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Drug charges in Massachusetts: FAQs

Massachusetts takes drug possession seriously. Lawmakers enacted harsh penalties in their effort to fight against the use of illegal drugs in the state. Although the overall goal to create a safer community is good, the reality can result in false charges or consequences that are too severe for the situation.

Those who are accused of a drug crime or have a loved one facing allegations are wise to gather information to get a better idea of what they face. One place to start is to know how different elements can impact the state’s case. When it comes to drug charges, three things that play a critical role in the severity of charges include the amount, your own history, and the type of drug.

How does the amount impact the charges?

The more drug the state claims you have in your possession at the time of the alleged crime, the more severe the charges. This is because they can argue that the drug was for more than just personal use. They can attempt to build a case that you were planning to sell or otherwise distribute the drugs.

What role does my history play in the case?

The state can also go after more serious penalties for those who have previous offenses on record. The goal here is to deter repeat offenders.

What are the penalties for different types of drugs?

The state has a full arsenal of charges it can pursue in these types of cases. Some examples from two of the more common offenses include:

  • Marijuana. Private, personal use of marijuana by adults over the age of 21 is legal in Massachusetts. However, possession of more than 1 oz of marijuana outside of one’s private residence can result in a $100 fine for a first offense.
  • Heroin. First offense can lead to imprisonment of up to 2 years and a fine of up to $2,000. Second offense can lead to imprisonment in a state prison for 2 ½ years to 5 years or up to a $5,000 fine and 2 ½ years imprisonment.

Why does the location matter?

In many cases the state can increase the charges if they can establish that you were near a school zone with a large amount of illegal substances. This is because they can argue that you were going to sell the drug or otherwise provide it to children. This can apply if the state can establish that the accused was within 100 feet of a school or playground.

Bonus: What can I do?

Charges are just the start. Those who face allegations of a drug possession crime can fight back before these charges become a conviction. There are many different defense strategies that can challenge the state’s case. It is important, for example, to review how the officers gathered evidence to build the case. If they violated your rights, it is possible to get the charges reduced or even dismissed.


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