, (including an affidavit or statement of facts in support of the warrant) can lead to a lawyer getting search warrant evidence thrown out or “suppressed. “ The information may be stale, inaccurate, not sufficiently particular, or based upon unreliable sources. Warrants must be examined closely by an experienced lawyer in conjunction with up-to-date case law which is handed down from state and federal courts on a nearly daily basis in order to give you the best chance at getting the search warrant in your case, and the evidence in your case, thrown out.

Lengthy Prison Terms for Drug Trafficking

Since the war on drugs was declared, lengthy prison sentences have been handed down for drug trafficking charges time and time again. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney fighting for your rights can make an enormous difference in the outcome of your case.

  • Prior to your trial taking place, experienced attorneys will thoroughly review how your case was handled.
  • We will look for any discrepancies in the process and in the investigation and will work to suppress motions and suppress evidence to your benefit.
  • We will also examine whether or not the evidence being admitted into court was legally obtained in addition to the entire investigatory process as a whole.
  • Our law firm has helped countless clients retain their freedom and personal rights when facing serious drug trafficking charges, experience we use to aggressively fight for your rights, too.

How an Experienced Lawyer Can Make a Difference

At Eisenstadt, Krippendorf & Galvin, LLP, as former criminal prosecutors, we possess a great understanding of how the criminal system works on both sides: the prosecutor and the defendant side. Using our more than 35 years of combined experience, we will examine every aspect of your case to help provide you the most progressive defense as possible. We have successfully mitigated thousands of criminal defense and drug related cases in the past successfully for our clients and will apply our experience and expertise to representing you in your case. Call (617)523-3500 today.

Schedule Your Free Consultation Today

If you have been indicted for a drug trafficking related offense, have been questioned by police or federal agents, have a received court summons or have been arrested recently—you need an experienced law firm on your side to fight for your rights. We invite you to contact us today to schedule your free phone or in-person consultation with a progressive criminal defense team. Allow us to demonstrate how we can apply our knowledge, experience, compassion and dedication to helping you procure the best possible outcome to your legal matters today. Contact Us to schedule your free consultation with a criminal defense law firm right now, and allow us to show you how we can help defend you.

Schedule your free phone consultation with a criminal defense attorney at Eisenstadt, Krippendorf & Galvin, LLP  by filling out our confidential contact form or by calling 24/7 to get live help at (617) 523-3500 right now.